Online scams related to counterfeit coins and precious metals continue to escalate, and a major tool used by fraudsters is the utilization of Facebook pop-up ads to scam unsuspecting victims, according to the non-profit Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation (ACEF).
“ACEF and its working group, the Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force, have seen an increase in reports of fraudulent Facebook pop-up ads selling counterfeit coins and precious metals,” said Doug Davis, ACEF director of anti-counterfeiting. “Although there are other social media and e-commerce platforms selling counterfeits, Facebook has become the predominant choice of fraudsters.”
Davis cautions: “Millions of dollars are being lost by victims who become easy targets for fraudsters who are using social media platforms to entice unsuspecting victims. Fraudsters are armed with a toolbox of sophisticated and realistic marketing techniques to develop deceptive and fraudulent social media platforms and websites. During the past 18 months the Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force has been monitoring numerous fraudulent websites selling counterfeit coins and precious metals. Based upon our investigation and analysis there are many red flags and commonalties used by these sites indicating hundreds are being created by a handful of large organizations.”
ACTF recently received a report involving the purchase of more than $27,000 in counterfeit 1-ounce silver Eagles from a Facebook pop-up ad.
To help protect numismatists and the general buying public, ACTF dissects a fraudulent Facebook pop-up ad and identifies the many red flags:
• When checking your FB page, an ad pops up selling 2021 1-ounce U.S. silver Eagles. You click on the ad, and it takes you to a different website showing a picture of a 2021 Eagle with a background picture of a tube of eagles in a green top tube. The offer is “Buy 7 get 3 free for $48.99.” The ad also indicates that the offer is 50% off. If you would like to purchase just one the cost is $6.99. Warning! That price is well under the actual market value for genuine 1-ounce silver Eagles and too good to be true.
• The site utilizes a gallery of photos that have been swiped from legitimate sites to lure unsuspecting victims. The photos usually include real coins, U.S. Mint tubes and large “monster” boxes to show that the coins came from the U.S. Mint. (Some fraudulent sites use a combination of real and counterfeit coins within the photo gallery. This is prevalent in sites selling Morgan dollars.)
• Some sites will use videos that show the coin weighing correctly, the correct dimensions and will not adhere to a magnet as would a counterfeit made of a magnetic base metal. A recent site included a video of silver Eagle coins being inserted into a U.S. Mint tube, placed in a monster box, and then loaded on a pallet for delivery. (But unsuspecting buyers instead likely would receive counterfeits.)
• Fraudulent sites often use photos and videos of genuine coins to support the authenticity of their counterfeit coins or spurious precious metals offerings.
• Buy two or more items and get an additional deep discount on top of already impossible, low prices if the items offered were actually genuine.
• When reading the description and highlights of the coin or precious metal for sale, there are often grammatical, spelling or other major mistakes in the text of the advertisement.
• The site shows other coins and precious metals for sale at below market prices on other platforms.
In addition to the red flags listed above, a major clue in the authenticity of a counterfeits website is the “About Us” section. In most cases, the contact information may be only an email. Very few fraudulent sites include a physical address or phone number. However, if provided, the information is usually bogus.
The following tips can help you avoid the scams of online coin and precious metal counterfeiting:
• Buy from the company’s official website.
• Do your homework when shopping on e-commerce platforms. Utilize the red flags described above to ensure the legitimacy of the seller.
• Do not be influenced by below-market low prices.
The counterfeiting of coins and precious metals is a global problem. The Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation is aggressively working with all levels of law enforcement to target, identify and prosecute criminal enterprises selling counterfeit coins and precious metals.
“The work of the Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force is supported entirely by donations made to the Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation, a non-profit corporation,” emphasized ACEF Executive Director Robert Brueggeman. “The donations, large or small, are making a difference to help prevent collectors, dealers and the general public from becoming victims of fakes.”
Monetary contributions can be made online at www.ACEFonline.org/donate or by check mailed to ACEF, 28441 Rancho California Rd., Ste. 106, Temecula, CA 92590. For more information, contact ABrueggeman at info@ACEFonline.org. ◆