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Feb. 12 2010 - 9:37 pm | 11,969 views | 2 recommendations | 9 comments

Cash4Gold: A King Among Predators

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country: corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people, until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.

–Abraham Lincoln

I struggled for hours trying to create an intro paragraph for all the awful thoughts predatory wealth usurper “Cash4Gold” stirs up in me, but ole’ Honest Abe said it best. And while I’ve been familiar with the above quote for years, I always doubted that we had truly reached that point.

After seeing the new Cash4Gold ad during last night’s Colbert Report, I finally accepted that Lincoln was right and we have indeed arrived. This ad, which promises the “end” to your “personal recession,” was the straw that broke my doubtful camel’s back. It just about made me puke.

Watch (and turn up your volume):

Yes, that’s right: send in your gold, the one thing you own that is actually worth something, and we’ll give you a few pieces of paper. And not just that, our service is so wonderful and convenient, you’ll be happy for a full 12 days– GAR-UN-TEE’D!

Note how the commercial is set up vaguely similar to a news program, with a professional-looking man bearing catchy graphics over his left shoulder. That’s what first struck me, apart from their recession rhetoric.

I guess what perturbs me the most is how obviously exploitative this tripe is. Perhaps they were counting on reaching those with no access to the Internet, because a few simple-yet-targeted Google queries is enough to turn up an unreasonable amount of dirt on this company … As if the Better Business Bureau’s warning to “use caution” when dealing with them isn’t enough.

Moreso, I am completely aghast at their timing, hitting below the belt now, amid the so-called “Great” recession. More than 17 percent of our workers are unemployed, and these assholes are vying for the last bit of wealth those families have.

If you want to get an idea of how they operate, all it takes is a quick glance at ComplaintsBoard.com, where 234 unique commentaries have been dedicated to Cash4Gold.

Most of the complaints center around shockingly low offers. Many potential clients sent in gold worth hundreds of dollars, only to be offered pennies on the dollar. One poor guy even claimed he sent in seemingly valuable jewelry, only to get a check for six cents!

Interestingly, the first Complaints Board comment — “Cash 4 Gold is a SCAM CONFIRMED” — was removed by the Web site’s administrators “for several reasons.” But “several” hardly tells the tale. It’s more like 10: all of them, the confessions of a former employee who saw first hand how their scam “operation” is run. The company sued over that entry, then sued The Consumerist when they investigated the claims.

First, a client requests a pouch for their jewelry, which is then stamped with their name and mailed forthwith. An insurance policy of up to $100 is issued for the jewelry-in-transit, based upon a verbal description of the product. Finally, the company mails back a check bearing their offer amount. If the check is cashed, the gold is smelted and sold, presumably at market value.

In a disturbingly friendly interview with Bloomberg television, the company’s CEO called Cash4Gold a “disruptive technology” and compared it to Netflix.

Shuddering yet? Your desperate countrymen are being goaded to give up their only objects of true value in exchange for a pittance of paper worth practically nothing. Yeah, “disruptive” is just the half of it.

Cash4Gold is also in the midst of defending against a class action lawsuit that is open to any customer who can prove they were harmed by the company between Oct. 6, 2003 and Oct. 6, 2009.

Brand Week explains

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim that Cash4Gold’s “unlawful behavior can be distilled down to three specific frauds.”

First, according to court papers, Cash4Gold promises to provide the highest care for any goods sent to its facility, a promise asserted in two sections on the company’s Web site.

“However, this high degree of care is a lie, as items sent to Cash4Gold are commonly ‘lost,’” the suit alleges. “At best, this means that Cash4Gold is not exercising the high degree of care it has promised and is liable for negligence. At worst, this means that Cash4Gold is intentionally stealing the goods sent to it and is liable for conversion.”

The second alleged example of fraud outlined in the suit involves Cash4Gold’s 12-day return policy, which asserts that customers who are unsatisfied with the price offered to them for their gold jewelry may contact Cash4Gold and have their jewelry returned to them.

