The rise of digital platforms and complex financial products has allowed the gold market to expand past physical products, making it more available as an investment asset. However, this has also paved the way for a new breed of gold scammers who will do anything to try and separate you from your money.
While we always encourage you to thoroughly research the people and businesses you buy and sell gold from, here are some of the most recent gold scams to be aware of and a few of the most common gold scams that consumers continue to fall victim to.
Newer Gold Scams Victimizing Consumers
Gold scams can take many forms, each with its unique approach designed to deceive and defraud. By being aware of the different types of gold scams, you can be more vigilant and better equipped to protect yourself from these deceptive practices.
Targeted & Bulk Phishing Emails
Phishing emails are a common method where a scammer sends an email that looks like a legitimate notice from a trading firm, sale statement, or some other official document or correspondence relating to the target’s gold holdings. In some cases, the scammer picks specific targets for their emails, but in most cases, these emails are sent out in bulk to try and catch anyone who will fall for the trick, hence the name “phishing.”
These emails often promise lucrative investment opportunities or alert recipients to a ‘limited time’ offer. However, when the user clicks the link in the email, they are sent to a page that contains malware or is designed to trick them into revealing personal information to the scammer. In some situations, these pages can even be designed to trick you into transferring actual assets.
More often than not, these phishing websites look identical to the websites of well-known gold dealers. They will usually also have an extremely attractive offer, like a short-term discount for certain gold coins or bars, to entice unsuspecting buyers further. However, once a purchase is made, the website will either disappear with their funds or, in a best-case scenario, send the victim fake gold.
Social Media Gold Scams
Social media has also become a hotbed of gold fraud. Unlike phishing emails, since you can see the person you’re buying gold from on social media (or at least the person you think you’re buying gold from), many consumer’s guards are down when interacting with these scammers.
Fraudulent accounts or pages may advertise gold investments, touting fake products or non-existent offers. They may also use sponsored posts or ads to reach a larger audience. In many cases, these scammers will even create videos showing off their gold and other precious metals to really trap their victims, but of course, the gold you purchase will never show up.
The best rule of thumb when purchasing any precious metals or valuable assets is to avoid any transactions on social media entirely. The risk of being scammed will usually outweigh any potential gains you’d see if the offer were real.
Gold ETF Impersonation
While many gold scams are centered around buying and selling physical gold, a new generation of fraudsters has started selling fraudulent shares in what they claim are gold ETFs that actually turn out to be unsecured gold derivatives or futures contracts.
Futures are contracts to buy or sell a specified amount of gold at a future date, while options give the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell gold at a specified price within a specified period. While these instruments may be legitimate components of an investment strategy, fraudsters may manipulate prices, provide misleading information, or use high-pressure sales tactics to deceive investors. They may promise guaranteed profits or protection from losses, but these promises are often empty, exposing investors to significant risk.
Sometimes, the scammer doesn’t even bother sending you the unsecured derivatives; they just disappear with your funds. Since this scam is a bit more complicated than your run-of-the-mill gold fraud, it’s especially important that any paper gold transactions you take part in are done through well-known and reputable brokers.
Offshore Storage Scams
Offshore gold storage scams can impact consumers in one of two ways. In the first scenario, the scammer may simply convince the victim to purchase gold from them and store it in their secure offshore storage. They’ll typically offer attractive pricing as well, claiming that because the gold is offshore, it can be discounted for some reason. While reputable offshore gold storage companies are out there, in this situation, the scammer is likely to keep your cash, never buy any gold, and send you fake statements, so you’re none-the-wiser.
In other scenarios, an offshore storage scam could convince the victim to send them all their jewelry, bullion, or other precious metals for secure offshore storage. In this scam, the victim would send all of their assets off to a scammer, thinking they’d be safer when, in reality, they’ll never see them again.
The Most Common Gold Scams
While scammers are constantly coming up with new tricks and tactics to try and steal people’s gold and other assets, there are a few gold scams that seem to have been around for as long as people have been buying gold. While these methods may seem obvious, people continue to fall for different variations every year, so it’s important to always be vigilant.
Cash For Gold Scams
These scams take advantage of individuals who want to quickly convert their gold items, such as jewelry or coins, into cash. These scams are often run by companies or individuals offering instant payment for gold items, but the catch is in the details.
