Rebecca Zuzula readily admits that losing money to a “dodgy diamond dealer,” as the retailer was dubbed by the New York press, is what many would call a first-world problem.
Zuzula, 51, is fortunate enough to be married to Joe, who wanted to buy her a gorgeous diamond ring to celebrate their 27th wedding anniversary. The couple, who live in Perry outside of East Lansing, Mich., thought they did their research when it came to an outfit called Enchanted Diamonds.
While she’s lucky in love, her online bargain is on the rocks.
She’s now out thousands of dollars and still, no ice.
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New York-based Enchanted Diamonds – part of Online Diamonds International – has filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy amid a spike of consumer complaints. Overall, customers and others are out more than $1.8 million. Some victims lost five figures.
Sounded like a gem of a deal
Sure, some skeptical consumers might wonder why anyone would buy a diamond, such a precious investment, essentially sight unseen. But people are buying plenty of big-ticket dreams online these days, including wedding dresses. (And yes, consumers are often warned to watch out there, too.)
Yet, the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York shows a list of unsecured creditors with huge claims. One consumer buying diamonds in New Jersey is owed $44,870. Another in Texas is owed $73,170. Another in California is owed $101,880.
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One young man in love in California said he researched the purchase for a few weeks, found nothing out of order and even was reassured because a friend had successfully bought a diamond last year from the same company.
How much has he lost?
“Monetarily, $10,300,” he said. “Emotionally, probably a few months off my life.”
The man asked that his name not be used because he still plans to propose this summer to his longtime girlfriend. He’s working on buying another diamond. The next purchase will be on a credit card. The last one drained half off his bank account.
He wired the money from the bank in early June and the bank employee did ask a few times if he was certain this was a reputable company. The young man felt confident that it was a good deal – enabling him to shave 20% off the cost of 1.8 carat cushion-cut diamond.
All would have been fine, if only.
After consumers began complaining that they weren’t receiving their gems, the Better Business Bureau issued a consumer alert on June 21 for Enchanted Diamonds, which also had a brick-and-mortar store on Broadway in New York. The BBB suspended its accreditation of Enchanted Diamonds.
Complaints rolled in from California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.
Zuzula is listed as a creditor in bankruptcy filing with a total unsecured claim of $6,660. Another creditor who lives in Rochester Hills, Mich., is listed with an unsecured claim of $13,200.
Not spotting the trap
Zuzula’s story gives consumers more reason to pause when they spot a great deal online, especially if the sales pitch starts involving the wiring of money to quickly seal the deal.
“If you’re asked to send the money via wire transfer, this is a huge red flag,” said Laura Blankenship, director of marketing for the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.
Wiring money is always a bad idea if you don’t really know who you’re dealing with because that money is difficult, if not impossible, to get back. The same is true for prepaid gift cards.
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Zuzula began shopping on a well-known site called Rare Carat, an online site known as the “Kayak for diamonds.” Retailers listed include Costco Wholesale and Macy’s. And Enchanted Diamonds was a retailer that listed diamonds on Rare Carat’s search engine until May 30.
Zuzula found an A-plus Better Business Bureau rating for the Enchanted Diamonds.
So when she spotted a stunning square diamond, the couple was willing to take the plunge.
But at one point, as part of the process, they were told that the diamond was at a show in Las Vegas.
Zuzula said she went online and saw there was a diamond show in Las Vegas. So she believed the story when she was told that if she wanted to get the diamond, they had to act quickly and wire the money.
On June 14, she received an email about some sort of delay.
“Monday came and they never got back with anyone,” she said.
The BBB noted that Enchanted Diamonds stopped taking orders as of June 20. And the phone number was disconnected.
Rare Carat – the online shopping site – issued a customer notice dated June 16 that stated: “If it turns out that we are looking at a worst case scenario, I want to convey that Rare Carat will provide a lawyer to file a lawsuit in the state of New York on your behalf to recover your money from Enchanted Diamonds. Rare Carat will cover these expenses out of our own pockets for you. This is regardless of whether you used Rare Carat or not during your diamond search.”
The notice continued: “Enchanted Diamonds has not been listed on our search engine since May 30th.”
Rare Carat said they began noticing data errors – “namely, mispriced and artificially treated diamonds that are against Rare Carat’s rules.”
The Rare Carat stated that: “While they were listed and we ran our checks, this is what we knew: Enchanted Diamonds passed our last industry reference checks with leading diamond suppliers and nothing seemed unusual during multiple site visits. They had operated for over six years and had an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Enchanted Diamonds had a 4.5 star rating on Google and a 4.5 star rating on Yelp.”
Rare Carat also indicated that even consumers who searched on Google might have felt comfortable buying from Enchanted Diamonds, as “many other reputable diamond industry sites recommended Enchanted Diamonds.”
If you’ve lost money
Consumers who are dealing with the rocky purchases are advised to:
- File a report with the New York State Attorney General at ag.ny.gov/complaint-forms.
- File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at BBB.org.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.
- File a report with New York City Consumer Affairs office at www1.nyc.gov.
Contact Susan Tompor: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-222-8876. Follow her on Twitter @tompor.