WOODBRIDGE - Consumer Affairs officials say an investigation into cash-for-gold shops in New Jersey reveals that they may have been ripping off their customers.

Officials announced on Thursday that 936 civil citations had been issued against 21 jewelers across northern and central New Jersey.

The shops are in Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex and Union counties.

Investigators often posed undercover as consumers seeking to sell their gold. At International Gold Buyers in Edison, they found 209 violations in the way clerks buy valuable jewelry. Workers at the store dispute those claims.

The report alleges International Gold Buyers was among a number of stores that kept its scale out of public view and didn't post prices for precious metals or keep proper receipts.

They also found numerous instances where stores had violated New Jersey laws by failing to use scales that had been properly certified as required. Investigators took scales out of three stores because they were not approved for weighing gold.

State law also requires that buyers obtain proof of identification from sellers to curb theft. State officials said there were several instances where required ID was missing.

Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.