One common trick is to undervalue the gold. The scammers may offer prices well below the current market price for gold, taking advantage of people who are desperate for cash or don’t know the true value of their items.
Another fraudulent tactic is the use of inaccurate scales. The weight of your gold dramatically affects its value. Scammers may use scales that have been manipulated to show a lower weight, drastically reducing the amount they offer you for your gold.
Bait and switch tactics are also common with cash for gold. A scammer may initially offer a high price for your gold but lower the offer significantly after you send in your items. They’re banking on you accepting the lower offer rather than going the distance to get your items back.
Fake Gold Jewelry Scams
In these cases, the fraudsters often pass off gilded metal as solid gold and trick unsuspecting buyers into paying high prices for items of little value. The scammers use various methods to make these gold-plated items appear genuine, such as adding official-looking markings or presenting forged documents attesting to their authenticity.
In advanced scams, fraudsters may use sophisticated techniques to create fake gold coins or bars. These counterfeits may be so well made that they’re difficult to distinguish from genuine coins without careful examination or testing. Scammers might even go so far as to mimic the packaging and documentation of legitimate gold dealers to make their products appear legitimate.
In these scenarios, the scammer, posing as a lawyer or a financial institution representative, contacts the potential victim with surprising news: they’ve inherited a substantial amount of gold bars from a long-lost or unknown relative.
However, there’s a catch. To claim this unexpected windfall, the victim must first pay a considerable amount in taxes, transfer fees, or legal costs. The scammer disappears once the victim transfers the money, and the promised gold inheritance never materializes.
Coin Valuation Fraud
Another common form is rare coin valuation fraud. In this case, the scammers sell coins (often gold) at wildly inflated prices, taking advantage of the fact that the victims don’t know the actual value of these items. The scammer will pressure their victims, make promises with unrealistic returns, or misrepresent the coins’ rarity or potential investment value. Because the scammer creates such a sense of urgency or demand, in many cases, the victim has already lost their money before they realize what’s going on.
Common Tactics Used By Gold Scammers
While each scam may have a unique spin, common threads run through most. By understanding these tactics, you can spot red flags early and protect yourself from becoming a victim of gold scams. Always do your research, seek independent advice, and take your time before making significant financial decisions.
False Promises Of High Returns
Scammers often play on the lure of lucrative profits from rising precious metals prices, a scam that has been reported by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The focus is usually on how easy it is to make money – a classic warning sign of fraud.
Investors find these offers hard to resist because they project an image of quick and easy wealth building. Online platforms are becoming fertile ground for such fraudulent activity, as scammers use social media extensively to make fraudulent investment deals. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has also noticed an alarming increase in scammers taking advantage of the cryptocurrency craze by making false promises about gold investments.
Pressure To Act Quickly
Scammers often create a sense of urgency to push their victims into making quick decisions without proper research or second thoughts. Promotional videos or so-called ’emergency alerts’ can announce sudden spikes in the price of gold and urge you to invest immediately for fear of missing an opportunity.
They may use phrases like “limited-time offer,” “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” or “act now before it’s too late” to rush victims into falling for the scam.
Bait And Switch Tactics
The scammer lures you with an attractive offer promising high-quality gold or profitable investments, driving your expectations. However, once you’ve invested your money in the scam, it suddenly turns out that the original gold or deal is no longer available.
Instead, a substitute is offered that’s of inferior quality or has a lower return potential, leaving the investor trapped and regretting their purchase decision. It’s important to verify any ‘too good to be true’ offer, as it may turn out to be a well-disguised bait-and-switch tactic by these gold scammers.
Impersonating A Reputable Company Or Person
Scammers may pose as reputable gold dealers, renowned investment gurus, or even an old friend who made it big in the gold industry. The goal is to exploit your trust in these identities to persuade you to participate in their fraudulent schemes.
Social media platforms have become fertile ground for these scams. They take advantage of your connections and make the impersonations more effective and credible because they come from your network. Don’t be so quick to believe the Twitter post about an exclusive gold deal until you’ve convinced yourself of its authenticity.
Creating Fake Websites Or Apps
Gold scammers often design fake websites or apps to resemble those of legitimate gold investment companies, luring unsuspecting investors into their trap. The fraudulent websites and applications are carefully designed and aim to scam people out of their money and steal valuable personal data.
