So here\’s an interesting question

I\’ve been tipped off to something that I\’m absolutely certain is a scam.

But I have a feeling that it\’s a legal scam. Not as in a scam about the law, but as in a scam that is legal.

There\’s some blokes out there advertising for phone salesmen to sell rare earth metals to the general public.

Nothing illegal about that at all. Very silly of anyone to buy them, this is true, but nothing illegal.

In fact this was done a couple of decades back in the US. Blokes started getting small ingots of germanium and indium made up and selling them using boiler room tactics. Of course the price they were sold at was way above wholesale value. The spread (I think they were willing to buy and sell) was absurd etc.

So, given that I\’m almost, almost, certain that anyone who buys from these guys is being ripped off, what actually can or should I do about it?

For it isn\’t illegal to phone someone up and ask \”Wanna buy some neodimium?\”, nor should it be.

But what next?

27 thoughts on “So here\’s an interesting question”

  1. “For it isn’t illegal to phone someone up and ask “Wanna buy some neodimium?”, nor should it be.”

    Indeed not. But a few idiots lacking the braynz to google something they’ve never heard of before dropping their life savings on it getting ripped off will be plenty enough to have various concerned parties trying to ensure that it is illegal, along with various other things for good measure.

    So there is no good here. It’s a transfer of wealth from ‘fuckwits’ to ‘bastards’.. and few more things added to the list of things that the rest of us aren’t allowed to do. And a new Quango to make sure we don’t, I expect.

  2. The only thing I can suggest is to make a blog post including every possible search term and saying, in purely factual terms something like “XXX company are selling ingots of YYY metal. I advise you not to buy.” Then you could add reasons(again, purely factual) as to why not. You could direct them to an independent and preferably famous source which gives market prices, for instance.

    I know you used to have (still have?) another blog that gave warnings about various outright scams – best not to include this with them, if it is legal, but surely there is nothing to stop you doing what financial journalists and Which? magazine regularly do: make factual assessments of how good a bargain something is.

    Do you know any financial journalists who you could get to cover the story? Or could you write it up yourself? If you could get it published in a newspaper it would both reach more people and provide the protection of the newspaper’s name for you.

    Remember those “Nikkogen” guys who threatened to sue lots of people in back in 2006? I was astonished to see that their website is still going.

  3. OK, let’s think this through.
    Anyone buying rare-earth metals on the back of a cold call phonecall is an mug. Check
    If these guys don’t separate him from his dosh, the solar energy panel guys’ll get him the next. Check.
    But then he’s attracting government subsidy & costing the rest of us feed in tariffs. Check.
    Advice. keep shtum about the con. The money’ll do less harm with them than in the mug’s pocket. They’ll hopefully invest it wisely in booze’n loose women.

  4. They’ll hopefully invest it wisely in booze’n loose women.

    Thus driving the price up for the rest of us through increased demand. Hang on a minute, have we just stumbled upon the *real* reason for puritanism?

  5. The problem that comes with raising awareness is that it tempts a heavy-handed response that causes far more harm than good.

  6. You can point out the hazards, but don’t break your neck about it. Parting a fool from his folly is a mug’s game after the first try.

  7. I’m always telling people to buy the 16p packets of paracetamol as it’s the same quality as the £2+ branded stuff. Shocking markups are everywhere, I’m still trying to work out where the line between cash-cow and scam lies.

  8. Use you’re search engine prowess.

    Do a series of post along the lines of “How much is X-ium worth?” etc. Tag it silly, get friendly bloggers to link to it using key words and let google algorithms do the rest.

  9. Philip Scott Thomas

    Following on from what Natalie said, you’re the past master of steering t’internet traffic your way (hem, hem). So set up a site explaining the reality of the trade and declaiming the alleged hoaxers.

    If the (alleged) hoaxers’ investors take no notice of you it’s no longer your problem; you’ve done the morally necessary and are exculpated.

  10. If someone owned a plot of farmland but had no idea of how to farm it then I think we’d all agree that it’d be better if it voluntarily transferred to someone who did. Why’s this not true of money?

    It’s the reason that national lottery winners lose their money and why all inheritance must ultimately be earned.

  11. Brian, follower of Deornoth

    You’ll probably get a better deal off these crooks than you’ll get with Government Bonds when they start letting the printing presses rip…

  12. sophisticated people get done by boiler-room frauds….Allen Snford and Bernie Madoof raked off millions in equally inane ponzi frauds.

    So just point out the risk in as strident a way as you can Hopefully, this time, my mother will not fall for it. (but I know she will bite….:(…)

  13. Diogenes has it. When this is an Ebay or web scam, it’s only affecting greedy idiots. But non-stupid people can fall for boiler rooms too; that’s a reflection of human nature. So I’d echo the calls to name and shame the bastards.

  14. 1. Blog the issue.

    We’re both in much the same position of having been around long enough that its not difficult to get a blog post into Google’s top ten search entries, so use it.

    2. If you have any clear examples then, yes, name and shame.

    3. Encourage people to report scams and dodgy advertising claims to Trading Standards and the ASA.

    4. Talk to the media – its an unusual enough scam that it might attract a bit of media interest.

  15. “Remember those “Nikkogen” guys who threatened to sue lots of people in back in 2006? I was astonished to see that their website is still going.”

    The website may still exist, but the company itself is dormant and shows zero assets, so its safe to say that we pissed on Ray’s chips very effectively.

  16. So Much For Subtlety

    The problem is the boiler room tactics. There is nothing wrong with offering to sell people blocks of metal. If only I had bought more gold a few years back.

    So perhaps the solution is to knock up some ingots of your own and sell them over the internet at a more reasonable price. Then, at least, people could google you and see what they should be paying. Competition will drive down the prices in the end.

  17. The clue is in the name. Though in fact some of these “rare earths” are as common as muck.
    I don’t think they’ll be sending ingots through the post either. Reducing these metals from the oxide ores is hard work, and you end up with a reactive chemical unsafe to send through the post. So they’ll be selling bits of ore. Which you could dig up for free yourself if you bothered to go to Sweden.

  18. Actually BIF, rare earths are generally of pretty low toxicity and reactivity in the bare metal form (with the exception of promethium, which has no stable, or even particularly long-lived isotopes.) They’re pretty unprepossessing to look at, as well. The shysters could probably fob most of their punters off with a lump of manganese or zinc and they wouldn’t be any the wiser.

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