By now, you have gotten at least one email inviting you to make easy money by placing links on Google. These scams go by names like “The Google Cash System” or “Easy Google Cash”. The bottom line is pretty simple, these offers are scams and they are designed to take advantage of the most vulnerable people in our society, the unemployed, the opportunity seekers and the naive.
On July 1st, 2009 The FTC announced a series of indictments against a handful of online scams operating under a variety of corporations and d/b/a’s, including Google Money Tree, Google Pro, Google Treasure Chest and Internet Income Pro.
Online fraud is extremely profitable because you do not have to spend money delivering goods and service. You don’t even need a physical address — advertising is the primary expense. One of the things these scams is that they find their victims by buying advertising through ad networks, notably Google Adwords. According to Harvard’s Ben Edelman, search engine advertising receives up to $70 for every $100 of revenue from online scams. Take a look at a search for Google Money Tree and you can see that Google is still profiting from companies advertising on this phrase. Given the FTC indictments, it is morally offensive that Google is still making money by allowing advertisers to bid on these terms!
This scam has now been reborn under the name Google Cash. Note that the original ebook solid as “Google Cash” is not the same as the various get rich quick schemes now being offer and the advertisers for this term vary. Readers should be highly skeptical of any company advertising for “Google Cash” or talking about getting paid by Google to “place links”, but this is not a specific characterization of individual companies as fraudulent . Read their fine print and decide for yourself.
Read it carefully and you may see that by paying a very modest fee, say $1.99 or so, you are actually agreeing to a repeated monthly charge of $70 or more unless you cancel your “membership.” Again, the exact details vary, but each of these offers depends on what is called a reverse billing fraud to make money…by victimizing the same people again and again.
Google, stop being evil.
Update 9-2-09 @ 10:19pm:
I have been encouraged by Paul Schlegel to add the following list of sites where victims can file complaints about online fraud: Paul runs a Work At Home information site with a bunch of affiliate links but also has spent a lot of time exposing online scams and assisting victims. He recommends that if you are a victim of a scam or discover one, you should report the information to the following:
- FTC Complaint Assistant
- IC 3
- National Association of Attorney Generals (You should file with the AGs office of the state you are in AND the state that the company is operating out of).
Paul also recommends reporting the scam to the BBB because (the Federal and State government agencies will NOT put out warnings, because doing so could possibly jeopardize their case before they have time to collect evidence). I have pretty mixed feelings about the BBB, but he points out that they will issue warnings AND says the FTC goes through their documentation in case they need extrinsic evidence to make a judgment on matters of deception.