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Identity theft grows; so does price of gold

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Next week, March 1-7, is National Consumer Protection Week. Identity theft is at the top of the list when it comes to the need for consumer protection and caution.

Consider the following information distributed by The Associated Press:

The number of identity theft victims last year in the U.S. was 9.9 million, according to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research.

The total amount lost to identity theft fraud last year was $48 billion. The average consumer cost of identity fraud is $496.

What can you do? Call your local police if you are a victim of identity theft. Contact the national credit bureaus and request a fraud alert on your credit report:

Equifax: 800-525-6285; equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, 30374-0241.

Experian: 888-397-3742; experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, Texas, Box 75013.

TransUnion: 800-680-7289; transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton Calif., 92834-6790.

Early this afternoon the price of gold stood at $942.40 an ounce. Gold is still selling at near all-time highs. Because of the tough economic times many people are taking advantage of gold prices by selling their gold for scrap. Mail-in gold businesses are multiplying.

Therefore, a caution has been issued by the American Society of Appraisers. Consumers need to learn about the gold market before jumping in on the spur of the moment, the society says. People should become educated before selling their gold so they know they are getting a fair price.

The society offers the following tips:

1. Look on the back of a piece of jewelry for a stamp that lists the karats. Gold that is 24 karats is 99 percent pure. An 18-karat gold piece is 75 percent pure. Gold from other countries might be less pure than the stamp shows.

2. Find out the current price of gold by looking at Web sites like Kitco.com. The price is quoted per troy ounce, which is 31.1 grams.

3. Ask jewelers what percentage they take from the sale and what percentage the metal refinery takes and then you’ll have an idea of what you should be paid.

4. Broken or mismatched jewelry pieces are the best candidates to be melted down. Many pieces have more value, however, being sold to an estate jeweler or buyer. Pieces from well-known designers and well-crafted antique pieces should be valued, and melting them down may not be the best option.

5. To have a jewelry piece appraised, choose an appraiser who is an accredited member of a nationally recognized appraisal organization. For gold bars ask an accredited gold appraiser or numismatist and check their credentials.

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