By Jim Donovan

(CBS) — Have you checked out the price of gold these days? It’s sky high, over $1,400 an ounce. But that doesn’t seem to stop people from buying it. $81 billion dollars was spent on gold last year alone. But are you actually getting what you pay for? 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds that just because you think you’re buying gold, doesn’t mean that you actually are.

With gold prices up more than 400 percent over the past decade, gold is one precious metal that is a hot commodity. But as it turns out, all that glitters isn’t necessarily gold.

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Lorne Caplan says he spent $800 dollars on a gold ring and bracelet stamped 14 karat, but when they started to chip and turn green, he knew he’d been scammed. He says, “I went and had it independently tested and it was plated. It wasn’t even 14 karat gold.”

And it is happening to others too. With hidden cameras rolling, CBS producers bought 26 pieces of gold from chain stores, antique shops and mom and pop operations. Under federal guidelines, nothing under 10 karat can be sold as gold in the United States. Each piece was listed as either 14 karat or 10 karat gold. But when they were tested, a third weren’t what they claimed to be. A Bugs Bunny charm turned out to be 8.4 karats. A religious cross was 9.31 karats, and a peace sign charm was 1.48 karats. Keep in mind they were all sold as 10 karat gold.

It doesn’t surprise Lorne Caplan, who says his gold buying days are over. He says, “I feel foolish. I should have been smarter. Obviously I should have been paying more attention.”

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Retailers can be fined or even face criminal charges if they are caught selling gold that’s under karated. The stores where we purchased the bad gold did offer refunds, and one store owner blamed his supplier for the under-karated gold.

A lot of fake gold is sold in places where you go shopping for big bargains, so be sure to look at the pieces carefully for stamps that say 10 or 14 karat. More often than not, the fakes won’t have that on them. You also may want to ask the store if it has a quality assurance program, and if it tests the gold before it’s put up for sale.

Watch this video…

Reported by Jim Donovan, CBS 3

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