Google has filed lawsuits against several companies it says are using its brand to con web users into handing over their credit card details.
The "Google Money" schemes involve websites that claim users can make large sums of money working from home. Those who sign up usually submit credit card details in the belief that only a one-off payment will be taken, when in fact the card continues to be charged.
“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,” Stacey Wexler, Google’s senior litigation counsel and Jason Morrison, a support engineer for the Search Quality Team, wrote on the firm’s official blog.
Google filed the lawsuit at a federal court in Utah, against a Nevada-based company called Pacific WebWorks and 50 unnamed defendants, which Google says worked together to carry out the scams. Pacific WebWorks is reportedly already facing a legal case in Illinois relating to similar claims.
“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,” the Google blog continued.
Some scammers even go to the extent of creating fake news stories, blogs and postings on social networking sites to make their schemes look more legitimate.
Google posted what it called a “significantly abridged list” of “names to be wary of”: 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.