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Buying gold bars and coins online? Follow these expert tips.

You can easily buy gold bars and coins online but there are some precautions to take when doing so. Getty Images

With inflation stubborn and interest rates high, more and more consumers have turned to buying gold this year. For some, that has meant opening a gold IRA or buying gold stocks. For others, it means buying physical gold bars and coins — often online

While buying gold online isn't a bad idea in itself, it does come with some risks. Are you considering buying gold bars or coins online? We asked some experts for tips on doing so safely.

Start exploring your gold investing options here to learn more.

Expert tips for buying gold bars and coins online

While it's easy to buy gold bars and coins online there are some steps investors should take to do so safely and smartly. Specifically, they should:

Avoid buying from consumer marketplaces

One thing most experts agree on: Don't buy gold from Facebook Marketplace. While you might see offers of affordable gold bars or coins on the site, there are just "too many scammers," says Nick Fulton, founder of Cash 4 Gold and USA Pawn Stores of Mississippi. "Never buy from Facebook Marketplace."

Matt Harris, a jewelry designer who's purchased and sold gold for 15 years, says gold found on Facebook Marketplace is often fake, too.

"There are tons of fake gold bars and coins out there, and in many cases, even the seller may not know they are selling fake," says Harris, who owns Matt Harris Designs. "The fakes are often coated in a 24K gold thin plating, so even some of the cheaper gold testers can't identify them."

eBay is another online marketplace some consumers look to for gold. While this carries risk, too, Fulton says you can lessen it by dealing with only highly rated sellers and, most importantly, sellers who have verifiable brick-and-mortar operations. 

Start exploring reputable gold dealers here.

Choose the right retailer

If you want to ensure you're getting authentic gold, good service, and honest pricing, choosing a well-known and respected retailer is key. There are many online retailers that sell gold, too. When considering one, do your research and vet the company before buying from them. First, check for a physical address and phone number, and make sure they're a real, verifiable business. 

"Only buy from a reputable seller with a physical location you could go and visit," says Giles Maber, sales director at gold dealer Sharps Pixley. "You can also look at reviews online, the company's trading history, and how they communicate to you as a potential buyer."

You should look up a company's Better Business Bureau profile, too. This can tell you what kind of complaints they've had and give you an idea of their business practices.

Finally, make sure the company offers authenticity certificates. "For larger gold bars, you should ensure that these come with a certificate from the refinery," Giles says. Also, "Question the seller on how you can ensure that certificate is genuine."

Be careful about payment and shipping

Once you're ready to buy, double-check that the website is secure before inputting payment details. The web address should have an "https" in front of it and, depending on your browser, an image of a padlock at the beginning. This indicates the site has a Secure Socket Layer and will encrypt your payment data when transmitting it.

Next, look at the retailer's shipping policies and make sure they insure all shipments. This will protect you in case your gold is lost in the mail.

Start small

If you want to be extra sure your online gold purchase is safe, start by purchasing only a small amount first. This can help you judge a retailer and let you "become familiar with the process," Giles says.

You can also explore other options for online gold purchases, like buying gold stocks, opening a gold IRA or buying gold jewelry. 

"A great way to invest in gold is to buy wearable gold jewelry, such as chains," Harris says. "They are easily transportable, even across international borders. And, if you buy them right, you can get them as little as 10% over gold spot price. Plus, as opposed to a bar sitting in a drawer, you can wear the item and enjoy it!"

The bottom line

While it can be simple to buy gold gold bars and coins online don't let the ease of use deter you from doing your due diligence. Specifically, when buying gold bars and coins online investors should avoid buying from consumer marketplaces and instead choose the right retailer. They should also be careful about payments and shipping and, generally, start small to get a feel for the process from start to finish. 

Have more questions? Learn more about properly investing in gold online here.

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