Print full article

Anatomy of a scam: Protecting our clients from fraudulent valuations

By Mark T. Cartwright


The initial impression of this stone wasn't that of a $400-million US ruby, but factual evidence must always supersede 'feelings.'
The initial impression of this stone wasn’t that of a $400-million US ruby, but factual evidence must always supersede ‘feelings.’

Centuries of protecting trade secrets and encouraging old wives’ tales have successfully shielded the jewellery trade from the prying eyes of consumers and crafted an air of mystery that continues today. Unfortunately, this same veil of secrecy has created an opening for the morally and legally challenged to operate on the fringes of our industry.

Whether it involves thousands of relatively small transactions or individual multi-million dollar scams, the fraud invariably consists of inflated or otherwise misleading ‘appraisals.’ As ethical, professionally trained appraisers, we have the ability and duty to combat these practices to protect our clients and our industry. Our approach to this type of assignment requires we have a solid foundation in appraisal principles and technique, as well as the ability to remain dispassionate and objective in the face of a potentially emotionally charged situation.

How do otherwise intelligent people let themselves get duped? The combination of consumers’ ignorance and greed is what every scam artist relies on when seeking victims. When combined with deception, the trap is nearly inescapable for some people. I’m reminded of the famous quote by P. T. Barnum, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and the equally apt quote by W. C. Fields, “Never give a sucker an even break.” Fortunately, some would-be victims are conscientious enough to seek outside expertise—us.

I hope to illustrate some of the ways we can help our clients see the light by sharing one of my client’s experiences and my role in the process.

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *