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 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 over $27,000 in counterfeit one-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 one-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 one-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 which 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 counterfeit’s 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 a reputable dealer such as members of the Professional Numismatist Guild, Accredited Precious Metals Dealers and the American Numismatic Association, or your local trusted dealer.
- 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.”
Three Numismatic Groups Admonish Facebook
Three major numismatic organizations that sent a letter to Facebook executives to complain that the social media platform “has become the predominant choice of some fraudsters” are disappointed with the lack of a response by Facebook and the continuing appearance of pop-up advertisements selling counterfeit coins. No response has been received in the month since the letter was sent.
The Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation, Numismatic Guaranty Company and the Professional Numismatists Guild sent their joint letter on 19th August 2021 to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, chairman & chief executive officer. Copies were also sent to Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Kara Sandberg and chief revenue officer at the time David Fischer.
“We are disappointed and frustrated that Facebook, for whatever reason, has failed to even acknowledge our important letter while hundreds of pop-up ads selling counterfeits or touting inaccurately or misleadingly described replicas continue to appear on their platform,” said Bob Brueggeman, PNG executive director. “ACEF, NGC and PNG jointly offered to assist Facebook to detect and help prevent these kinds of fraudulent ads, but there’s been no response.”
Mark Salzberg, Numismatic Guaranty Company chairman, stated: “NGC was founded, in part, to combat counterfeit coins in the marketplace. The coin collecting hobby is safer now than ever before, but we unfortunately face a new and serious threat from counterfeiters who are using social media to take advantage of unsuspecting buyers. NGC hopes to have the opportunity to work with Facebook to help banish these unscrupulous sellers from its platform.”
Doug Davis, ACEF Director of Anti-Counterfeiting and a former Texas police chief, stated: “The Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force has identified Facebook as a major platform utilized by counterfeiters and criminal organizations to sell counterfeit coins and precious metals. It is critical that Facebook executives recognize the criminal abuse of their platform by crooks who are preying on unsuspecting and uneducated victims who have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. But most importantly, the misuse of the Facebook platform undermines the integrity of the U.S. monetary system.”
Here is the full text of the joint letter signed by Davis, Salzberg and Brueggeman:
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:
It appears Facebook has become the predominant choice of some fraudsters. Counterfeiters of rare coins and counterfeit precious metals coins and sellers of these bogus, illegal products continue to blatantly obtain advertising on Facebook.
The work of the Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation (ACEF) with law enforcement investigators leads us to believe the cost to unsuspecting victims is in the millions of dollars in lost investments. Good-faither buyers erroneously believe that if any advertisement appears on Facebook it must be accurate and true.
Facebook’s platform continues to be used to lure gullible buyers of counterfeits of century-old U.S. silver dollars, and fake gold and silver modern American Eagle precious metal bullion coins.
Some unscrupulous sellers also offer illegal “replicas” of historic coins that are not marked “COPY” and, therefore, are in blatant violation of the federal 1973 Hobby Protection Act and the 2014 Collectible Coin Protection Act.
Based on investigation and analysis by ACEF, there are many red flags to identify these sites, and it appears hundreds of “different” sites selling counterfeits are being created by only a handful of bad actors.
Expert members of the Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation (www.ACEFonline.org), Numismatic Guaranty Company (www.NGCcoin.com) and the Professional Numismatists Guild (www.PNGdealers.org) are ready to offer their assistance to help Facebook prevent these types of fraudulent advertisements and alert you to those that may be popping up in the future.
Contact ACEF Director of Anti-Counterfeiting Doug Davis at 817-723-7231 or Doug@ACEFonline.org; NGC Chairman Mark Salzberg at 941-360-3990 or Mark@NGCcoin.com; and PNG Executive Director Robert Brueggeman at 951-587-8300 or Bob@PNGdealers.org.
Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.
Doug Davis (Director of Anti-Counterfeiting, Anti-Counterfeiting Numismatists Educational Foundation)
Mark Salzberg (Chairman, Numismatic Guaranty Company)
Robert Bruggeman (Executive Dirctor, Professional Numismatists Guild)
For more information visit the website of the Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation.
The efforts of the non-profit Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation and its Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force are supported entirely by donations. Monetary contributions may be made online. For additional information about donating, contact ACEF Executive Director Bob Brueggeman.
The ACEF already reported earlier that the COVID-19 pandemic is causing an enormous demand and limited supply of bullion coins resulting in an increase of fraudulent activities and the distribution of counterfeits.