My Gold News | 21 February 2023

How to Detect Fake Gold Bars and Counterfeit Gold Coins

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There was a time when detecting fake gold could be done with very simple tools and techniques. A lot of this advantage was due to the fact that the fabrication of fake gold was very poor in quality and easy to detect because of these shabby methods. However, today, the technology in producing fakes has advanced greatly with computers, and many of the old detection methods don’t work so well, especially if one is trying to avoid being destructive to the metal if it turns out to be real gold after all. This was proven with a recent whopper of a con job with multiple bricks of fake gold. And it doesn’t help that the production of fakes has become a widespread problem due to the high production of fake copies. Much of the criminal activity has been coordinated by groups and organizations versus just individuals, being quite capable of investing significant efforts to produce lots of fake coins and bars and distribute them for widespread gains. That has made it harder to spot those fakes, and it has produced a lot of victims, especially online. Knowing that many professional dealers are trying to keep pace with detection methods and advanced tools, many of the criminal elements focus on the regular consumers. The rage for precious metals has fueled a global demand for gold and silver in any form, regardless of source. And for fraud types and related criminals, that makes for a very fertile environment to sell fakes and steal people’s real money in the process. Most customers are easily fooled by the professional fakes and only find out about being scammed when they take their coin or bar to a professional dealer and find out the material is suspect. It’s a common story being repeated and again in New Zealand as well as other countries, signaling how widespread gold and silver fakes are now. No one wants to find out that the great gold or silver find they scored through an online auction turns out to be a fake, but it’s good to know as soon as possible, especially if one can save the records of the transaction that can possibly identify the fraud party. While it’s unlikely that individual losses will be immediately recovered in many instances, the accumulation of evidence oftentimes eventually identifies a culprit that slips up, and that’s what law enforcement looks for as well as to build an overwhelming case when the person is caught and charged in court. However, even then the potential for profit is so big, many criminals are still pushing fakes anyways, regardless of the penalties involved. Here are some practices to follow that will help you understand what you do have in gold or silver or received as well as how to protect yourself on the spot from losing your money or your gold to a scam.

Start With a Known Authority

If you’re not sure about the gold that you just received or have had for a while, then take it to a professional and established authority to evaluate. MyGold has been around for years in New Zealand with a long-standing reputation for service and professionalism. Because of this fact, MyGold has become a key resource for identifying the basis of unknown gold as well as sometimes finding out that the product examined turns out not to be what it seems to be. This is done through a number of tools including X-rays and chemicals as well as ultrasound tools. With this resource available to New Zealand customers people can start with a good foundation and basis of what they know for sure.

The Colour can be an Indicator

Cheaper fakes and fraud items have been unable to copy the specific yellow gleam of gold, but they have been far more successful at faking silver. Much has to do with the unique yellow aspect of gold that nature produces. Silver, on the other hand, is easier to fake with base metals, especially if the coin or bar is polished. The first step with gold is to consider the entire coin or bar, not just the top. Discoloration of fake metals often happens due to the onset of corrosion. Gold doesn’t corrode near as fast, even when actively exposed to moisture. The same can’t be said for many base metals that rust right away. Tiny spots of black or green can be indicators of a fake metal underneath the gold décor. These spots usually occur because the disguise in a poor quality fake is not complete and some tiny, microscopic part of the base metal remains exposed. Over time, the corrosion kicks in and makes itself known as a result of discoloration.

Missing Stamps or Hallmarks

Gold or silver that is supposed to be issued by a government will always have some kind of a stamp on it and even a hallmark of production as well as content quality measurement. Regardless of the country the coin or bar comes from, they all have some kind of official marking, including the symbol of the mint that produced the bullion item. They also will have a distinct mark identifying the weight and quality of the gold or silver used. This is not a complete test, but it’s another simple factor to watch for that sloppy frauds will often miss or foul-up. 


Biting the Metal

This is not a recommended or reliable method of testing gold. Gold is a soft metal, so it will bend or dent under sufficient pressure. However, it’s also a good way to damage your teeth as well. If the suspect “gold” is made from a different metal, like bronze with a veneer of gold-looking surfacing, the metal won’t change form under the soft pressure of teeth. That said, don’t bite if your teeth are weak or have had work. You could bust a crown which is going to cost you a lot more to fix.

The Illuminating Magnet

Another simple test that catches low-quality fakes tends to be the application of magnets. Any fake coins or bars that use metals that respond to a magnet will give themselves away. Gold has no attraction to magnetism, so it has no reaction, even a slight one. However, it is not the only metal that is non-attractive to a magnet. And more professional fraud operations have taken advantage of this fact to use non-magnetic metals for producing fake gold bullion. A new hand-held magnet from any hardware store is sufficient to do the job, and a good number of painted metals, as well as gold-plated fakes, have been caught this way very quickly, especially since people are buying jewellery in lower security markets in person.

