Consumer complaints tarnish gold buyback business

Each day, armed guards usher in the mail at the squat, windowless building on Gateway Drive in Pompano Beach.

The day's delivery, tucked inside unmarked envelopes, is a mother lode of wedding bands, broken bracelets, unwanted necklaces, chains, earrings, anklets, brooches, even dental fillings.

The baubles are logged in, photographed, weighed, assayed and — provided the owner accepts a mailed check as payment — heated to 1,800 degrees until transformed into molten metal. It's then shaped into bars and sold to other refiners, private mints and jewelry makers.

"Everybody said I was crazy," said Jeff Aronson, 37. "That nobody would mail their gold to us."

Nope, he wasn't crazy. Cash4Gold, which Aronson created three years ago, is one of several gold buy-back outfits that have rocketed to success, thanks to an explosion in the price of gold and a steep recession that has people pawing through jewelry boxes and underwear drawers looking for anything of value to sell.

Along with big bucks, the companies have generated fierce criticism from consumers who say they were tricked or low-balled. The Better Business Bureau has rated Cash4Gold a C- on a scale of A+ to F after receiving 350 complaints about the company.

The Florida Attorney General's Office opened an investigation into Cash4Gold after it received dozens of complaints. Emboldened by the anonymity of the Internet, irate customers rage at the company on websites.

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