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Goldline International is one of the largest and oldest precious metals dealers in the US. Despite being acquired by A-Mark Precious Metals, the company still operates under the same name. But is being the oldest actually the best?
Unfortunately, Goldline International has been plagued by scandals and major customer issues for well over a decade. Here's what you should know about the history before you make any purchases.
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About Goldline International
Goldline International was born out of a company that sold bullion in South Africa in 1939, back before owning gold was even legal in the US. As such, its roots outstrip the local US retailers by several decades.
Goldline sells precious metals in the forms of bullion and coins. They also sell foreign currencies, numismatic collectibles, and other metals. Their collectible sets tend to be marked up well beyond the prices of their competitors.
When Goldline was operating in 2009, there were over 300 employees in total. The company had a revenue of over $800 million, which made it one of the fastest growing companies in Los Angeles. The A-Mark Precious Metals acquisition occurred in 2017.
Goldline International was one of the best known gold retailers in the 2000s because of their advertising campaigns. They had multiple celebrity sponsors and launched advertising campaigns through television, the radio, and the internet. They even had a former Director of the US Mint as their TV spokesman in 2009.
Is Goldline International a Scam?
Goldline International is now owned by A-Mark Precious Metals. Neither of the companies appears to be a scam, insofar as they do provide the services that they claim to. If you purchase precious metals, you will receive precious metals. Their IRA services appear to be compliant with all of the typical paperwork and regulations.
However, Goldline International is also plagued by a spotty history. Despite being one of the largest gold dealers in the world, the company's reputation isn't always the best. There were a few different investigations of the business's tactics in 2006 and 2010. On top of that, the online reviews for Goldline are not particularly favorable.
Let's take a look at the content and the findings of the investigations. Then we can explore the online reviews of the company from past customers.
In October of 2006, there was a consent order issued by the state of Missouri. As part of the settlement, Goldline International agreed that they'd return over $200,000 in retirement funds to an older couple. The Missouri state government alleged that Goldline International had used high pressure sales tactics to convince the couple to liquidate their entire retirement and invest in gold.
The main issue alleged was that the company was acting as an investment advisor. In order to give investment advice, an individual must be certified and go through rigorous ethics training. It is not legal to give investment advice that amounts to, "Spend all your money on our product because it's the only safe investment available."
The consent order was a settlement. This means that the allegations were never proven true or false in a court of law. Instead, Goldline chose to solve the issue outside of court with the issued refund.
In 2010, Goldline International was one of the driving companies behind proposed legislation from Anthony Weiner. He stated that there should be mandatory disclosures when companies sell precious metals and coins. The vice president of Goldline International testified about the company's practices.
After this hearing, there was no action on the legislation. The bill didn't receive the co-sponsor it needed to move to the floor of the House. Meanwhile, there were also no senators who agreed to introduce legislation on the floor of the Senate.
At the time, Goldline's representatives stated that the Congressman had not gotten in contact with them. In addition, they said that the Congressman had ignored invitations to visit their store. Conservative personalities like Glenn Beck stated that the legislation was a partisan attack.
But concurrent with the legislation, the cities of Santa Monica and Los Angeles both began investigating Goldline International. According to news reports, about 100 customers all over the US had stated that they'd been duped by false sales tactics.
However, Goldline International was being investigated alongside another small firm. This firm had a much worse reputation at the time. It's hard to determine how many of the complaints were related to Goldline versus this smaller firm.
News outlets at the time found that Goldline International was selling certain sets of coins for nearly double their actual price. Customers reported that they had been charged a huge markup for any investments in collectibles. Goldline said that the prices of their collectibles were reasonable based on different market forces.
Eventually, the city of Santa Monica charged the company with 19 counts of fraud and theft. They alleged that there was a bait and switch sales scam being run.
Two years later, Goldline International was able to settle the case with Santa Monica. They agreed to change their sales practices, as well as to have their new practices audited by a third party. There were refunds offered to 43 customers, which amounted to about 4.5 million dollars.
Part of this settlement involved the dropping of all criminal charges. There was also an agreement that no further civil action would be undertaken against the company.
Unfortunately, Goldline International doesn't appear to have left their consumer complaints in the past. They did agree to change their sales tactics in 2010, but they are still receiving consistent complaints today. These complaints have been lodged even after the acquisition by A-Mark Precious Metals, so it seems like the parent company hasn't had a strong influence on policy.
When you go to the Better Business Bureau website, you will see that they have an A+ rating and have been accredited since 2015. This indicates that they are an established company, and that they respond to every complaint filed against them. But the complaint and review numbers are concerning.
There have been 11 total complaints filed over the past three years. Of those, 6 were filed in the past year alone.
Sometimes large companies have handfuls of complaints through no fault of their own. For example, if there were hundreds of positive reviews, 11 complaints wouldn't matter as much. But there are only 14 customer reviews on the BBB website, and almost none are positive.
