Fake bullion coins being sold on social media platforms

Counterfeiters are expanding their reach to deceive the unwary by offering bogus U.S. coins through various e-commerce and social media platforms, including Facebook and Mercari, according to an organization devoted to combatting counterfeiting.

Among the cases Doug Davis, director of the Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation’s Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force, reports on is one that involves a victim who placed an order for American Eagle silver bullion coins through Facebook. The pieces turned out to be base-metal fakes instead of genuine .999 fine silver coins.

“Among the cases we’re investigating is the sale of ten fake one-ounce silver American Eagles,” according to Davis. “They were unsuspectingly purchased by someone who responded to an advertisement that popped up while he was checking his Facebook account. All ten coins he received in response to his order were counterfeit,” said Davis.

“The victim provided us pictures showing one coin being cut in half to reveal it was composed of base metal, not silver.

“We have provided information about the seller and the potential manufacturer to the U.S. Treasury Office of Inspector General, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and to the Secret Service.”

In another case presented in May to the ACEF, a buyer was bilked out of $8,000 spent on the Mercari e-commerce platform for counterfeit U.S. coins housed in fake Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and Professional Coin Grading Service plastic holders with bogus grading labels.

ACEF contacted NGC and PCGS to verify that the holders were not genuine and the results were conveyed to federal law enforcement, according to Davis.

ACEF, which operates solely on donations from the public, cautions that the number of websites offering counterfeits for sale continues to grow.

“Analysis indicates that many of the websites are staying operational for only a few days and then shutting down, making it difficult to trace,” Davis said.

“However, we have been able to determine they just turn around and open a new website under a different name. We have also been able to identify other third party platforms that are being used to distribute counterfeit coins,” Davis said.

“We have been requested by CBP to send a list of websites selling counterfeit coins and precious metals so their investigators can use this intelligence information to identify manufacturers and importers. CBP and Secret Service have several cases being worked in the Los Angeles/Long Beach area, and volunteers from the ACEF Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force have provided expert assistance there,” he commented.

Davis indicates ACEF volunteers in the numismatic community are contributing their expertise to authorities in San Francisco and to CBP investigators probing seized numismatic fakes in the El Paso, Texas, region.

“If you don’t know precious metals, you’d better know a reputable seller, such as experts affiliated with the Accredited Precious Metals Dealer program, www.APMDdealers.org,” Davis said.

Collectors, dealers and the general public are encouraged to report any counterfeits or counterfeit fraud activity by email to Davis at the Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation at [email protected]

Online donations to support the efforts of the nonprofit Anti-Counterfeiting Educational Foundation and its Anti-Counterfeiting Task Force may be made at www.ACEFonline.org/donate. Check can be made out to ACEF and mailed to ACEF, 28441 Rancho California Road, Ste. 106, Temecula, CA 92590.

For additional information about donating, contact ACEF Executive Director Bob Brueggeman at [email protected]

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