A site called cointraderonline.com (I purposely did not make it a link; please do not visit the site) began advertising heavily on Facebook. The ad, whose image appears here, says that the purchaser will buy a “US Vault Bag” that is “Packed With Unsearched US Coins.” The ad and the site say that there is a 60-Day Return policy.
I have been advising people not to purchase from this site. Unfortunately, some did not seek advice before purchasing. When they received their bag, the results were less than satisfying.
Buyers of the Vault Bags report that they received bags that contain at least 50-percent copper coins with the rest common silver coins. Buyers describe the coins as being heavily circulated, some with scratches and dings, along with very worn and dateless Buffalo Nickels. Although the owner of this site may not have searched the hoard they used to fill the bags, the product appears to lack key or semi-key dates and higher-grade material based on reports from several people.
One person tried to return the coins on their 60-day return policy. The buyer mailed the coins to a Las Vegas address with tracking from the US Postal Service. The package was delivered, but the person did not receive a refund.
Finding information about the company from their website was difficult. The “About Us” page contains very little useful information about the company. Still, the page uses a few images from elsewhere on the Internet. A random sample of images found several duplicates on other sites using a Google Image search. Many are stock images that the web designer could have purchased from legitimate sources. However, the number of images used to make the website pretty without being functional is an area I find concerning.In previous posts, I make it clear that if you cannot find information about the company or the people behind the words suggests that you should not trust the site. The same is true in this case because you cannot find any information about this company. When I found the address to send returns and checked the address on Google, the “Suite” is an apartment complex northwest of the tourist and business areas.
One tool Facebook provides is a “Page Transparency” section. You must go to the company’s main page to find the information. According to the information on the page, Facebook reports that “ASW ENTERPRISES, LLC” was verified as responsible for the page. ASW Enterprises is in Wildwood, Missouri, with a telephone number that has a 703 area code. The 703 area code maps the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.
Hotfrog, a collector of business information, has the phone number listed on Facebook on record but also a St. Louis-area telephone number.
Using the St. Louis-area telephone number, a reverse search found a listing at hub.biz for an address in Baldwin, Missouri. The address is for a 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom, 2880 square foot home that Zillow says is worth $576,300 with what looks like it has a three-car garage. I wish I had a three-car garage!
A reverse lookup of the address and telephone number finds information about ASW Enterprises on Buzzfile. This information provides a person’s name that, when plugged into the ANA Dealers” directory, does not find a record. Although the site says that this person/business is a member of the ANA, he is not listed as a registered dealer in the ANA database they use for the Find a Dealer page.
The website on the Buzzfile page is for a company selling preparation materials for a Texas-based spelling competition. There is every indication that the website has nothing to do with the cointraderonline.com business.
The About page also says they are a National Silver Dollar Round Table member. Neither the company name nor the name of the person listed as the principal of ASW Enterprises is listed on the NSDRT membership page. I did not consult with the Certified Collectors Group (NCG/PCGS) to verify the membership claim.
Finally, a reverse search of the person’s name suggests that this is not his only business venture. A Better Business Bureau entry suggests he is also involved with real estate. The finding was supported by a posting to a public message board looking for fellow investors in the St. Louis area.
There appears to be no connection between the owner listed on the Facebook Page Transparency page and the operation in Las Vegas.
I tried to send a message to the site owner via the chat option on the website. After receiving a response via email, I asked several follow-up questions that have been unanswered at this point. If they answer my questions, I will add the information here and in a new post.
I received an automated message from their system. It was formatted as a reply and included the name of the person that replied to my chat request. When I looked up the name in the email, I found public interactions of someone from the Philippines.
Having a support contract with someone offshore should not raise a concern. Still, when the return address is Las Vegas, and the company’s background information leads to the St. Louis area, it creates concern.
Should You Buy From this Site
My investigation suggests that the person behind the site may be an inexperienced young adult. The diverse information indicates that he is trying to find a way to earn a living. However, he must understand that online sellers have cheated too many coin collectors and that he should opt for transparency rather than pretty pictures on a website.
If you want to support someone trying to start a business, you may want to buy from this company. However, reports suggest that you will not receive value for your money.
Why Publish The Investigation Detail
An old proverb says, “Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime.” Rather than providing my opinion, showing you how to investigate sites you are unsure about will help you fight online fraud.
Scams with online shopping are a problem beyond numismatics. Although legitimate small businesses are selling online, there are many scammers. The above processes can help you investigate someone before spending your money.
Suggestions for Small E-Commerce Businesses
For small businesses, I would highly recommend that you be as transparent as possible. You should publish contact information and respond as quickly as possible. Let your buyers know a little about you. Who are you, and why are you in the business? Do you have a passion for what you are selling? Do you have a compelling story about why you are in business? I understand you are communicating with customers, but customers also want to have a connection with the people they do business with.
You have to generate a sense of trust with the customer, which gives you an advantage over a large online retailer. Give me a reason to trust you over the next-day shipping behemoth, and I could become a regular customer. Let the customers know they will deal with another person, not a big corporation riding down a South American river.
Finally, pretty websites are nice but if you are going to use stock photographs, use them sparingly. Stock photographs of coins, people supposedly looking the part they playing on your page might look good, but they come off as fake and as valuable as a cleaned coin. Do not fill up a page with images. Clear, concise, and accurate information is better than pictures.