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Mining for Silver on Facebook

How Facebook ads supercharged an effort to trick older conservatives out of retirement savings.

This photo shows some of the food from a Thanksgiving dinner.
AP Photo/Bree Fowler
Dinner fodder.
A HEADS-UP

Warn your conservative parents about gold and silver schemes at Thanksgiving

John Keefe
By John Keefe

Investigations editor

If your older family members are politically conservative and you are not, here’s a topic you might find safe at the Thanksgiving table: Gold and silver schemes aimed precisely at them.

A Quartz investigation found that Facebook served up 45 million ads targeted at older Americans who were fans of Fox News, Republicans, and conservative personalities. The ads appeared to be part of a larger scheme to get retirees on the phone in order to convince them to roll their retirement accounts into overpriced silver and gold coins.

Dozens of people lost thousands of dollars in an instant, because the “melt value” of the coins were a fraction of what customers paid for them.

“On reading this story, I reached out to my father-in-law and learned he too had seen these ads in his feed and had been tempted to call,” said Scott Carpenter, director of policy and international engagement at Jigsaw and a Quartz Pro. “This is fraud, in my view, and reading through the scripts the sales people use was chilling.”

We described those scare tactics, which include Facebook ads, text messages, and online polls using phrases such as “Is Your Retirement Protected from the Deep State?” and “Protect Your Retirement From The Coming Account Freeze.”

If someone in your family may have been caught up in such a scheme, Joe Rotunda, the enforcement director of Texas’s State Securities Board, encouraged people to call their state securities regulator.

“Call us. Call us now. Don’t wait. Don’t hesitate. Call us immediately.  Don’t delay,” he said.

Let us know if you know more.

If you have information about gold- and silver-coin schemes, here’s how to reach the Quartz Investigations team:

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