Hard-Up Greeks Warned: Take Care Selling The Family Jewels

12/13/2011 02:55 pm ET | Updated Feb 12, 2012

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece published guidelines on Tuesday to protect its austerity-hit citizens from being ripped off by pawn shops buying their family gold and silver.

The consumer protection agency issued the unusual notice as new pawn shops spring up across Athens to meet demand for instant cash in Greece's contracting economy. But crisis-hit families may be getting a poor deal from unscrupulous traders.

"We urge consumers to weigh their objects at home," a statement from the agency said. "Fliers and advertising material promising particularly high prices should be treated with caution."

Fliers for pawn shops are stuck on car windscreens and in telephone booths across the capital. One poster at a bus stand reads: "In Gold We Trust."

Greeks, particularly civil servants, have seen their incomes drop by as much as third as a result of EU/IMF-imposed austerity policies to save the debt-laden country from default.

Consumers should seek independent valuations of their family silver, check gold prices and compare pawn shop offers for jewelry before deciding to sell, the agency warned.

(Reporting by Harry Papachristou, editing by Rosalind Russell)