Rob Cockerham writes article critical of Cash4Gold, gets offered cash to kill story


Amazing story from amateur sociologist Rob Cockerham of In short, Rob wrote a funny article about the questionable practices of Cash4Gold, a company that offers money for gold jewelry and coins you send them. (Read his article, "Cash4Gold Will Offer One-Third of the Actual Value for your Gold.")

Rob's article was picked up by Boing Boing and the Consumerist, and his article shot to the top of Google for searches on Cash4Gold. In about a week, Rob got the following email:

I work on the Cash4Gold site. We are trying to clean up their first page of results in Google. Your article: is ranking very well for term “Cash4Gold”. The site looks like you may do well from Adsense.

Is there a financial arrangement we can come to that will offset your Adsense income and make it worth your while to take down or at least “de-optimize” it for that phrase? I would be happy to speak more about this on the phone…

Joe Laratro
Tandem Interactive - Trendy Online Marketing Solutions
Hollywood, FL 33020

Rob ignored him, and in a couple of weeks Mr. Larato sent him a follow up email:

I work with Cash4Gold on the reputation management. Your article is ranking #3 on their brand term. They would really like to make it worth your while to take it down or make it more positive. They did something similar by joining (OTHER CONSUMER AFFAIRS WEBSITE)’s advocacy program. Is it worth a few thousand to take it down? If not, maybe a donation to your favorite charity is more to your liking?

Feel free to call me anytime to discuss further.

Joe Laratro
Tandem Interactive - Trendy Online Marketing Solutions
Hollywood, FL 33020

Rob didn't take the "few thousand" and his story is still at the top of Google. (And who in the heck is the "OTHER CONSUMER AFFAIRS WEBSITE" that took the bribe? I wish Rob would tell!)

Rob Cockerham writes article critical of Cash4Gold, gets offered cash to kill story


  1. Sure sure, that how it starts out “I hope we can come to a reasonable agreement here.” It won’t be long till they’re sending their goons around: “Nice website you have there, pity ‘sumpin should happen to it, capiche?”

    Nice to know the classics never change.

  2. that’s actually enough evidence to prosecute on – I hope.

    Or maybe Cash4Gold could be made famous on the internet.

  3. Every time we see these ‘infomercials’ on cable, it’s a hoot. I mean, seriously. Who sends valuables to some company first, and trusts *them* to send back a check made out for full value?

    From all the complaints I found after reading this article and googling, apparently the sad, sad answer is “way more than you’d believe.” And many of them appear to have lost the option of returning said joke of a check and receiving their items back, as the limit of the guarantee is expired (Cash4Gold starts the limited guarantee from the day the check is struck, NOT the date postmarked on the envelope). All they have to do is strike a pittance check and wait. Send late; profit.

  4. Ah, I love the antics of people from my hometown. You should see the menu prank he did, just classic.

  5. @ Takuan #3:

    that’s actually enough evidence to prosecute on – I hope.

    Prosecute for what? The article didn’t describe anything illegal, just unscrupulous. And while it may be against the law to bribe a public official, there’s nothing to keep you from paying someone to shut the hell up.

  6. I love it that has their ad running right below the piece in AdSense. I’m sure they’re gnashing their teeth excessively over that one. Especially since any clicks they get through that point of entry on their campaign probably won’t convert to sales.

  7. This “Gold Kit Surprise” page is funnier:

    I grabbed some doo-dads out of the junk drawer and some gold spray-paint out of the garage. Soon I had a gold bottle cap, a gold stem from a bunch of grapes, a gold pop-top, a gold zip-tie, a gold ‘S’ hook, a gold nut and the elusive gold nickel.

    at the bottom of the letter, was my payment! A real check for $1.01! Incredible! They really do pay cash for gold, and not just real gold… any gold at all!

  8. At least they’re offering money. The usual strategy involves threatening letters and nuisance lawsuits that are too expensive to keep fighting.

  9. This is just smart and sound business strategy on Cash4Gold’s part. Enough to prosecute? Please. No laws were broken here. The only thing the guy should’ve done is not left an email trail. He should’ve just asked to speak to the guy on the phone and then made the offer over the phone. Why put it all in an email; especially to someone that has already written bad about you?

  10. We all know what’s happening here. Boingboing’s running a negative story hoping for a similar handout. Tough economic times hitting everybody, huh? ;)

  11. I think it would be great if everyone who reads this set the cockeyed article as their start page. So every time you open your browser, you hit that website. It’s a good way to make sure it stays high on google, right?

  12. I pay cash for used dirty worn out bills. You send me your filthy ones and fives, and I’ll cut you a check right now.

