More frequently than we care to see, as appraisers, from time to time, we are faced with the absolute worst part of our job: Having to utter those words, “I’m sorry, it’s not a real diamond.” or “It’s only worth “X” of what you paid.”
Not only is it personally devastating to break this news to hard working individuals, who are typically buying jewelry for what is often supposed to be a special occasion, it is completely maddening to often learn that the misrepresentation of the product is purposely done so by the retailer, and that they are fully aware they are selling something completely inferior to what they are claiming it to be. Not only is it unethical, it probably goes without saying that it is 100% illegal. Regardless of disclaimers and disclosures on the sales receipt or a lab report provided to the buyer after the sale, not explicitly disclosing treatments, accurate qualities, and the material being sold is just plain fraud. Unfortunately, many consumers do not take the time to get an independent opinion from a professional who does not have a vested interest in the buying/selling aspect of the item in question; they’re just giving their objective, professional opinion.
But lets assume the consumer does get it checked out and the item isn’t what was represented to them. What now? Well, lets ask a couple questions first: Where was the item purchased? Or more broadly, was the item purchased overseas or on a cruise ship, or was it purchased in the U.S.? Dealing with fraud is a much more complicated and sometimes, a futile attempt at getting ones money back when it comes to foreign transactions. Although a preventative measure, it can be an effective one, which is, USE A CREDIT CARD. Debit cards, and of course, cash, are almost always a lost cause with this type of situation. It is extremely unlikely that the person/company who ripped you off in the first place will issue a refund because you happened to discover their ill intent from 3,000 miles away. Credit cards such as American Express, Master Card, and VISA almost always have some level of fraud protection when dealing with overseas purchases. So, although if you’re in a situation currently and you used cash, or a bank card, chances are, you could be stuck, but for future purchases, this is a great first line of defense.
But what if you purchased the item here in the U.S.? Good news! Your chances of recovering your money just went up. FTC laws generally have a much longer statute of limitations, and in some cases, no limits whatsoever if fraud was a factor. The first thing you will need to do is get an independent evaluation that explicitly states the condition, quality and type of item, and most of the time, a monetary value for retail or fair market assessment. Once that is issued, forward a copy of this to the place or person of business to show them that you have proof of their negligence (and likely outright fraud.) If that is unsuccessful, then organizations such as the Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC) specialize in consumer affairs within the jewelry industry. They have legal representatives, and typically know exactly how to proceed to recover a loss that may have occurred. If you have a case, and proof of the negligence or fraudulent act (this is key,) they will contact the seller and intervene using the proper authorities in order to alleviate the situation.
Although, there are many variables that can setup a course of challenges, most of the time, if caught early enough (get it checked by an independent professional right after purchase), almost every situation that we can collectively prove to be a case of fraud or negligence, the client recovers, in full, what they lost.
For any more questions or insight to the process of fraud or negligence, please feel free to call or e-mail us.