5 Myths About Pawn Shops: Debunked!

Pawn shops have gotten a bad rap in the past. Negatively portrayed in the movies, pawn shops are associated with seedy-looking characters and dark and dirty storefronts.

Well, the times have changed! Pawn shops are prominently featured in TV shows as great spots for bargains and the perfect place to get short-term loans that aren’t available from banks or traditional lenders. Modern day pawn shops are clean, well-lit businesses that serve consumers from all walks of life.

Time to correct some of these misconceptions:

  1. Pawn shops charge high interest rates: Pawn shop interest rates are determined by the state, city or municipality that the pawn shop is located in. Pawn shops in the Boston area are set at 3% monthly while Providence pawn rates are set at 5% monthly. Compare these rates with those in New Hampshire with a monthly interest rate of 20% per month. A smart consumer will find out the interest before taking a loan.
  2. You have to make monthly payments: In Rhode Island it is for 3 months and in Massachusetts a pawn loan is for 4 months. This means you do NOT have to make monthly payments. Simply pay the fees and interest that have accrued by the end of the loan period and you can renew your loan for another 3 or 4 months depending on the locatoin of the original transaction. It’s important to know how long the loan is for since some communities may have loan terms that could even be weekly.
  3. Pawn Shops buy stolen merchandise: Never! Pawn shops report every transaction they make to local law enforcement and then hold onto the item for a specific period of time, giving police the chance to investigate if the items were the result of a crime. Pawn shops are generally required to require government issued ID’s, take photos of the items and the person who brought them in and to provide these photos to police if asked. This makes it easier for police to recover stolen items and prosecute the criminals. Pawn shops do their part to NOT take stolen items.
  4. Pawn Shops try to cheat people, offering below market value: The value of certain items goes up while others go down. A reputable pawn shop would be happy to explain how they came up with their offer. Gold & diamond jewelry is generally valued on the scrap value of the gold and a percentage of the wholesale value of any diamonds, not what you may have paid for the item at retail. Because the price of gold goes up and down with the market, the amount you may be offered on a buy or a loan may change by the minute. With miscellaneous items like electronics, the value falls the minute you open the box and because technology keeps changing, the 2-year-old TV, laptop or digital camera you have may even be obsolete by now. Most pawn shops search websites to determine the used resale selling price of an item and offer a percentage of that. This means the TV that you paid over $1,000 for may only be worth a $100 loan. Don’t be afraid to ask how they came up with their offer and to shop around for the best offer you can get.
  5. Pawn shops are dark, dingy and scary places: Empire Loan, with 8 locations has worked hard over the past 30+ years to create well-lit and welcoming stores that customers feel comfortable in. We take pride in making sure the items we put out on display are clean and in good working order. The stores feature beautiful jewelry cases with only the best in gold, platinum and diamond jewelry at prices that are a fraction of typical jewelry stores. Empire Loan employees are expected to be neatly dressed, polite and professional with all customers who they come in contact with. Seeing is believing, stop in and see it for yourself. (or peek below)

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If you’ve been the victim of a theft, here’s what to do

Pawn Shops are regulated by local, state and federal laws pertaining to loans, purchases and privacy issues. People often think when their property is stolen they simply go to a pawn shop and see if their merchandise is on display there, but it’s really not that simple. Here’s a description of the process and what you should do if your merchandise is stolen.

First, understand that Pawnbrokers and other second hand dealers are generally required to report all transactions they make to local police or authorities. In addition to pawn shops, jewelers and consignment shops that buy gold and silver jewelry and other items are all required to maintain records of transactions and report them to local authorities on a regular basis. This often includes providing pictures and descriptions of all the items they take in, along with a copy of the ID and photos of the person who brought the item in. The pawn shop must then hold the item for a specific period of time, usually a minimum of 30 days, to allow the police time to investigate if the merchandise was part of a crime.

Fairly recently New England law enforcement agencies have centralized this information through NESPIN, New England State Police Information Network, where all six New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) share the information of what has been brought into pawn shops and second hand dealers across the region, allowing local law enforcement the opportunity to search database to see if items brought in were the result of a crime. This database is not available to the public but is accessible to local law enforcement.

As a victim of crime, here’s what you should do:

