Watch out for scams if you invest in coins

Buying rare and precious coins can be an exciting hobby and, for some, a lucrative investment. Unfortunately, it’s also a business that’s rife with potential for con artists. As always, it’s wise to proceed with caution. Following a few simple guidelines can offer protection from unethical sellers.

* Research, research, research. Know what you’re buying. Carefully study the characteristics of the coins you’re considering, paying specific attention to rarity, grading, market availability, and price trends. Comparison shop for similar coins by checking prices in leading coin publications. If a dealer’s advertised price is much lower than listed prices, the dealer may be misrepresenting a coin’s grade or quality. Online discussion groups dedicated to coin collecting are also a great place to post questions about a particular coin.

* Know the seller. Before you buy, check out the dealer’s reputation. How long has the firm been in business? Is the dealer a member of a professional organization? Has the Better Business Bureau received any complaints about this company? What guarantees does the seller provide?

* Be careful with online auctions. For many years the market for rare and precious coins has been a fertile field for fraudsters, and online selling has taken the game to a new level. Dealers who use online auctions such as eBay have been caught using a variety of scams: doctoring images, posting bogus descriptions, selling counterfeits, sending coins that differ from those advertised (the old “bait and switch” routine), and failing to deliver purchased items. Again, if you’re planning to buy at an online auction, find out as much as possible about the seller. Check feedback ratings. Read both positive and negative comments. Make sure the seller has sold similar coins in the past with good results. Ask the seller for clarification if something appears suspicious. And if you win the bidding, beware of sending payments to a location that differs from the one listed in the auction.

Whether buying coins online or off, the old maxim, “let the buyer beware” is always sound advice.

About Brenda J. McGivern, CPA

Brenda McGivern started her own certified public accounting and management consulting firm in October 2001. The full service CPA firm provides tax and accounting solutions to meet the needs of today's small business and individual. Brenda McGivern has become a trusted advisor and valuable resource her clients rely on for timely, accurate assistance when they need it. Before starting the firm, she worked as an accountant for three years at a local firm and prior to that five years at a large international CPA firm in Boston. She has performed the following tax services: federal, state and local tax planning, international tax planning, estate and succession planning, mergers and acquisitions, capital retention and IRS representation. She has also coordinated assurance engagements, such as financial statement audits, reviews and compilations from the planning phase through the reporting phase. She has prepared and reviewed regulatory filings for numerous regulatory agencies including the Security and Exchange Commission. Prior to these positions she was selected from over 2,000 candidates into an eight-person intensive financial management program at an international technology company. The program consisted of graduate level classroom study and two six-month rotational assignments in financial operations. She graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and holds a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. McGivern also holds a license in Massachusetts as a Certified Public Accountant and is a member of the American Society of Certified Public Accountants and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants. She resides in Stoughton, Massachusetts with her husband Brian, and their sons Sean, Ryan and Conor and their dog, Davis.
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