“However, this ‘return policy’ is a lie,” the lawsuit alleges. “Importantly, it is measured from the date on the check sent to consumers. Then Cash4Gold, as a matter of company policy or practice, routinely issues the checks, sets them aside, and mails them out days later so that customers do not receive their checks until after the 12-day return window has already passed . . . customers are simply unable to reject Cash4Gold’s offer or to have their jewelry returned to them. In fact, in many cases, Cash4Gold actually melts down jewelry before the ‘return period’ has even passed, since it knows that due to its mailing schedule, customers literally have no way to successfully exercise the ‘return policy.’”

Third, the suit states that “to support and disguise the two major frauds of stealing customers’ jewelry and completely fabricating the existence of a return policy, Cash4Gold utilizes a ‘customer service’ staff which is deliberately frustrating and openly lies to the company’s customers.”

The suit claims that Cash4Gold’s customer service representatives are specially trained in techniques designed to mislead consumers.

The company naturally kicks dirt on the claims, but it cannot reasonably argue that a pattern of bad press has not emerged.

Even Good Morning America shit on Cash4Gold, and you know you fucked up when Diane Sawyer dumps on your doorstep.

Considering the warnings we’ve heard recently that planet Earth’s gold supplies are at a tipping point, I’m afraid the market for predatory companies like this will only grow.

Honest Abe’s age-old warning rings hauntingly true today. A company like Cash4Gold just strikes me as a symptom of that greater sickness.

People, please don’t give up your gold for mere paper. The U.S. dollar is backed by faith and the worth of our military hardware — and that’s IT. Gold is a true global currency and much more valuable than the decorated cotton strips Cash4Gold offers. Think about it: if you were thirsty and I took your dry canteen in exchange for a lap of water from my garden hose, I would ultimately be harming you.

If you absolutely must trade your gold for Federal Reserve notes, at least go to the local pawn shop — it’s still a rip off, but you’re almost guaranteed to get a better deal.
——

Update: A commenter on Reddit alerted me to an even more insidious plot lurking on the Interwebs: Cats4Gold, currently offering “25% more cats than leading refineries.” Hm … On second thought, that may be something I could wholeheartedly endorse.


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  1. collapse expand

    My fav (don’t recall if it is the same company) is the “send us your ‘old’ gold.”

    Ya know, if anyone is stupid enough to send in some gold jewelry or whatever, because they think it is “old” and someone is offering them value, then let’em get ripped off, become homeless, die of hunger and not reproduce.

    Best thing that could happen for America is for a fatal virus targeting double-digit IQ bearers …aka “Teabaggers.”

    If it mutated and took out 99% of Republicans and those identifying with the DNC, so much the better.

  2. collapse expand

    Cash4Gold a scam? Oh, that ain’t even the half of it. Check out this paragraph from Benito Mussolini’s Wikipedia page:

    “[Mussolini] also combated an economic recession by introducing the ‘Gold for the Fatherland’ initiative, by encouraging the public to voluntarily donate gold jewelry such as necklaces and wedding rings to government officials in exchange for steel wristbands bearing the words ‘Gold for the Fatherland’. Even Rachele Mussolini donated her own wedding ring. The collected gold was then melted down and turned into gold bars, which were then distributed to the national banks.”

    In Italian, I think the words on the band were actually “Oro Alla Patria” (“Gold to the Fatherland”), but the point is that the fascists took over Italy and began preying on their own citizens for financial solvency.

    See also “Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni” (“Chamber of Fasci and Corporations”), the official name of the Italian Chamber of Deputies under Mussolini’s direction. Smells vaguely Senatorial…

    “Oro Alla Corporazioni” = “Gold to the Corporations!”

  3. collapse expand

    As much as I love that quote, according to Snopes, it’s not attributable to Lincoln:

    http://www.snopes.com/quotes/lincoln.asp

    • collapse expand

      Of course not, because it wouldn’t have even been in Lincoln’s character to say such a thing, not to mention the modern concept of “corporation” that the quote implies hadn’t even been invented yet.

      In fact, Lincoln is not the great president that everyone was taught to believe. When the South chose to secede from the Union they had every right to do so. Lincoln went about “preserving” the Union by force, which is anathema to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence that ushered in the Union only three generations prior.

