Precious Metals

Counterfeiters target PAMP 1-ounce gold bars

Counterfeiters continue to target their numismatic prey. The latest victim is the struck Lady Fortuna 1-ounce .9999 fine gold bullion bar from PAMP (Produits Artistiques Métaux Précieux) in Switzerland.

What makes the latest counterfeit rather unusual is that not only is the rectangular bar counterfeit, but so is the blister-pack packaging in which the fake bar is secured.

Investigators with the Broward County Sheriff’s Department in Florida are investigating an attempt to pass several of the bogus 1-ounce PAMP bars at Fisher Precious Metals in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

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John Fisher, president of Fisher Precious Metals, told Coin World a couple came to the firm’s office the afternoon of Feb. 16 trying to sell three purported 1-ounce gold bars bearing the PAMP hallmark and Lady Fortuna designs. The couple claimed to have owned the bars for some time, Fisher said.

Fisher said he accepted the bars “on memo,” delaying any payment until the bars could be properly authenticated.

Fisher said he forwarded the bars to a wholesale distributor for examination who determined the bars to be counterfeit.

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Several days later, the couple returned seeking payment for the first three bars and to offer additional PAMP bars, along with 1-ounce gold bars purportedly produced by The Perth Mint in Australia.

Broward County Sheriff’s deputies were at Fisher’s office when the couple arrived, Fisher said; he had contacted authorities after learning the bars were fake. No arrests were made and an investigation is ongoing.

Fisher said the fake PAMP bars weigh within a half gram of the 31 grams a genuine bar is supposed to weigh.

No determination has been made as to exactly what is the composition of the counterfeit bars, so  it is unknown whether they are composed of a base metal or metals with a plating of gold or gold-colored metal.

The thickness of the fake bars may be the most obvious diagnostic. Genuine bars measure 3.35 millimeters thick versus 5.05 millimeters for the counterfeit, Fisher said. The counterfeit is thicker to bring the weight close to what it is supposed to be for a genuine piece, indicating that the composition is not as dense as .9999 fine gold.

Fisher said he was not only surprised by the appearance of the fake bars, but the counterfeit packaging as well.

“The thing that struck me the most was that the quality of the packaging was so good — pristine,” Fisher said. “If one didn’t handle these items regularly, such as the retail buyer, they would be very easy to accept as authentic based on the visual appearance and manufacturing quality of the packaging / tamper resistant card.”

On the obverse side of the packaging, the lines that pass under and through the word PAMP are slightly out of position from where they should be.

On the reverse side, the boldness of the ink for the gold bar’s specifications is not as pronounced as on the genuine packaging.

Scott Spitzer, chief executive officer for Manfra, Tordella & Brookes Inc., the exclusive North American importer for PAMP products, said the firm has encountered counterfeit gold bars, including examples of The Perth Mint fakes.

To combat the counterfeiting issue, PAMP has introduced completely new packaging containing products protected with patented VeriScan technology exclusive to PAMP that allows for authentication of PAMP products without needing to remove them from their packaging.

According to the PAMP website, “VERISCAN’s patented technology utilizes the metal’s microscopic topography — like a fingerprint — for unprecedented, highly reliable results.

“PAMP captures and stores the surface data at the production line. From that point forward, at any time, PAMP precious metals products can be instantly identified using the certified VERISCAN software app together with a conventional document scanner.

“Authentication is highly reliable, and as uncomplicated as scanning a document.”