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Google Responds to Work from Home Scams

By August 20, 2009

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Gina Kaysen Fernandes, a writer for momlogic.com, contacted me recently as she was preparing an article for MomLogic on home-based business and work from home scams. Essentially, she wanted to know if any of the many advertised home business and work from home opportunities were actually legitimate. During our conversation, I mentioned the Google work from home scam I had been following and I told her how many people were getting ripped off or came awfully close to it. I also mentioned to her that the FTC was starting to clamp down on an organization that featured the Google work from home scam in a variety of ways. Apparently, I got Gina's attention, as her article, Home Based Hoax, Don't be fooled by work-at-home schemes has now been published on MomLogic.

Fernandes was able to get a response from Google, which I have been unable to do so far. In her article, she writes:

In their defense, the company issued the following statement to momlogic: "As Google is not affiliated with these sites, we can't comment on individual claims. However, we recommend that users exercise the same amount of caution they would when evaluating other types of get rich quick claims. If there are trademark concerns regarding sites that misuse Google Trademarks, our Legal team reviews them and takes appropriate action if necessary."

In addition to links to these scams being created in Google AdWords and then published on sites that post Google Adsense ads, these scam ads show up in email and have been also showing up in pop-ups lately. Google should be banning these phony ads through its AdWords program as the landing pages used violate several conditions of Google's AdWords program policy, especially when it comes to their landing page and site quality guidelines, including, at the very least:

  1. Under the Relevant and Original Content section: "Feature unique content that can't be found on another site. This guideline is particularly applicable to resellers whose site is identical or highly similar to another reseller's or the parent company's site, and to affiliates that use..." How the scam fails: I know for a fact that the identical content is being used on a variety of the Google work from home scam sites. In fact, the blog comments posted on many of these landing pages are identical, they are supposedly from the same people saying how much money they made, and they use the same images of the Google AdSense checks and the account earnings screen shot. The policy goes on to state: "It's especially important to feature original content because AdWords won't show multiple ads directing to identical or similar landing pages at the same time." Oh really?
  2. In the Transparency Section: Visitors personal information - "Allow users to access your site's content without requiring them to register. Or, provide a preview of what users will get by registering." Sorry, these scam landing pages are a blatant violation!
  3. Under Navigability "Avoid excessive use of pop-ups, pop-unders, and other obtrusive elements throughout your site." On many of these scam sites, if you start filling out information and try to close the window, a pop-up appears asking you to chat with a representative. Sometimes, these pop-ups are not easy to dismiss. Violation!

Another interesting point (and I admit, I'm not a lawyer) is found in Google's Terms of Service, specifically in section 8.3:

"Google reserves the right (but shall have no obligation) to pre-screen, review, flag, filter, modify, refuse or remove any or all Content from any Service."

Wouldn't that, in and of itself, give Google the right to refuse to include these ads? Are they deliberately NOT refusing the ads because they don't want to appear biased?

Yes, Google's making money from the ads. But I have to believe with as blatantly false as the claims being made are and with the risk they run of damaging Google's own brand and reputation, the money wouldn't matter. Plus, you have to figure, that for every time someone clicks the ad link and Google's cash register goes "ka-ching", someone else is in danger of getting scammed. Maybe we'll have to wait and see what is decided in the FTC's case against some of these swindlers. Once the court agrees that they are engaging in illegal activity, wouldn't that give Google the final reason they might need to shut these idiots down?

Google Work from Home Scam Ad

As I was finishing this blog post I saw another ad for this same scam ON THIS ABOUT SITE leading to a landing page designed to look like a news site. I've reported it, of course, but I'M GETTING FED UP WITH IT.

Don't get me wrong. I am a big fan of Google and everything it has to offer. But it's time they choose to step away from the scams and get off their ass, and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. IT'S TIME TO STOP BEING PART OF THE PROBLEM AND BECOME A PART OF THE SOLUTION.

Join in on the Work at Home Scam Discussion in the Forum

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Comments
August 20, 2009 at 2:05 pm
(1) Lana says:

Hi Randy,

To start off, I have to say that I really enjoy your dedication to the cause of work-at-home professionals. I’ve been freelancing on my own for a little over a year, and I have your section of about.com on an .rss feed so that I don’t miss a post.

That said, I’m going to have to take Google’s side in this. Not because I think that they are blameless, but because I think that the task that’s being set for them is an impractical one, if not impossible. I also think that you are potentially overestimating Google’s ‘benefit’ in all this.

AdWords is a fairly automated process. You plug in your keywords, and you put in a bid. Even if these people are bidding say… $1 or $5 a keyword (and in reality I’ve seen bids as low as .03 and .05, though probably not for the keywords these scammers are using) Google only gets that dollar or five dollars if a user actually clicks on the link. By contrast, these scammers are walking away with hundreds, and in some cases thousands of dollars from individuals that they manage to take advantage of.

The reality is, the scammers need Google far more than Google needs the scammers. Another point to take away from this – these are ads. Take them with the same grain of salt as if you ran across the ad in a local newspaper. No one tries to shut down the papers for running scam ads in the business/employment section, and I guarantee that some of the same scammers you find online are still using the older mediums as well. Heck, a lot of them probably just migrated over to online scamming as soon as it became viable.

In short, Google can’t be our babysitter. Those policies are in place for particularly egregious offenses, and the ads themselves are not (as far as I know) ever viewed by a human as long as some standard guidelines are met.

