By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
The Better Business Bureau warned area residents Monday of two possible Austin-based gold scams.
The bureau has received more than 40 complaints regarding the United States Rare Coin and Bullion Reserve and the United States Coin and Gold Reserve, which share the same address, over the past three years.
According to information from the bureau, both companies have been accused of advertising gold bullion coins "completely free of dealer mark-up" in newspaper advertisements across the country, then selling them for prices up to almost two times higher than those at which they were later appraised.
Harker Heights-based regional bureau director Richard Kitterman said Monday that he was not aware of any locals residents affected by the possible scam, but advised people to be wary.
"These seem to be typical bait-and-switch ads where the salespeople use the initial offer to convince callers to buy higher grade, so-called collector coins at highly inflated prices."
A call to the United States Coin and Gold Reserve's marketing department was not returned Monday.
Dean Leipsner, United States Rare Coin and Bullion Reserve's chief executive, said that a meeting has been scheduled with the bureau to address the allegations against his 10-year-old company.
All 40 consumer complaints have been resolved, he said, and the bureau's warning took the company by surprise.
"We have 85,000 customers (nationwide) in profit positions with our gold."
Traditionally, investment in gold increases in a troubled economy.
A poor economy can also increase the risk of people falling prey to scams, Austin-based bureau trade practices official Gabriel Perales said, but they can be avoided.
"A lot of consumers, if they'd just done their research, they'd have learned the prices these companies were charging were exaggerated."
Tips for investors
The Better Business Bureau offers these coin-buying tips to investors:
Research gold-buying businesses in advance
Before buying anything, make sure you know the company, its address, and, preferably, its top officials. Check out its bureau review at www.bbb.org.
Do not make an immediate decision
Some sales representatives may push you to buy during their initial presentation, but do not buy anything until you have had an opportunity to compare their prices with those offered by reputable coin dealers in your area or through Internet auctions.
Compare prices carefully
When you compare prices, make sure you are comparing identical items. A vintage $5 gold coin, for instance, is usually worth more than a newer $5 coin. The value of coins minted the same year may vary depending on condition.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.