    Operators are standing by new for your call, so don’t delay. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!
    Kids, get your Mom’s and Dad’s billfolds and purses, and trade in all that old useless money for a crisp brand new check made out to you!
    And remember, the more of that old used money you send in, the bigger the check you will get from us in three to five days, by express mail.
    This is a time limited offer, we cannot guarantee that we’ll ever be able to repeat it, so act now!

    “It’s great!”
    “And I got the check back in like three days!”
    – Albee Fharnum
    “It’s like hitting the Lottery”
    “Finally, I can afford to have someone keel my husband…”
    – Mrs. M. Anilla Envelope’


  13. So your surprised that a Pawn Shop operation has enough money to buy a super Bowl ad and they are a bit creepy? That is most likely the least of it. They are just getting started. Goes to show how low NBC had to got to sell ads this year. The commercial looked so cheap it hurt my eyes and some of that was intentional and some of it is because they really are sleazebags.

    Yes people that run pawn shops are creepy and not nice people and people that make porn movies are mostly great people either. Both are part of the most crass parts of American culture. Payday loan people and Politicians that don’t pay their taxes are all part of the Babylon experience.

  14. When the Hunt Brothers and their Saudi associates had a corner going on silver I took $6.10 in silver coins to a coin shop in Berkeley. The quoted price in the news was about 17 or 18 times face value. I think I got 10 or 12 times face.
    Within two weeks the whole thing came crashing down because all manner of silver came out of china cabinets and hit the market.
    I took my proceeds and bought an electric blanket at Sears. And that is why on these cold winter nights I think of the Hunt Bros.

  15. Xeno @4, Spyker @5, I know it looks suspicious, but we don’t actually know that accepted a bribe in return for taking down a story.

    In fact, we don’t know that another weblog took a bribe, period. All we know is that (1.) Joe Larato (who either works for or runs Cash4Gold) claims that one has; and (2.) the Cash4Gold people are liars and ripoff artists.

    Mr. Larato might have falsely claimed that another weblog took his bribe in order to make Rob Cockerham feel better about taking it. If so, the maneuver is a variant on “You might as well tell us everything — the others have already confessed.”

    Coldspell: Why would Cash4Gold send Cockerham $1.01 for a bunch of junk he’d spraypainted gold? IMO, because it’s harder to prosecute an operation for fraud if the victim has received something in return for his money, gold jewelry, or whatever else the con artist has gotten. If the victim receives nothing, it’s comparatively easy to establish that he had reason to expect he’d get something in return. Instead, he’s gotten nothing. But if he’s gotten something, then the transaction is a bad bargain rather than a straight ripoff, and you have to establish things like fraudulent intent, and what a reasonable payment would have amounted to.

  16. At least they’re offering money. The usual strategy involves threatening letters and nuisance lawsuits that are too expensive to keep fighting.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of search engine optimization 301!

    There are lots of legit techniques that can be used, some that are marginal and some that are just bogus.

    I was at a conference in the early days (1999) where they talked about all the techniques to use and a gray-haired grizzled marketing/pr vet stood up and said, “What’s to stop some company from paying a bunch of kids to create these ‘web logs’ just to say good things about your product or to attack your competitor’s product?”
    The presenter didn’t have a good answer, just muttered something about self policing on the Internet and reputation management.

    When I was criticizing the violent rhetoric of the hosts on KSFO/ABC Radio/Disney (now Citadel Broadcasting) they threaten to “sue me for everything I’ve got” said the FBI and the local police were searching for me. Then I got an email where they wanted to “have a little meeting with the big boss” to discuss my views. This was before they sent a Cease and Desist order to my ISP using a bogus copyright claim. The ISP caved to the ABC Radio C&D letter and shut down my entire blog EVEN THOUGH I REMOVED ALL THE “OFFENDING” AUDIO. It was never about copyright violation, it was always about intimidation. But they didn’t count on the power of the blogosphere and my smart friends at the EFF.

    Interestingly ABC Radio/Disney never thought to offer the carrot. Just the stick, but then again right wing radio is a medium that likes bullies.

  17. are honestly telling me in all the vast maze of laws and regulations that throttles your daily life and bankrupts the makers of wooden children’s toys that there is not one single ordinance violated by these greedy, scheming bastards?

  18. Peter @16, I can’t be certain, but I think we’re doing better than the New York Times.

  19. @Takuan #23:

    are honestly telling me in all the vast maze of laws and regulations that throttles your daily life and bankrupts the makers of wooden children’s toys that there is not one single ordinance violated by these greedy, scheming bastards?

    Maybe and maybe not, but as far as I know greed and scheming aren’t illegal.

  20. Though I have no evidence to prove it, I always just assumed these operations were for fencing stolen gold. I doubt there is much checking up on the source(s) for the valuables. Probably much safer than taking it to your local pawn shop and who cares if they are only giving you a third of the value, it’s all profit.