A common example is fake banking websites used by criminals posing as legitimate gold traders asking for instant transactions due to a “limited-time offer.” At the same time, social media isn’t safe either, as there are numerous phishing scams targeting small businesses by touting investment opportunities in precious metals like gold that are too good to be true. These modern scammers have digitally adapted their malicious techniques, evolving from simple email scams to more sophisticated methods across various online platforms.
Using Emotional Manipulation
Gold scammers use emotional manipulation as a powerful tool to exploit their victims. The goal is to trigger fears or stir up negative feelings that cloud judgment and force the victim to make impulsive decisions.
The combination of false promises and psychological tricks often leads victims down a slippery slope that results in significant financial losses. This underscores the need for skepticism when dealing with unfamiliar people or investment opportunities.
Who Are The Most Common Victims Of Gold Scams?
Like with any fraud, the criminal will attempt to find a group or multiple groups of people most susceptible to the scam. While anyone can fall for a gold scam, here are a few audiences these criminals tend to target most.
Senior citizens often have a lifetime of savings and substantial wealth accumulated, making them attractive targets for scammers looking for a lucrative payout. Some elderly individuals may not be entirely familiar or comfortable with digital platforms, making it difficult for them to verify the legitimacy of online gold dealers or spot online scams. They also might not know how to check the current market price of gold online or struggle to discern a legitimate email from a phishing attempt.
Scammers may exploit the trust of older people, as they may come from a time when deals were done on trust and a handshake. Scammers can take advantage of this trust and use it to deceive them.
Older adults may also not have a broad understanding of the complexities of investing in gold, such as the factors affecting gold prices or the risks involved. Scammers might use complex jargon or provide misleading information to confuse them and push them into making poor investment decisions.
People experiencing financial hardship or needing immediate cash are particularly vulnerable because they may be desperate for a quick solution to their financial problems, which can cloud their judgment or lead them to take risks they would not usually take.
Scammers sometimes provide a platform for these individuals to quickly sell their gold jewelry, coins, or other items. However, in these ‘cash for gold’ offers, the items are often grossly undervalued, and the seller is paid only a fraction of their value. This undervaluation may not be immediately apparent to someone unfamiliar with the current market value of gold, resulting in a significant financial loss.
Alternatively, scammers may exploit these individuals by promising high returns on gold investments. They paint a picture of a ‘golden opportunity’ to improve their financial situation, promising sky-high returns that are too good to be true. These may be investments in fake gold, overpriced gold, or even non-existent gold mines.
Immigrants may be particularly vulnerable because of their legal status, aspirations, and efforts to adapt to a new culture. Scammers exploit these hopes and dreams, promising high returns on gold investments as a quick path to financial security in their new homeland.
This exploitation can be even more pronounced in certain communities, especially with strong cultural ties. In regions like Southern California, where investment fraud is unfortunately common, scammers pose as trusted individuals or authorities, such as notaries public. They may create fake websites posing as government officials or reputable investment firms to deceive and take money from unsuspecting immigrants seeking a better life.
Often, immigrants are unfamiliar with local laws, financial practices, and the intricacies of the gold market in their new country. This lack of familiarity can make them easy targets for fraudulent activity. They may not know how to verify the legitimacy of a gold dealer, the current market price of gold, or the signs of possible fraud.
Signs That A Gold Deal May Be A Scam
Being vigilant and knowing what to look for can help protect you from falling victim to gold scams. Here are some common red flags to watch out for:
- Be wary if you receive an unsolicited call, email, or message about a gold investment opportunity. Scammers often use these methods to target potential victims.
- Scammers often create a sense of urgency to pressure you into making a quick decision. They may claim it’s a “limited-time offer” or a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Reputable companies won’t pressure you into making a financial decision.
- Be wary of companies that promise guaranteed profits or unusually high returns. Investing always involves some risk, and anyone who claims otherwise is probably not sincere.
- It could be a scam if someone asks for money upfront for taxes, fees, or other costs before you receive your gold or profits. This is a common tactic in advance fee fraud.
- Scammers often use complicated jargon, incomplete information, or false claims to confuse potential victims. If you don’t fully understand the investment, it’s best to steer clear.
