Edmonton police are warning the public about the sale of counterfeit gold across the city.

The so-called gold bars are copper bars plated in gold, police said Monday.

To the naked eye, the bars look legitimate, right down to the packaging. But they're basically worthless.

Police began investigating shortly before the end of December after some local retailers were duped into thinking they were buying real gold.

Const. Robert Wellon said the gold bars appear to be slightly thicker than normal but that only a trained goldsmith would be able to notice the difference. 

"They're only worth about a dollar as packaged, " said Wellon, who added that the same scam was pulled off in Winnipeg shortly before Christmas.

"You can tell by the level of packaging it was quite easy for these to be sold to merchants and citizens as real," Wellon said. "We don't know exactly where  they're coming from,. We believe they're coming from overseas and purchased off the internet."

In a news release, police said the bars "appear professionally packaged and authentic" and warned private citizens and businesses to be cautious if they are approached by anyone selling gold bars.

Fake gold

Front view of counterfeit gold bar being sold in Edmonton. (Supplied)

The counterfeit gold bars are sold in various weights and price ranges. They weigh between 10 and 31 grams and are being sold for anywhere between $300 and $800 each.

Wellon said there have been about 20 sales transactions in Edmonton involving the counterfeit gold. Police have recovered a total of 220 grams' worth.

Store merchants are usually the primary target but police are seeing the bars sold online through websites such as Kijiji.

All buyers and merchants should ask questions and request a purchase receipt from the seller, police said.

"When something seems too good to be true, it usually is," Wellon said.