Google Takes Aim at Work-from-Home Scams

PacificWebWorksLogo.jpgGoogle is taking steps to protect its brand, filing a lawsuit in a federal court in Salt Lake City against Pacific WebWorks and other defendants over allegedly using its name to bait Web surfers into purchasing work-at-home kits, CNET reported. The suit alleges trademark infringement and dilution, unfair competition, federal cyberpiracy and violation of consumer sales practices.

Online ads, pop-up ads, or promotional e-mails offer information on how to make money by working at home. The ads typically feature the Google brand and include links to sites that contain what appear to be news articles, blog postings, social-networking posts, or testimonials from people claiming to have made thousands of dollars per month from the program, according to CNET.

After paying “instant access” fees for access to a members-only portal or “shipping and handling fees” for DVDs that explain how to make money through the program, victims either never receive DVDs, receive DVDs that contain viruses or gain access to unrelated free sites, such as Google’s online help center, or people who provided credit-card information and e-mail and home addresses find that their credit cards are charged $50-$79.90 every month, CNET reported.

Google said in the suit, as reported by CNET:

This action seeks to stop a widespread Internet advertising scam that is defrauding the public by misusing the famous Google brand. The scam victimizes unsuspecting consumers by prominently displaying the famous Google mark, by suggesting sponsorship by the plaintiff, Google Inc., and by urging consumers to obtain a kit supposedly showing them how to make money working from home with Google.

And Google search quality engineer Jason Morrison told CNET:

These scams play upon some powerful methods of persuasion not just by using Google’s logo, but we often see, “as seen on CNN, Fox News and ABC.” I don’t know if people understand how easy it is to copy an image file on a Web page. They also try to use social proof by creating a fake blog, with a photo of the blogger from his wedding, the new car he bought and explaining how he lost his job. They go to great lengths to string people along.