Beware dubious silver bar offer

From the Better Business Bureau of Michigan

These Silver Bars May Not be What you Think

“Everyone who gets these will feel like they just hit the jackpot.”

That’s the promise from an advertisement for silver bars from a group called the Federated Mint.

Despite a disclaimer, some consumers believe the advertisement makes it appear the federal government has just made a large number of silver bars available to lucky Michigan residents.

But the bars are not from the U.S. government, and the value of the silver inside is worth much less than some customers may believe.

“This is an example of an offer that doesn’t specifically say it is from the federal government, but it works very hard to get consumers to think it is” says Phil Catlett, President of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan.

The BBB was recently contacted by a man who was concerned about the offer. The mailing included a letter from Mary Ellen Withrow, 40th Treasurer Emeritus of the United States of America. The letter states;

“The only existing Michigan State Silver Bars sealed away in heavy State Silver Vault Bags are now being handed over to residents of the state of Michigan”.

The letter says there is a deadline to claim your state bars, and includes what appears to be an article from a February edition of USA Today about the offer. What the letter doesn’t disclose is the article isn’t written by USA Today, but is a paid advertisement that ran within the newspaper.

The offer in the newspaper has a list of zip codes by state, and claims that if the first two digits match your zip code then you are eligible to buy these silver bars at what the company says is a 42% discount. Michigan winners are in zip codes that begin with 48 and 49.

“What they don’t tell you is all Michigan zip codes begin with either 48 or 49, so the offer isn’t really exclusive” says Catlett.

The advertisement includes a disclaimer at the bottom that states Federated Mint is not affiliated with the U.S. Government. However, the article uses language that could lead consumers to believe there is a connection to the real U.S. Mint. Adding to the confusion, the company also goes by the name of United States Reserve LLC. Customers who call the Federated Mint are given the option to buy hundreds, or thousands, of dollars’ worth of these silver bars. The company pushes the advertised price discount. But the BBB has found that the actual value of the silver is worth much less than the price of these bars. The advertisement claims consumers must act fast because the price has been lowered from $50 per bar to $29 per bar. Each bar weighs a half ounce.

“That’s about $7.50 worth of silver” says Bruce Talsma, owner of Talsma Jewelry in Grandville, MI. Talsma Jewelry has been accredited with the Better Business Bureau since 1994. “Anyone can make generic bars. The concern always is the silver content” Talsma tells the BBB.

Right now the price of silver is about $14.50 per ounce. Talsma says it is not uncommon for customers to come in with items like this expecting them to be worth much more. He says bars and coins are often sold as collectibles, and should not be considered an investment. If someone is looking to invest in precious metals, Talsma recommends going to a reputable dealer that deals in bullion from the U.S. Mint.

“Check the spot price of silver, and that’s about what you should be paying” Talsma says.

The BBB recommends customers use caution when purchasing items by phone or online. Do your research into the product and seller. If customers are searching for investments, it is a good idea to consult with an investment adviser before making a purchase.

Members of the media looking to speak with someone about offers like this are encouraged to reach out to a BBB accredited jeweler. Go to bbb.org, type in “Jewelers” and look for the Accredited Business logo next to the company names. You can also contact Troy Baker to help set up an interview.

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