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Workers’ fears of watching their 401(k) implode have festered during the pandemic, the civil unrest and a hotly charged election. 

Why shouldn’t we expect that someone would try to scare people  into putting every dime they’ve got into, say, silver or gold coins and bars? Investors in their 60s, 70s and 80s are particularly vulnerable since they might have built up hundreds of thousands of dollars in life savings. 

A Maryland investor, according to a civil complaint filed by a group of regulators in September, was told that roughly $300,000 in precious metals bullion could be worth as much as $1.2 million in 10 years. The investor was warned that every dollar could be lost in the stock market. 

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission and 30 state regulators filed a civil action in federal court in Texas Sept. 22 against Metals.com, Chase Metals and Barrick Capital. 

About 25 victims live in Michigan, according to the state attorney general’s office. “The defendants were targeting elderly people and deceiving them into using their retirement funds to invest in metals that were not worth what the company claimed,” according to Ryan Jarvi, a spokesman for Dana Nessel. 

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“It is early in the litigation, so we don’t know how much money people in Michigan invested or will get back,” he said.

The precious metals dealers are accused of defrauding 1,600 people and convincing them to invest $185 million into silver and gold bullion. The bulk of that money – $140 million – was from retirement funds, such as 401(k) plans and IRAs; the rest was paid for with cash or credit, according to the