In fact, the company has a rating of 1.5 out of 5 stars. That indicates that nearly every customer gave the lowest rating possible. There are similarly mediocre reviews across other third party websites like Trustlink and Gold Dealer Reviews. Trustlink gives 2.3 stars based on 49 reviews, while Gold Dealer Reviews gives 1.9 stars based on 21 reviews.
That alone should tell you enough. An ideal company won't have exclusively negative feedback online.
We can't look at every single complaint that's been lodged against the company. But we can look at some of the recent ones to see whether there are patterns of misuse, as well as how the company has handled it.
Overpriced Accumulation Program
One complaint was filed in September of 2021 regarding the company's accumulation program. The customer said that they had started using the accumulation program in the year 2020. They discovered that the price of a one-tenth ounce coin was much higher than what the competition was trading for.
The customer asked about the price of the coin at the time. They had hesitations about investing in the accumulation program if they were going to be overcharged. To reassure them, the salesperson said that the customer could sell the coins back to the company once they were ready to liquidate.
But the customer was now interested in liquidating their assets. Based on the conversation with the salesperson, they believed that they could get their money back. However, the buyback quote they were given was much lower than what they had paid. They stated that they had been misled and wanted to be refunded for the investments.
Goldline International responded to say that the customer was misrepresenting the situation. They pointed to the fine print in their terms of service, which state that they do not guarantee buybacks. Then they pointed to further fine print explaining the difference between the selling and buying prices.
The company admitted that every client would lose money on their investment unless the price of gold rose enough to cover the spread. They said that the customer had agreed to the terms. Because the customer had already liquidated the holdings for the buyback price, the company said a full refund was impossible.
It's true that all of these explanations are in the fine print of the contract. But they're spread and buried across over a dozen pages, and the language regarding them is dense. It sounds like the customer got an incorrect impression from the sales representative and didn't fully read the contract.
You should always read any contract in full before signing it. But usually a good precious metals company will have sales representatives who are forthright about these issues, rather than needing to point to fine print later.
Unnecessary Coin Purchase
One customer left a complaint in September of 2021 regarding a transaction made in 2010. At the time, they wanted to buy gold bullion from Goldline International. Because it was their first time investing, they believed that the company would give them honest advice.
The sales representative that the customer spoke to convinced them to buy gold coins instead of bullion. At the time, the customer was told that the coins were a better priced and more reliable investment.
But in 2021, the customer tried to liquidate the coins. They were told that the coins were worth less than what they'd paid. The coins were worth just a fraction of the selling price at the time. The customer had attached their receipt and was asking for a billing adjustment and refund.
Rather than addressing the individual complaint, Goldline International sent a canned letter of response. It's somewhat alarming that their complaints are so consistent that they have an impersonal form letter designed for it.
The customer said that the response was unsatisfactory, because it did not address how the company had "tricked" them into buying the coins. They further stated that the company had settled a lawsuit in 2012 over the same problem, which is detailed above.
Goldline International responded to say that their letter was a simple reminder of the contract terms that the customer had signed. The customer said that they did not accept this and that they believed the company's tactics are dishonest. Goldline stated that the lawsuit had been settled without any admissions of guilt and reiterated that the customer had signed the contract.
Missing Gold Coins
Another complaint from September of 2021 was related to the accumulation program. The customer had signed up after seeing an advertisement on a conservative program. Despite having spent enough money to earn several gold coins, the coins had never been delivered. But the customer said that reports indicated the coins had been sent.
The customer had tried calling the customer service hotline. However, they were told that there wasn't anyone available who could take the call, so they should email. Upon emailing, the company eventually called and informed the customer that their account had been fully closed.
The company said they'd mail the coins for a new shipping charge. But the customer didn't receive the confirmation letter or statement that they were promised, nor did they receive a tracking number.
Goldline International responded to say that the company had not been informed that the customer wanted his coins delivered until the complaint. They had sent out the two coins, and the customer confirmed that he received them. However, the customer did say that the situation could have been avoided if Goldline International was more prompt and consistent about providing emailed receipts.
Pros & Cons of Goldline International
Goldline International is one of the oldest and best known precious metals dealers in the US. Though they have been acquired by A-Mark Precious Metals, they still operate under their old name.
Unfortunately, oldest doesn't always mean best. The company has been investigated for fraud multiple times, including a court settlement for millions of dollars. Past customers have left almost exclusively negative reviews that indicate that none of the sales tactics have changed.
Goldline's response to these complaints is to point to the contract that people sign. This contract is extremely long and dense, but it does explain all of their pricing in detail. That gets them out of legal trouble when customers say they felt misled about the high markups and buyback program. But customers still say that they feel deceived by the salespeople, and most of these complaints have never been resolved.
The company's reputation and history are dodgy enough already. It would take a serious overhaul of management and policy to erase that. And it doesn't seem that they've done this necessary overhaul. Instead, they've covered their legal bases and continued using similar sales tactics to before.
We definitely don't recommend doing business with this company. There are so many competitors that have much stronger ethics and much better customer feedback.
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