Google has launched a legal battle against companies that allegedly infringe upon the Google name to promote "work-from-home" scams.
"At the heart of the scheme is a false representation that consumers can participate in a Google-sponsored program that will allow them to make hundreds of dollars a day working at home performing a simple task that requires no particular experience or qualifications," the search engine giant wrote in a 26-page claim filed in U.S. District Court in Utah.
The lawsuit names Nevada-based Pacific WebWorks and 50 other defendants referred to only as "Does 1 through 50."
Pacific WebWorks did not immediately return calls for comment from ABCNews.com. According to the Google claim, Pacific WebWorks operates a credit card processing site.
The defendants, Google said in its lawsuit, "deceive the public by misusing the famous Google brand and GOOGLE marks to sell to consumers work-at-home kits purporting to train and enable consumers to earn money using Google services."
The unnamed defendants use fake news articles, fake news blogs and fake testimonials to promote their services and direct them to credit card processing sites like the one run by Pacific WebWorks, Google said.
The schemes are advertised as free, Google said, but then often charge various fees, including monthly charges between $50 and $79.90. Customers wind up paying these charges through their credit or debit cards, which they provide online when they sign up for the alleged schemes.
In return for their payments, Google said, customers often receive nothing at all, DVDs containing viruses or links to information that is already available free on the Internet, including Google's own free online help center.
Google is warning customers to be wary of the following work-from-home promotions: 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
Google's lawsuit comes one month after a class action complaint was filed against Pacific WebWorks and an unnamed defendant for a work-at-home scheme.
"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," Google said in a statement posted to the search engine's official blog. "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.
But the affiliations suggested by the site were questionable at best: It said that customers would earn cash "working from home with Google," even though Google says it does not endorse such work-from-home sites.
It also claimed that it had been featured by television news organizations, including ABC News and CNN.