Big Forms of Bullion are Rare

Let’s think about this for a second. How often would someone normally be lugging around a big bar of gold or even silver? It’s not reasonable, much less likely, right? So why then would people be willing to sell such a product so easily online or even in person with a private sale? Most gold and silver sold are transacted in much smaller forms, usually one ounce at a time. Anyone trying to unload a bigger piece without a lot of detail or saying it’s a great buy on a discount sale to move quickly should be setting off red flags all around. There’s a 90 percent chance right from the start the deal is a fake and an attempt to get a sucker to separate themselves from their money. Yet this scam continues in a version of the Nigerian prince scam. The gold variation often involves a Dubai representative looking to sell Arabian gold for cheap only to separate victims from their cash with cheap metal or no gold at all. 


Weight and Density

In many cases weight has not been a good criterion to use for detecting fake gold or silver. It’s one of the first issues many frauds have overcome by simply finding a compensating metal that weighs exactly the same as gold. The challenge is not hard. However, many sloppy fakes don’t even bother to check, making them easy to find with a weigh scale. For example, if a gold coin is supposed to weigh one Troy ounce, then that’s exactly what it should produce on a scale. When the difference is noticeable the coin is immediately suspect. More often than not poor fakes tend to be lighter in weight than pure gold or silver and give themselves away. Knowing right from the start what a gold or silver coin should weigh is a good way to avoid easy mistakes, but with jewellery this test can be much harder to apply.

How to Detect Fake PAMP Gold Bars

Produits Artistiques Métaux Précieux (PAMP) bullion bars are a well-known and established bullion provider for gold investment that has been around for years. They are recognized on sight and as a result, have as much of an accepted quality standard as government-issued bullion coins. And, while those aspects of PAMP Suisse bullion bars makes them highly desirable and coveted, it also makes them a great target for counterfeiters as well. Some of the most advanced fakes in bullion gold bar fraud are now resembling highly detailed and professionally finished PAMP Suisse gold bars. The detail and attention to minute aspects are making these newer fakes much harder to identify as well as catch before people end up losing their money to them in sales. They also don’t have the tell-tale signs cheaper counterfeit bars had, allowing them to be spotted easily. That included poor packaging as well as slopping work on the bar smelting and finishing. One of the key starting ways not to be duped starts with knowing the exact correct weight of a PAMP Suisse bar as well as the exact dimensions. The actual bars have met a specific set of dimensions, which becomes very hard to match when not working with real gold. However, the high-quality fakes have managed to match these specs. As a result, one also needs to use the VeriScan check with PAMP Suisse, available by Internet connection online. Anyone can scan their bar, match the bar code, and compare their bar with the online validated correct image. Ideally, one should not be buying the bar first before the scan is completed. This system is also limited by bars created after VeriScan was put in place; it won’t cover earlier PAMP Suisse coded bars. 


Spotting Tungsten Core Fakes

The tungsten core fake takes a very different approach from counterfeits that attempted to pass painted or thinly-coated gold bars as real. Instead, the Tungsten core fake has a substantial layer of gold on the outside with a deeply buried tungsten bar or plate inside. This avoids many of the traditional tests using chemicals and x-rays as the tungsten itself could not be identified surrounded by a thick real gold layer. However, the fake could easily cut the value of the gold bar by half or more, causing the buyer to lose far more in money than what the bar is really worth. It took some time, but eventually, ultrasound testing came into play, which had greater success in finding the tungsten fakes, but it too was not perfect. Eventually, a new testing tool came online that had a 100 percent effectiveness, for a while, in spotting tungsten core bars.

Fake Perth Mint Gold

We have also seen fake Perth Mint gold bars. These bars can be reasonably well produced fakes with authentic-looking packaging. However, their details are given away with incorrect serial numbers, slight mistakes in the packaging, and, of course, testing of the metal itself. At first glance the level of workmanship might fool most buyers and are prevalent in online auction sites - as "gold replica coins" and bars. Some of the more frequent mistakes include a missing swan watermark logo on the front of the package, poor quality plastic encasement versus higher quality packaging, and incorrect security detail descriptions that Perth Mint doesn’t use in their packaging. Finally, mistakes in the serial codes also tend to be giveaways. Size is usually obvious if the fake gold bars are make with copper, however size comparisons can be harder to make if materials like a tungsten-core have been used. 


Avoid Rushes and Bubbles

A few words about silver also apply to gold at other times. Avoid rushes or feeling panicked to grab precious metals anywhere you can when a market bubble occurs. This is usually an emotional mass purchase response that has nothing to do with smart investing. And it creates lots of opportunities for scams and buying without examining closely what one is getting. The current silver crunch right now is probably creating a lot of transactions with fake metal as everyone is scrambling to get silver bullion in their hands on a market spike that seemed to come out of nowhere. Remember, silver has been running at $20 or lower per ounce for years, why would it now suddenly spike? Smart buyers don’t get caught up in these panicked rushes to buy. MyGold can provide you a steady source of gold, silver, and other precious metal coins and bullion that are fully certified as authentic. Because MyGold is a long-standing established dealership of bullion, its wares are guaranteed to be the real bullion product you expect, and MyGold staff enjoys helping customers learn how to identify real gold better anytime they are asked. Make your gold and silver buying experience a positive one in New Zealand; work with MyGold for your bullion buying.