  21. You mean there’s a company paying less to their providers than they expect to get when they resell, and keeping the difference for themselves??? Surely that must be illegal!!!

  22. Dear Rob,

    Your article is PURE GOLD. And we want to offer you CASH for it.

    Get it? Cash? For GOLD?

    GET IT?


    Hit me back,
    Joe Laratro

  23. @29: The killer app of these companies is for meth addicts, best I can tell. Swipe some of grandma’s jewelry, stick it in the mail, and you’ve got next weekend covered. Stolen gold fencing, to be sure, but a very specific kind of stolen gold fencing.

  24. So far I see interesting comments from everyone on the Cash 4 Gold issue.

    There mere fact that there is evidence that money was offered to change the story leads one to believe that there may be more to this than just cash. A bribe is a bribe is a bribe.

    I’ve seen the cheesy ads, and what it comes down to is why would you even consider putting valuables into an envelope and throwing it into a mailbox?

    Teresa is right about this company sending out a miniscule check for items that were spray painted gold: it’s harder to prosecute a company that sent nothing.

    With the current economy predators like this will be coming out of the virtual woodwork preying on unsuspecting consumers waiting for not just scraps of gold but something with a much higher value than just the gold.

    Many jewelers can give you a rough estimate of what your item is worth – free.

  25. Glad to see Rob’s article getting even more coverage thanks to BoingBoing. Cash4Gold may be a legal operation but it’s certainly not an honest one.

  26. Well, silence _is_ golden…

    …and he was offered cash for it…

    …so, really, Cash4Gold was just being meta.

  27. Surely no person in their right mind would actually think they are getting fair market value for the gold they send in. However, if I just robbed a house and wanted to unload a bunch of jewelry in a “fast,convenient” way Cash 4 Gold would get the job done. Not only could I sell my stolen jewelry without ever having to leave my home, I also wouldn’t have to worry about law enforcement tracking me through my local pawn shop.


  28. CunkyMonkeyBrain, they both say the same thing. In fact Joe L has no problem with what he offered and “stands behind” it. So he doesn’t see a problem with buying off that blog.

    Kyle Armbruster, you’re being disingenuous. A pawn shop offered this guy over three times as much as Cash4Gold. Pawn shops are businesses that resell their product. They are renowned for buying low and selling high. If a pawn shop pays far more than another business for a commodity, then that other business is seriously ripping you off.

  29. “reputation management” HA! another new term for “public relations.’

    I would like to think that any reasonable person watching the cash4gold ads would just KNOW that it’s a scam– simple economics should tell you they aren’t going to give you full market value (with free shipping to boot). Besides– their TV ads just stink of scam: “real customers” touting how they got “money for some lousy old gold” (as if gold is now junk or something).

  30. Meh. Cover-ups always seem juicy, but this seems pretty above-board. There is nothing wrong with offering people less than their stuff is worth – it’s called making a deal. And there’s nothing wrong with trying to make bad news go away by appealing to the wallet (at least, not for a situation of this type where nothing illegal is taking place – it’s just standard public relations work).

    And there’s no coercion taking place. Cash4Gold’s main advantage is the ignorance and/or desperation of their customers. I’d rather have this commercial on TV than another blasted pawn shop in my neighborhood – at least I can mute the TV.

  31. Jewelers do make deals with refiners to recycle gold filings and the like. The refiners jewelers use are very different from Cash4Gold. David H Fell at is highly recommended on the Orchid mailing list, for one.

  32. The original article seems to completely miss the REAL point, which is quite amazing.

    It says you are only offered a third of the gold’s actual value. That would mean that when they triple the offer (to just over the pawn shop offer), that that is the actual value. This cannot be the case, as then they (and the pawn shop) would not be making any money. The real truth, is that this new (tripled) amount is still only a FRACTION of the real value.

    The actual heart of the scam is the use of dwt. If the writer of the article can’t even be bothered to convert 14K dwt into market price gold, what are the chances a seller will?

    So what is the ‘actual’ value, please?

  33. OK, here the math ( I think…)

    On 8/4/2008, gold closed at $893.88/troy ounce.
    1 dwt is 1/20th of a troy ounce.

    11 dwt of 14K. So it’s 14/24 * 11/20 * 893.88
    11 dwt of 14K 10/24 * 11/20 * 893.88

    which is
    286.78 + 204.84 = 491.62

    So $178, is just over 36% of its ‘actual’ value…

  34. Minor correction to above…

    On 8/4/2008, gold closed at $893.88.

    11 dwt of 14K. So it’s 14/24 * 11/20 * 893.88
    11 dwt of 10K 10/24 * 11/20 * 893.88

    which is

    286.78 + 204.84 = 491.62

  35. Scuba, that will be through the remnant network rather than FM itself. Did you get a screen shot?

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