Investing in gold and other precious metals has long been regarded as a secure choice during economic downturns due to their tangible nature and relative stability.
However, opportunistic scammers are taking advantage of this perception, deceiving investors into buying or investing in fraudulent gold schemes, resulting in significant financial losses.
The FBI has now raised an alert about an emerging gold scam trend, with reports from its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) indicating a staggering increase of 180%, as reported by BioCatch, a financial industry security firm.
Perpetrators of this scam exploit the recent success of gold by targeting senior citizens, persuading them to liquidate their bank accounts and invest in gold or other precious metals to safeguard their funds.
To enhance the scheme’s credibility, the scammers have adopted a new tactic, arranging for couriers to personally collect cash or precious metals from the victims. To date, seniors who have fallen victim to this ploy have collectively lost over $55 million.
The FBI has identified four key signs to help consumers recognise this scam:
- Scammers often pose as tech support or government employees.
- Scammers employ a multi-layered approach, presenting themselves sequentially as a technology company, a financial institution, and a US government official (e.g., the “Phantom Hacker” scam).
- Scammers falsely claim that victims’ financial accounts have been hacked or are at risk, compelling them to protect their funds.
- Victims are instructed to convert their assets into cash and/or purchase gold, silver, or other precious metals. In some cases, scammers direct victims to wire funds to a metal dealer who promises to deliver the precious metals to their homes.
The FBI also said, “Once victims obtain the cash and/or precious metals, the scammers send couriers to retrieve the items at victims’ homes or public locations. Scammers tell victims they will safeguard the assets in a protected account on behalf of the victims. In reality, victims never hear back from the scammers and lose all their money.”