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How to Protect Your Gold From Thieves
by Mike Fuljenz
Owning gold coins and bullion is a smart way to protect your wealth in the event of a global crisis or even inflation. Gold is the only real money to withstand the test of 5,000 years.
But owning physical gold comes with a big challenge: keeping it!
Gold draws bad guys like honey draws flies. Criminals love to steal gold. It’s a large amount of value in a small, easy-to-conceal package. It’s relatively harder to trace and easier to sell these days.
With rising gold prices this century, gold thefts are on the rise with home invasions targeting gold becoming more dangerous, even deadly. In December 2011, two masked men broke into a home in Richmond, Texas, put a gun to a 12-year-old child’s head, and demanded to know where the valuables were. They made off with $500,000 in precious metals and cash, along with the family SUV. In February 2012, an elderly couple and their son in Gonzales, Louisiana, were viciously attacked by thieves who took a safe containing a collection of gold coins valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. All three victims died. The safe was found, empty.
Protecting your gold from covetous eyes and ears boils down to two simple rules:
1) Put it in a safe place;
2) Keep your mouth shut about where it is.
I always recommend that coin collectors and gold owners store precious valuables – gold, silver, platinum coins and bullion, along with precious gems – in a bank safe deposit box. In all the many years I’ve been in the coin business, I have never personally known of anyone losing coins stored in a safe deposit box.
Keep quiet about the safe deposit box. Don’t be predictable about visits to the bank. Take a cue from experienced coin dealers who know to vary their routine and make visits to the bank at different times and by different routes each time.
Especially those who live in hurricane-prone areas should not leave valuables in the home where looters can get at them in the chaotic aftermath of a storm. Remember the TV footage of rampaging looters after Hurricane Katrina? Or ask the victims of Hurricanes Rita and Ike whose homes were destroyed or left vulnerable to thieves. Some banks were closed for several weeks after these monster storms, but within 60 days people were able to get to their valuables in safe deposit boxes.
That said, I recognize that some gold owners mistrust institutions in general and banks in particular and elect to keep their gold close at hand in their home, sometimes in a safe or even buried in the backyard. Be forewarned: most buried tubes leak over time. There are risks involved with having large amounts of gold around the house if criminal elements know it’s there. But for those who feel more in control with their valuables within easy reach, here are some common sense ways to protect your valuables, yourself, and your family.
1) Buy a safe – a strong, heavy one, too heavy for thieves to carry easily. Make sure the safe is fireproof.
2) Secure the safe. Bolt the safe to the floor if you can, hidden in an out-of-the-way location. Time is the thief’s enemy. Make it time-consuming for them to get at your safe. Don’t put it in your master bedroom or bathroom where the medicine cabinet is. Those are typically the first places thieves look.
3) Keep mum. Be very guarded about who you tell about your valuables and what they’re worth.
4) Don’t flaunt your valuables. Despite the temptation to show off your hard-won luxuries, never leave your coin collection or jewelry lying about exposed to children, maids, workers, or even friends. Many a rare coin has ended up in a vending machine thanks to a son’s or daughter’s ignorance of its value or was stolen by a tempted housekeeper or painter.
5) Check your insurance. Read your homeowners insurance policy carefully to make sure it covers collectible valuables. Not all of them do. Make an inventory list (with estimated values) and photograph your most valuable coins for insurance purposes. Keep the list and photos in a secure place that only you and your closest confidant know about and have access to, preferably off-site at a secure location.
6) Know your neighbors. Watch out for each other and report any suspicious activity in the neighborhood.
7) Make it look like you’re always home. Never let it appear that you are away from home for an extended period. If you’re taking a long trip, cut off your mail and newspaper delivery temporarily. Hire someone or enlist the aid of a willing neighbor to clear snow from your sidewalks, mow your lawn, move your parked vehicles periodically, and remove advertising fliers hung on your front doorknob or gate. Leave a TV, stereo, or radio on when you’re gone and turn up the volume loud enough to be heard from outside. Install inexpensive timing systems on several lamps near windows visible to the street, so that lights come on and turn off unpredictably as though someone were home.
8) Don’t publicly announce your vacation. Never announce on Facebook, Twitter, or any other public forum that you’re going to be away from home, not even for a wedding or funeral. And never mention your valuables in social media. Social media is happy hunting grounds for thieves.
9) Destroy the evidence of your expensive new toys. Dismantle, rip up, and conceal in an opaque garbage bag the box for that new super big screen high-definition cable-ready Blu-Ray TV set you bought. Putting the empty boxes that expensive goodies came in out on the curb amounts to extending an engraved invitation to burglars. While they’re inside lifting your TV or stereo set, they’ll be on the lookout for other valuables and could stumble onto your coin collection.
11) Keep your house locked. Keep doors and windows locked…always. In a surprising number of daylight burglaries, the thief simply walks in through an unlocked garage or back door or window. Be aware that thieves sometimes push in window-mounted air conditioning units to crawl in. Even if you live in a “safe” neighborhood where nothing bad ever happens, thieves are mobile and can get to you. Leaving doors and windows unlocked, including those in the back of the house, is risky business. Home invaders have become far bolder and more dangerous. They think nothing of barging into an unlocked house in the middle of the day, even with the occupants at home. Put dead-bolts on doors; some conventional locks can be opened simply by sliding a credit card through the gap between the door and the jamb.
12) Install a very loud monitored home security alarm. The loud noise not only startles the intruders but makes them very anxious to get away before police arrive. Post the sign provided by the alarm company in a prominent, highly-visible place. Secure and lock your outside breaker box or electrical panel to reduce the ease of thieves disarming your burglar alarm system and cordless phone. Real pros know how to defeat burglar alarms, but most random target-of-opportunity thugs tend to think twice about tangling with a burglar alarm. Place the alarm control in a place where it is not obvious or easy to see.
13) Turn on the lights! Well-lit grounds leave few hiding places for thieves to slip in undetected and reduce random robberies. Motion-activated lights catch them by surprise.
14) Get a big dog. A dog with a deep voice that sounds ferocious, even if he isn’t really, helps keep the bad guys at bay. Even the toughest criminals generally fear dog bites. Even a cute yapping “squeaky-toy” dog may serve as an alert that strangers are present.
This information was compiled in consultation with, and reviewed by, numerous law enforcement agencies in the region, whose valuable input, insights, and assistance I appreciate. The wisdom of their experience as I have summarized it here may just help save your valuables…even your life.
“Mike Fuljenz is the editor of the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) award winning “Michael Fuljenz Metals Market Weekly Report,”