Google Sues to Stop Work-From-Home Scams

Both organizations say they haven't endorsed the site. The site's only real connection to legitimate news organizations, experts say, seems to be through paid advertisements placed on those organizations' Web sites.

But Kufel, who told her story this past summer, didn't know about these dubious connections when she signed up.

The references to the popular search engine and television news, she said, gave her a sense there was "some legitimacy" to what it offered. She thought the site would help her do some sort of sales or marketing work from home with the help of a special business kit.

"You see big names like that and you think, 'OK, well it's valid … it's worth looking into at that point,' " she said.

Now Kufel wishes she hadn't. The company, she said, tried to charge $84 to her credit card without ever sending her the kit. Kufel said she called her credit card company and managed to cancel the charge before it went through, but she's still angry.

"I was scammed," she said.

Hundreds of Consumers Complain

The Better Business Bureau said it has received hundreds of complaints from consumers who say they've been scammed by Web sites advertising work-from-home opportunities that appear to be affiliated with Google.

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took one such site, Google Money Tree, to court, alleging that the companies behind the site misrepresented their affiliations with Google and didn't adequately explain to customers that they'd be charged $72.21 a month for signing up with the site.

In an answer to the FTC's complaint, defendants in the case argued that their "conduct was at all times was reasonable, proper, and in good faith, and Defendants did not directly or indirectly undertake any action in violation of the law."

Though court records show that a preliminary monetary settlement was reached between the FTC and the Money Tree defendants in November, an FTC official said the litigation was ongoing and declined to offer further comment. Lawyers for the defense did not immediately respond to calls from

Reputable Brands, Troubling Ads

Alison Southwick, a spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau, said work-from-home scammers use both Google and TV logos to gain credibility for their dubious operations -- and sometimes it works.

Consumers think, "Oh, this was featured in a news story, so it must be legitimate, but usually buried in the bottom in very fine print, it says, 'We are not affiliated with ABC, CNN, etc.,'" she said.

What can further confuse consumers, she said, is that advertisements for the scams sometimes show up on legitimate news Web sites, including this one.

Here's how it works: A news Web site contracts with advertising placement companies to provide small text ads and links -- the kind you'll often see at the very bottom of online news articles. It's the ad placement company, not the news site, that controls the ads.

Some of the ads are placed based on context. For instance, an ad for a tooth-whitening company may appear below a news article about a dentist. Likewise, an ad for working-from-home operations may appear near a news article about careers.

Google has an ad placement service, and the Web giant concedes that it just can't stop all scam ads, including scam work-from-home sites, from being delivered to its clients.

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