Google filed a lawsuit Dec. 7 in U.S. federal court in Utah accusing a company of using its brand name in a work-from-home scam and slamming people with suspect credit card charges.
According to Google, Salt Lake City-based Pacific WebWorks and several unnamed defendants offered a tool kit for stay-at-home online workers. The tool kit is advertised as free, minus a nominal shipping and handling fee. However, Google alleges in the lawsuit that people who sign up for the offer have their credit cards hit with monthly fees and receive "little of value, or nothing at all, in return for their payments."
"Because of the prominent use of the GOOGLE mark and false or misleading statements in the advertisements, consumers are tricked into believing-falsely-that these work-at-home kits are offered, sponsored or endorsed by Google," the lawsuit states. "Consumers have sent letters and e-mails to Google complaining about fraudulent charges. ... Google has informed the victims that Google is not affiliated with the scam and has referred victims to the Federal Trade Commission ('FTC')."
Pacific WebWorks did not respond to an eWEEK inquiry in time for publication. The suit also names 50 "John Does" Google believes are complicit in the schemes but cannot identify.
In November, a class-action suit was filed against Pacific WebWorks in Illinois over the company's work-at-home business. Google said it decided to file its own suit, since the class action may not stop Pacific WebWorks from using the Google trademark to advertise the schemes.
"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," blogged Google Support Engineer Jason Morrison of the Search Quality Team and Stacey Wexler, Google's senior litigation counsel.
According to Google, the scheme is advertised under a variety of names, including Google Adwork, Google Biz Kit, Google Cash and Earn Google Cash Kit. After making an initial payment, many consumers receive nothing, the suit said. Others, however, were either sent DVDs containing viruses and no information of value or a DVD and access to an online portal containing information available free of charge elsewhere on the Web.
Consumers are not enrolled in any program that provides opportunities for generating income, Google states in the suit. Instead, they were charged monthly fees as high as $79.90.
"Although there's no secret kit that can guarantee riches, many people really do make money online," Morrison and Wexler blogged. "In our experience, the best way to build a business on the web is to really serve users-offer useful products and services or write about something you have a passionate interest in. If you are wondering if a particular program is legit, Google's business and advertising programs can be found from our home page, and the best place to find real jobs at Google is google.com/jobs."