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Google sues alleged work-at-home scammers

Sham Google DVDs contained malware

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Google has sued to stop what it called "a widespread internet advertising scam" being pushed by a Utah company that allegedly used the search engine's trademark when offering work-at-home opportunities.

Salt Lake City-based Pacific WebWorks doctored up a variety of websites with regularly changing addresses that promised as much as $25 for every link posted on Google, according to a complaint filed Monday in federal court in Utah. (No, we don't what it means to post links to Google, either). To get started, the sites claimed, readers needed to obtain a Google-sponsored kit.

Although the program was advertised as free, the websites claimed there was a nominal shipping and handling charge or access fee. People who signed up were charged substantial recurring fees that were often hard to stop, according to Google lawyers. Victims frequently received no kit in return, or even worse, received a DVD that contained malware.

"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 complaint states. "Consumers have sent letters and emails to Google complaining about fraudulent charges. Many have asked Google for a refund or asked Google to cancel the recurring charges, even though Google is not connected to the solicitations."

Pacific WebWorks marketed the alleged scam under a variety of names, including Google Adwork, Google ATM, Google Biz Kit, and Google Cash. At the heart of the scheme was the false promise that participants could earn hundreds of dollars a day performing simple tasks that required little skill or experience. The scam has generated millions of dollars in revenue, Google claimed.

A quick web search suggests that Google isn't the only large web property to be falsely implicated in such scams. A fair number of blogs say the Pacific WebWorks has also targeted the public with work-at-home programs using eBay. Last month, a lawsuit filed in Illinois state court accused Pacific WebWorks of similar scams.

In June, the Federal Trade Commission sued an outfit called Infusion Media that allegedly offered similar scams. In September, the company agreed to stop representing it was affiliated with the search engine, according to Google's complaint. ®

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