The independent Financial Industry Regulatory Authority warned investors Wednesday about investment scams that promote gold stocks whose real value is difficult to calculate.
With the price of gold bullion at record levels, there has been a proliferation of blogs, websites, YouTube videos and Tweets centered on investing in gold. And while there are legitimate gold investments discussed online, FINRA is concerned that some investors may fall prey to gold-related investment scams, said the private organization, which is the successor to the National Association of Securities Dealers Inc.
These gold scams may center on inflated claims regarding the stocks of gold mining companies whose stock value is often based on gold reserves that are difficult to estimate, much less verify, FINRA said. For example, the Securities and Exchange Commission took legal action against a mining company based in Florida for false press releases claiming that a mining project in Ecuador contained gold reserves worth more than $1 billion.
Gold investments may also be touted in free lunch seminars and pushed by boiler room operations. The SEC charged six individuals for running a recent Ponzi scheme that used investment seminars to bilk 3,000 investors across the United States and Canada out of $300 million, FINRA said in a statement.
Separately, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission took three actions against precious metals firms, including charging a boiler room telemarketing firm that purportedly purchased more than $23 million of precious metals for their customers.
Con artists are using the run-up in the price of gold as a hook to part investors from their money. Investors should think twice before investing in any gold investment promising exponential returns, or any company that claims it is a buyout target for other mining companies, said Gerri Walsh, FINRA's Vice President for Investor Education.