      “When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — ***That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.***

      Notwithstanding the obvious disconnect between “all men are created equal” and the keeping of slaves (and we need to remind ourselves that, right or wrong, slaves were not considered “men” in those times), the fact is that slavery was legal back then, and the issues over the split between the North and the South were economic, and not necessarily ideological, which is what we are taught in grade school. As an aside, the proper solution to preserving the Union might’ve been to reimburse Southern (and Northern) slave owners for their slaves, then emancipate them.

      Fourth Amendment – Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

      The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

      The fact is the slaves were the “rightful” (by law) property of those who held them, and to simply emancipate them with no compensation was an “unreasonable seizure” as proscribed by the Bill of Rights.

      Lincoln was the original destroyer of the Constitution, and we came out a poorer nation for it. Sure, we went on to become the most powerful and productive nation Earth had ever hosted, but the precedents that Lincoln set down have haunted this nation and its people since that fateful decision to destroy the South and force its people to capitulate to Federal power. Look at us now: a nation of serfs that cowers before its Federal masters. Don’t believe me? Try forgoing your income taxes, and see how that works out for you.

      Stephen, stop allowing yourself to be dragged into the mire. You’re smarter than this. Stop regurgitating the crap you learned in school. Do your reading. Learn your history.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    On the one hand, I feel real sympathy for the (no doubt) desperate people who are taken in and conned by the Cash4Gold scammers; on the other hand, my sympathy is limited by the fact that the scam they fall for is so blatantly obvious. They put their gold into an envelope and mailed it off away somewhere; what did they think was going to happen? Negotiations to set a fair price? (I’ve always been horrified/amused by the success of the Sham-wow and Slap-Chop/Graty guy- who in the name of God would buy something from a guy who’s obviously doing sleight-of-hand tricks with the products he’s demonstrating? When he’s demonstrating the Graty his pitch veers off into non-sequiteurs, and the Sham-wow actually has “sham” in it’s name. I mean, ouch!)

    Just because con-jobs are immoral and a type of theft does not mean that the mark is absolved of responsibility. The con-man takes advantage of the mark’s greed- does it matter if the greed is generated by fiscal desperation? Does it matter if the pitch is legal, and on TV? It would be nice if we started to re-regulate advertising, to restrict the ability of the Cash4Gold, the Sham-wow, the FreeCreditReport “people” to make blatantly false claims for their “products”; but even if we do (and I don’t see any signs of that happening) caveat emptor is still a responsibility on the part of the buyer. Just because Libertarians and Conservatives keep braying about “personal responsibility”, and, in the process, distorting what it means, does not mean that it doesn’t still apply. Cons are still cons, whether or not they’re legal; just as lotteries are still taxes on the statistically illiterate, whether one wins or not. Human nature being what it is, there will always be sheep demanding to be sheared, and there will always be some clever guy ready and willing to steer them into the dip-tank. Gullibility is a vice; always has been, always will be.

    • collapse expand

      Yeah, Libs and Conservatives bray about personal responsibility, but the people in our government whom we rely upon to prosecute fraud don’t do a damn thing about it. I can see your point about Conservatives, but Libertarians don’t hold many seats of power in this nation.

      Why not direct your ire at the people in office who allow this fraud to continue and yet do nothing? I guess it’s easier to blame one political group and be content with that.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    About Me

    My name is Stephen. I am a News Junkie and an assistant editor at RawStory.com. My work has appeared in publications both printed and online, including The Dallas Business Journal, the cover of Fort Worth Weekly and in the pages of The Dallas Morning News, Austin Monthly, Envy Magazine and others. I also covered the rebirth of the U.S. peace movement first-hand for The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, starting with the city's first public screening of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' all the way through the end of Cindy Sheehan's stay. I've seen my reporting discussed in publications such as Time, Wired, Reason, The Washington Post, D Magazine, The Guardian UK, Media Matters, ThinkProgress, Alternet, Cannabis Culture, 1-UP, Destructoid, Kotaku, GameSpot, G4TV and many others. I am currently open for freelance assignments and actively seeking a literary agent. You can follow me on Twitter @StephenCWebster, or from Facebook.com/StephenCWebster.

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