(MSN/Quartz) While browsing through Facebook one day in 2017, a widow from Kentucky clicked on a series of links that led her to a signup form about buying silver. One of those Facebook pages, she told Quartz, appeared to be associated with Fox News.
Within 24 hours, Cheryl got a phone call from a representative of a company called Chase Metals. She said that right away, the caller launched into a conversation about which Fox News programs she watches. Then he mentioned that he had seen that she was interested in precious metals. Her interest at the time was casual, but the salesman was persistent, calling her again and again. They talked over several days, she said. He’d ask about her family, learning that the retired nurse was raising two of her grandchildren on her own.
According to Cheryl, in order to convince her to invest in silver, the salesman talked about how Donald Trump’s policies would devalue the dollar and how she’d lose money if a recession hit. He spoke about a supposed law that would enable lawmakers to confiscate Americans’ savings. His pitch, she said, was “extremely high pressure.”
Quartz found that Cheryl was one of dozens of elderly Americans who were caught in a web of companies, websites, Facebook pages, Facebook advertisements, and traditional ads apparently involved in selling overpriced metals to older conservatives. The effort was supercharged by Facebook’s advertising tools—which were used to purchase at least 45 million ad impressions for at least $3 million.
Numerous seniors ensnared by Metals.com and Chase Metals said they lost significant chunks of their life savings in an instant. The thousands of supposedly collectible gold and silver coins they bought turned out to include a markup as high as 200% from the value of the metal they contained.