- Always ensure the investment and the dealer are registered with your local securities regulator or competent authority. Unregistered investments or dealers are a common sign of a scam.
- If the dealer can’t or won’t provide verifiable information about the gold’s origin, purity, and weight, or if you aren’t allowed to inspect the gold before you buy it personally, it could be a scam.
How To Protect Yourself Against Gold Scams
Protecting yourself from gold fraud requires vigilance, knowledge, and a healthy dose of skepticism. By applying these strategies, you can significantly reduce your risk of becoming a victim of gold fraud and ensure that your investments are safe.
Research The Company Or Individual
Scammers often masquerade as legitimate companies to appear credible, which makes thorough research even more important. Authentic companies usually have verifiable addresses and contact information on their official websites or platforms.
Be wary of companies that only provide email addresses as the only means of contact. Check testimonials and customer feedback on various review platforms to gain additional insight into the company’s past business. Also, research their background, track record, and reputation in the marketplace.
Don’t rush into investments based solely on impressive promotional videos or other compelling materials from the parties involved. Public records can also provide valuable data about legal issues or complaints filed against them in the past.
Refuse To Act Or Send Money Under Pressure
If you find yourself on the receiving end of a high-pressure sales tactic or an urgent call to action, it’s important to stand your ground and decline. Regardless of how persuasive the sales pitch or the pressure may be, you should always take adequate time to consider each investment opportunity.
Reputable companies and reputable investment opportunities will respect that you need time to consider your decision thoroughly. They know that prudent investors must assess the potential risks and rewards, verify the legitimacy of the company, and possibly seek the advice of financial advisors or other trusted professionals.
Get A Second Opinion From A Trusted Professional
A trusted professional, such as a financial advisor, appraiser, or investment expert, can provide a different perspective, confirm your findings, or raise concerns you may have overlooked. They can assess the return on investment, evaluate the dealer’s reputation, confirm the value of the gold, and help you spot signs of possible fraud.
Remember, it’s your hard-earned money at stake. Don’t make hasty investment decisions. Take your time, research, and don’t hesitate to get a second opinion. This due diligence can distinguish between a successful investment and a scam victim.
What To Do If You’ve Been Scammed
If you suspect you’ve been a victim of a gold scam, it’s important to act immediately to get your money back and prevent others from being defrauded. Remember – you aren’t alone, and resources are available to help you through this difficult situation.
Contact Your Bank Or Credit Card Company
Contact your bank or credit card company and arrange for immediate damage control. Inform them of the fraudulent transactions so they can initiate protective measures on your behalf.
They may be able to block further transactions, recover lost funds, or issue a new card if necessary. This quick action could also prevent additional charges if the scammers plan to make further unauthorized withdrawals from your account.
Report The Scam To The FTC Or Local Authorities
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has established an online platform, ReportFraud.ftc.gov, specifically for reporting fraudulent activity by individuals. You can share important information about the scam on this site to help others avoid falling into the same trap while helping authorities track down these fraudulent providers.
Contact not only the FTC but also your local law enforcement agency. Depending on local regulations and circumstances, they may have special procedures or policies for dealing with such scenarios. Remember, reporting is important to obtain justice and prevent others from falling victim to similar scams.
Seek Legal Advice
Consulting an attorney who specializes in financial fraud can give you important insight into your rights and possible actions to recover. An experienced attorney understands the complexities of gold fraud, can educate you on reporting procedures, and ensure that all necessary information is properly shared with law enforcement.
Legal counsel serves as a tool to help you navigate the confusing consequences of fraud. The legal professional you choose will advise you of possible courses of action, considering individual circumstances.
Invest In Gold With A Secure Company Today
When it comes to investing in precious metals, it’s important to be cautious, but fear should never hinder your investment journey. Noble Gold Investments is one of the largest and most well-reviewed gold and silver IRA companies in the United States, and we have the reviews to back it up. We offer a range of gold investment options, which have been thoroughly vetted for authenticity and quality.
Don’t let fear of fraud keep you from exploring the rewarding world of gold investing. Take the first step toward securing your financial future with Noble Gold. Give us a call at (877) 646-5347, or click here to open an account today and experience the peace of mind that comes from investing with a trusted partner.