All that glisters is not gold. So I make no apology to returning to the subject of that yellow precious metal whose price has just hit a 30-month low at around $1,250 an ounce – that's a cut of around a third since its peak nearly two years ago.
Or rather, to the subject of gold that's still (maybe) somewhere in the Canadian ground.
And the reason for that is that I have been phoned no less than three times in two days by the same fast-talking salesmen I wrote about in Unmined gold: not the investment goldmine it sounds! They are trying to prise £10,000 out of my bank account to buy gold at bargain prices, despite telling them previously - very firmly - that I was not interested. They seem to get very angry when I refuse to hand over the cash. They won't take no for an answer.
Even when I slam the phone down they dial again and quiz me hard on my reasons for turning up this "golden investment".
OK, the £10,000 I said I had for investment does not exist. The people who phone me always ask how much I have so I mumble something about £10,000 to £15,000. And because the standard line is "start small, build up confidence in our partnership with you and then go for more," they modestly suggest I start at £10,000.
And the jokers who are cold-calling me are not the only ones running this "gold in the ground" scam, where investors hand over money for something called a "gold asset allocation certificate".
The regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, has received several reports about this scam. And in classic regulator style, it has expressed "concerns". I would not be surprised if its website soon carried a warning about such investments.
The rules work like this. Gold, in common with other metals such as silver or copper, is not regulated. If you have a gold brick or a coin, you can sell it to anyone without needing watchdog approval. That's physical metal – you can test it for purity and weigh it to ensure you are getting what you've paid for. Without this let-out, the local plumber's merchants would not be able to sell copper pipes. And romantics would not be able to buy wedding rings.
But what these people are selling is not gold that you can see and touch. Instead they are flogging a certificate which, assuming it is for real, gives the right to delivery of the gold sometime in the future. So it's a "gold future" - a bet on the price on a certain date to come. Hence, it's very much part of the FCA remit.
The literature makes it clear that no-one can sell their certificate until October 2015, unless the price of gold tops $2,000 for fourteen consecutive days. And the only buyer will be the firm currently selling it.
"Contracts for future delivery must come from a regulated firm. It's an investment, a promise, not a physical purchase," my FCA mole tells me. My company is definitely not on the FCA-regulated list – and I have tried lots of different versions of its name.
But none of that regulatory stuff has stopped them sending me a glossy "executive summary", with loads of pretty pictures of what could be Canada. Each page of this document is stamped "Confidential - Not for Public Circulation". So I shall share some of its contents with you.
Leaving aside the often poor English ("rational" for "rationale" and lots of initials which seem to change without reason from line to line), it's even worse than I first thought.
The presentation "may be subjected to revisions and amendments", while "such statements in this material are representatives (sic) as written and includes (sic) projections, forecasts, and plans of the of the owners for future operations, including financial performances and related assumptions".
If you can navigate the English, it means that, at best, this is all guesswork.
They say they are trying to sell 25,000 ounces. If they manage that, then they will have $25 million – not bad for a brochure and a phone line. And that's a golden opportunity here for the couple of likely lads (one's 27 and the other 32) who run this operation's London end. Just six months ago, the older one ran a small building firm in south London. He set up his "gold experts" firm in April.
Don't engage with gold in the ground merchants (or anyone else who cold calls). Slam the phone down hard. It's the only course if you value your savings.
- The retro scams that are making a comeback
- Pensioners fined for egg fraud
- The scammer who promised I could make money from dog poo
- Gold price hits three-year low