United Gold Direct is a precious metals dealer that helps people to invest in precious metals for their future. Their website talks about opening precious metals IRAs, indicating that they might help with setting one of these accounts up.
But when you look below the surface, there are a few major red flags with this company that need to be addressed. Are their practices legitimate? What should you be worried about?
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About United Gold Direct
United Gold Direct has been in operation since 2009, although their founder has been in the business since 1996. In the past, they had a great rating and accreditation with the Better Business Bureau. But the BBB has since stripped them of their accreditation and their rating due to litigation by the state of California.
The company focuses chiefly on investment quality bullion. They offer silver, gold, platinum, and palladium coins and bars.
Like some other companies, United Gold Direct is part of the precious metals IRA niche. Their main area of expertise is in helping people to set up a self-directed IRA and fund it using their existing retirement account. They then sell customers IRS-approved bullion to hold in their account.
People also have the option to make direct purchases for their investment portfolios. In these cases, you can have the metals shipped wherever you want. You can also visit the company's retail store and purchase precious metals for cash.
According to the company, they only employ knowledgeable and helpful people who want to educate you about precious metals. These people are supposed to answer questions and help you determine which metals will work best for your investment goals.
They help clients with the IRA setup process to help make the transition seamless. However, they don't quite seem to compete with the streamlining of some of their competition.
The company's website doesn't have a lot of information on it. They have basic information about the benefits of precious metals IRAs, their philosophy on investment, and the different types of investments available. But they don't talk much about their own policies or practices.
In addition, the site doesn't appear to be very secure. As of writing, several of the hyperlinks brought us to fishy third party websites. We don't think that the company added these links on purpose. Instead, it's possible that another entity changed them on purpose to try to scam potential customers.
Because the website is relatively bare of information and full of questionable links, we have to turn to customer reviews to get a sense of people's experiences with the company.
Unfortunately, quite a few of those reviews are negative.
Negative Customer Reviews
Prior to the litigation from the state of California, the company had an A+ rating with the BBB. Their website still claims that they do. But you only need to check their BBB page to see that this isn't the case anymore.
Only one customer has reviewed United Gold Direct on the BBB website. He gave them the lowest score he possibly could, 1 star. He said that the company would not make any effort to help him retrieve his money.
Because of a family emergency, this customer needed to take gold out of his IRA to have emergency funds. But even though he'd removed the gold and liquidated the assets, the company failed to give him his money for weeks. He needed the assets quickly, and United Gold Direct should have been quick about sending the money.
Since he wasn't able to access his funds, he had run up late fees and missed payments that amounted to thousands of dollars. He needed the money immediately to help pay for resources for his special needs child. His understanding was that there would be digital funds transfers for quicker processing.
The customer believed that the best case scenario was that the company was extremely incompetent. But because of what a difficult time he'd had, he was beginning to fear that the management had acted with malice.
He did make a special note that everyone he spoke to about the issue was pleasant and cordial. The customer service team was good at handling his upset. But they also didn't try to expedite the payment. There had still been no transfer of funds when he completed the review.
In August of 2020, California introduced litigation against the company. There were claims that they took thousands of dollars from several clients and used that money for their business expenses. It's very likely that the customer who complained was one of them. If that's the case, he might still not have been refunded for his trouble.
There are also several negative reports posted on Ripoff Report. Of the four available, three seem to be from different customers.
In one of the reports, someone said that they paid in full but were never sent their purchase. In addition, they discovered that the price they paid was about 70% higher than the one listed by a competitor.
Another customer was recommended United Gold Direct's services by one of his coworkers. He ordered a certain amount of gold to be shipped to his house. When he placed the order, he was told it would ship in several weeks.
Weeks and weeks went by without any new information. So he called to ask about when the package would be sent out. No matter how many times he called, the representative wouldn't call him back or give him a straight answer. When he tried to cancel his order, he was told that it wouldn't be possible because this wait time was common in the precious metals industry.
Is United Gold Direct a Scam?
United Gold Direct does not appear to be a scam. The company has a long history in the business, having been around since 1996. They do seem to provide legitimate services, and there is vague information that can be verified on their website.
But there are some major red flags as well. Even if this company is not an actual scam, they might not be operating in the most ethical or well-managed ways.
Some customers have left serious complaints online. These go so far as to allege that the company used fraudulent practices to confuse them about the prices of different precious metals. The Better Business Bureau has not accredited them, and there is an alert on the BBB website regarding litigation.
According to the litigation, the company misused about $45,000 in funds from three different customers. They used this money to pay for their business expenses instead of to give the customers the items that they ordered.
This occurred in 2020, so it might have been an act of desperation with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are plenty of precious metals companies that have managed to keep functioning without misusing the funds of their consumers.
California has ordered the company not to use any more of their clients' money to pay for their expenses. In addition, the company has agreed that it will refund the $45,000 once it has the means to do so. The refund does not appear to have happened yet, and it's uncertain when there will be a chance for the business to refund their customers.
Not only does this speak to questionable business practices, but it also poses concerns for the future. This is a major amount of money to owe. Companies that have this many liabilities are more likely to fail and declare bankruptcy. It's better to work with a precious metals dealer that has a more stable overall business.
The litigation, combined with the negative customer reviews, lead us to believe that this is not a good place to buy precious metals.
Pros & Cons of United Gold Direct
United Gold Direct has been in business for a long time. On the surface, they seem like a great company. They have legitimate services and solid policies. But that narrative starts to fall apart when you look further into them.
For one thing, they don't have a BBB accreditation. This wouldn't be a dealbreaker -- many small businesses have never been accredited -- but there is also litigation against the company. They have been accused of misusing almost $50,000 in funds from three different customers.
Though the company has promised to refund the customers when possible, and though they say they haven't misused funds since, this is a serious breach of trust. It might also spell financial trouble for them at large. If they've inappropriately used client funds before, it's possible that they might do it again.
In addition, some customers have left extremely negative reviews. They say that the company used deceptive sales tactics, confused them about what they were buying, and generally overcharged. Combined with the litigation, that's a major red flag.
Overall, we don't recommend investing with United Gold Direct. There are just too many risks involved. Even if the company is recovering from a rough patch during the pandemic, they seem to have violated some major trust with their consumers.
You can invest with a precious metals dealer that offers the same services without the pending litigation. Many of the competitors have positive reviews and excellent customer care policies.
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