Petaluma Police are warning residents of a series of scams occurring in front of large discount stores, particularly Kmart.
The thieves are approaching elderly, Latino men and women, and offering to sell them gold, lottery tickets or jewelry that turns out to be fake, said Lt. Tim Lyons. His department has received eight reports of such scams since January and about 20 in the last two years.
In the most recent case this month, an elderly Latino woman reported that a man approached her in front of the Petaluma Kmart on July 17 and offered to sell her a gold bar worth $10,000 for the “low price” of $5,000 because he needed the money to help an injured family member. Then a second man, who Lyons said was in on the scam, arrived and pretended that he was interested in buying the bar. He offered to help the woman verify that it was gold.
The woman withdrew the money from her bank and bought the gold-colored bar, which turned out to be phony.
The men were described as Latino, one around age 60 and the other about 35.
“They’re preying on elderly Hispanic people who maybe haven’t been in the country that long,” Lyons said, adding that he believes the incidents are much higher than the number of reports the police department has received because many people are likely too embarrassed of being tricked or afraid of police to report what happened.
He is reaching out to the local Latino community to warn them about the scam.
Ron Horne, a manager at the Petaluma Kmart, said he had not heard of any scams like the ones police described.
“People sometimes sell tamales outside, but that’s about it,” he said, adding, “If anyone was trying to sell anything to anybody in the store, we wouldn’t allow it.”
Lyons asked that anyone with information about the crimes call the police department at 778-4370.