"Thousands of people have been tricked into sending payment information and being charged hidden fees by questionable operations," Google said in a blog post today.
Along with several other unnamed companies, the search engine giant sued software development firm Pacific Web Works in a Utah District Court. The lawsuit cites trademark infringement and dilution, unfair competition, federal cyberpiracy and violation of consumer sales practices.
Google says it hasn't endorsed any of the fraudulent sites that use tag lines like "Use Google to Make 1000s of Dollars!" or "Easy Cash with Google: You Could be Making up to $978 a Day Working from Home!"
"This action seeks to stop a widespread Internet advertising scam that is defrauding the public by misusing the famous Google brand," the suit says. "The scam victimizes unsuspecting consumers by prominently displaying the famous Google mark, by suggesting sponsorship by the plaintiff Google Inc., and by urging consumers to obtain a kit supposedly showing them how to make money working from home with Google."
People should be skeptical and review any offers online before sending any information, Google cautions, and always be on guard when presented with an offer that seems too good to be true.
Google makes is clear that many companies do legitimately make money placing ads on websites with Google AdSense or participating in programs like the Google Affiliate Network.
"In our experience, the best way to build a business on the web is to really serve users--offer useful products and services or write about something you have a passionate interest in," says Jason Morrison, a search quality controller at Google.
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.
Have you come across any of these work-at-home schemes that appear to be branded by Google? How do you identify a too-good-to-be-true scam online? What should people look out for?
Check out Google's tips to steer clear of online money scams.