  1. Call the police. The first step after you discover a theft is to contact the local police where the crime was committed. Police will be able to take the information and conduct an investigation to try and locate your items. They may have knowledge of other crimes in the area and will also be able to review the records kept by other local police departments in surrounding communities to try and locate your items. As mentioned earlier, they can now also review the NESPIN records for all of New England to try and track your merchandise. If they are able to identify any possible items, they will then contact the pawn shop or second hand dealer themselves to verify if they are yours.
  2. If you do find the item, either in police records or on display in a pawn shop or jewelry store, contact the police department where you filed your original report. Only they can request the records of the pawn shop’s transactions. Because of privacy laws, pawn shops are not allowed to give out any information on any customers they have done business with. At Empire Loan, even though we would like to help you recover your merchandise, we are not allowed to tell you how we may have obtained a particular item. Empire Loan will however provide that information to the police or state authorities. Since 1985, Empire Loan has worked effectively with local law enforcement to help people recover their stolen merchandise and we pride ourselves on being cooperative with the authorities.
  3. Contacting local pawn shops directly yourself: Pawn shops do not want to buy or lend money on stolen merchandise. In the end, pawn shops can be the only ones who lose if it turns out they have taken in stolen merchandise. If the merchandise you lost was unique, if you have pictures of it or serial numbers, in the case of electronics, that can help the pawn shop identify the item. Unfortunately it’s not always possible for pawn shops to track details about every item that comes in the door. Empire Loan has 8 stores and does hundreds of transactions in a typical day. This means if you lost a gold wedding band, it would be virtually impossible for us to tell you if somebody came in with one since we could have literally taken in dozens.
  4. Checking in a pawn shops display cases won’t always be very effective. First, as indicated earlier, pawn shops like Empire Loan hold onto merchandise for a minimum of 30 days before doing anything with it. If the item was stolen last week, it would be another 3 weeks before we’d be allowed to sell it. After the 30 days we may melt the item down if it’s gold or silver or sell it online or to a wholesaler if its electronics or a musical instrument. That’s why it’s important to work with the police in trying to locate your items in a timely fashion.
  5. Contact your insurance company. If you have a homeowners policy or renters insurance you may be able to file a claim. While this won’t result in getting your original merchandise back, you may be able to recoup some money to help try and replace the items.

Empire Loan wants to help you recover your merchandise. Hopefully the above information will help you figure out how to do just that. If you have any questions or need any further information, feel free to contact any of Empire Loan’s 8 locations, check our website (www.EmpireLoan.com) or call us at 800-375-PAWN

Military Lending Act

On Monday October 3rd, 2016, a new law took effect from the Federal Government titled the Military Lending Act that affects Pawnbrokers and other lenders nationwide. Though the law was crafted primarily to control abuses by predatory lenders such as payday lenders and title loan companies. The law requires lenders to offer those on active military duty, their spouses and dependents a capped interest rate of 36% annually.

The purpose of the law was to rein in some of the exorbitant interest rates and fees being charged by these predatory lenders. In certain instances, these lenders charge monthly interest rates of 2O% or more along with other fees and penalties. In addition, many of these types of loans tie into a consumer’s bank account and report to credit rating agencies, resulting in deeper credit problems and spiraling debt for recipients.

Now when a customer comes into any of Empire Loan’s 8 locations they will be asked if they are “active duty military or a spouse or dependent of one”. If they are, Empire Loan will be in full compliance and waive any appraisal fees. Regarding the 3% monthly interest, Most Empire Loan stores were already in compliance due to rates set by the local communities we operate in.

If you are active military or the dependent or spouse of one, Empire Loan wants to thank you for your service and make sure you are getting all the benefits that you are due.

You can read more here:  http://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/1783/what-are-my-rights-under-military-lending-act.html

October Birthstone(s): Opal and Tourmaline

October is a special month with the changing of the seasons and a choice of two birthstones that come in a wide range of colors; opal and tourmaline.

Tourmaline

October Tourmaline GemOctober Tourmaline BirthstoneOctober Tourmaline Birth stone

Tourmaline has become very popular in jewelry due to the wide range of colors it can be found in. There is something for every style and taste. Tourmaline is best known for featuring multiple colors in each gemstone, featuring two, three or more colors in a single gemstone and is known for having the widest range of colors of any gem. The more distinct these color differentiations, the more desirable to stone is. Tourmaline colors ranges from black, blue or dark brown through green, red, pink and yellow. One type of tourmaline is referred to as Watermelon Tourmaline for its green and red color variation in a single stone.

Tourmaline is found all over the world including Afghanistan, Brazil, East Africa in even in the US.

Opal

Opal BirthstoneOctober Opal GemstoneOctober Opal Birth Stone October Opal GemOctober Opal Birthstone

 

The other October birthstone is the opal, from the Greek Opallos, meaning “to see a change (of color)”. Opals also show a wide range of colors from a milky white to black with flashes of yellow, red, green and blue. The 3D reflection within opals is one of the stones finest and most notable features.

The GIA describes opal as: Fireworks, Jellyfish, Galaxies, Lightning with a shifting kaleidoscope of colors unlike any other gem. The most often used term is Play-of Color, which speaks to the floating reflections of light and color or fire in the stones. The five main type of opals are:

  • White or light opal with a translucent color or background
  • Black opal which features a dark or black background (rarest)
  • Fire opal which is brown, yellow orange or red in background color
  • Boulder Opal which is translucent to opaque and where the surrounding rock becomes part of the gem
  • Crystal or Water Opal is transparent to semitransparent with a clear background and shows exceptional play of color.