In a post on the official Google blog, the company announced that it has sued Pacific WebWorks and several others for using the Google name and trademark for a series of work at home scams.
Using ad headlines like, “Use Google to Make 1000s of Dollars!” or “Easy Cash with Google: You Could be Making up to $978 a Day Working from Home!” the companies are using Google’s name to trick people into thinking that they will be working for the company.
Google hasn’t created or endorsed any of the sites like those described in our complaint. Misleading ads try to take advantage of consumers in the midst of a difficult economy, and as the economic situation has worsened, the problem has only grown. As far as we can tell, thousands of people have been tricked into sending payment information and being charged hidden fees by questionable operations.
It was the difficult economy that propelled Ohio corrections officer Christine Kufel to sign up with a work-at-home program advertised as being connected to Google.
Like many Americans, Kufel worried about her job security, so she thought she’d create her own safety net by earning extra income at home. A Web site advertisement promising work-from-home opportunities seemed like a good fit, she said. The site said customers could earn $300 to $1,000 a day by starting their own businesses.
The references to the popular search engine and television news, she said, gave her a sense there was “some legitimacy” to what it offered. She thought the site would help her do some sort of sales or marketing work from home with the help of a special business kit.
“You see big names like that and you think, ‘OK, well it’s valid … it’s worth looking into at that point'”
Now Kufel wishes she hadn’t. The company, she said, tried to charge $84 to her credit card without ever sending her the kit. Kufel said she called her credit card company and managed to cancel the charge before it went through, but she’s still angry.
“I was scammed”
While Google is suing several of these companies, they warn that it will not eliminate the problem.
Even as we’re taking legal action to try to cut these sites off at the source, we’re still working constantly to remove scammy URLs from our index, and we’ll permanently disable AdWords accounts that provide a poor or harmful user experience, whether or not they use Google’s trademarks illegally. That said, we can’t guarantee that schemes like these won’t pop up, like the proverbial “Whack-A-Mole”, someplace else online — either on a different network or under a different name.
We can solve only part of the problem — the rest is up to you. Just as you should be careful about giving out financial information in the real world, you should be skeptical and review any offers online before sending any information, and always be on guard when presented with an offer that seems too good to be true.
Some of the fake money-making schemes identified in the complaint are Google Adwork, Google ATM, Google Biz Kit, Google Cash, Earn Google Cash Kit, Google Fortune, Google Marketing Kit, Google Profits, The Home Business Kit for Google, Google StartUp Kit, and Google Works.