We’re all big boys and girls here – there is no excuse for due diligence. Any time you’re considering any business opportunity, just type the name into a search engine plus the word “scam”. See what comes up. Make an informed choice. You can’t expect a business corporation to do that for you, whether it’s the newspaper where you’re looking for business opportunities, or an online search engine that has ads automatically placed based upon whatever you type in.

You’re doing a great job here by keeping users informed. That’s probably one of the best lines of defense: make sure information about these scams is readily available when someone starts searching to see if the opportunity is legitimate. The only way to beat the scammers is to be smarter than they are – I’m glad to see that there’s someone out there that’s up to the challenge.

August 20, 2009 at 3:13 pm
(2) homebusiness says:

Lana:
Great comment – thanks!

While I agree we all have to use due diligence, I don’t think the local newspaper would accept ads from someone they know was a con artist – I could be wrong. Since the FTC is now prosecuting some of these folks, I’d say they need to clean up their act. While we need to be careful, it’s no excuse to allow deceptive advertising and other practices which are against the law.

Your point on the cost per click is well taken. I also find it interesting that the ad I saw today (like most before it) claimed that someone got paid $25 for each click and got checks every week. How deceptive is that? Plus, Google allows these people to advertise this as a $63 per hour part-time job?

The thing that irks me, also as an Internet marketer, is that I know first-hand that Google has refused ads that were perfectly legitimate. In fact, they’ve been starting to refuse affiliate landing pages because they’re “not original content”, yet they allow these ads like the one today with the newspaper layout that use the same damn testimonials and photos and text that’s been out there a thousand times already. If they’re letting the scammers get away with it because they want to be “fair”, where’s the “fairness” in that? These people come flat out and say that “Google is hiring” and “Google advises you to buy this kit”. If it were my business, I sure as hell wouldn’t allow that, especially not when I have control over it.

Randy D.

August 20, 2009 at 4:34 pm
(3) homebusiness says:

Lana:
Thanks again.

Not all of these characters are overseas. The latest FTC action involves a company in Las Vegas. I’ve seen others supposedly based in Vegas, and some in Utah as well. I think if consumers continue to complain, we’ll see additional action from regulatory authorities, as this is flat out deceptive advertising – in the meantime, we all have to be careful – it’s a jungle out there!

Randy D.

August 20, 2009 at 3:18 pm
(4) Ranvijay says:

Thanks for sharing such valuable information.I think this will help the work from home job seekers to be aware about the increasing numbers of work from home scams as well.

http://www.ezinfocenter.in

August 20, 2009 at 4:39 pm
(5) homebusiness says:

Ranvijay:
Your comment was trapped in my spam filter – I suspect because you posted twice, each time with a URL. You are best off linking to your site from your name (as you complete the comment it asks for your website) in the future. While I normally might not allow your link, it provides information for people looking for work in India – and since I’ve been asked about that and have no way to cover the topic, I’ve allowed it. For those who visit Ranjivay’s site, the usual precautions would apply.

In the meantime, Ranvijay and others – I welcome your comments about finding work at home in India and in other parts of the world. I know that while most of the same precautions probably apply, I respect that the culture in your countries is different, and since I have not been there I certainly can’t speak as an authority on the subject.

Randy D.

August 20, 2009 at 3:55 pm
(6) Lana says:

Hi again,

You bring up a valid point about the newspapers, though most include a disclaimer warning readers about the potential for scam. I also think that while most newspapers have a person who looks over ads to see if any seem suspicious, Google’s process seems automated.

I’m very curious about the affiliate landing pages versus the scam pages now. Without having seen one versus the other, I would assume that the affiliate pages are static html, while the scammers have .php or some other actively scripted page. The content might not be generated until the user actually clicks the link, and then they pull text to the page based on variables.

It also could be hidden text via .css that Google’s robot would see, that we wouldn’t. But, there’s also the chance that Google is just being plain sloppy about the approval process, which would be a shame.

I’m sure that many of these scammers are overseas, and trying to chase them down, even for what surely must be an impressive legal team up in Mountainview, is probably more expensive than it’s worth (at least to their bottom line).

But I have to agree, I wouldn’t want that type of blatant misuse of anything with my name on it, and I don’t make even 1/10000th of what Google does. When it comes down to it, it’s all about integrity, and having a brand people trust. The spammers are abusing Google’s good name, but there’s no telling how long that will viably last if Google doesn’t do something to stop it.

August 20, 2009 at 9:20 pm
(7) WAH Mom says:

Great article! Another way to make honest money is to work as an employee at home for a well known corporation. I have been doing it successfully for more than 10 years now. It was the best thing that I ever did.

Big companies are cutting costs by hiring home workers. Below is a link to a FREE list of hundreds of LEGITIMATE stay at home jobs offered by known companies. These jobs do NOT cost you money. They are employment positions. I hope this helps some of you find success at home.

{Link removed by moderator}

August 21, 2009 at 8:20 am
(8) homebusiness says:

WAH Mom:
You posted this same message earlier and I rejected it as spam. So this time, I let it go through but I have removed your link because the site doesn’t offer much other than a bunch of AdSense ads. While I’m not trying to mess with your potential success, I’d suggest in the future that when leaving comments, just put your URL where it says “Your Website” – that will link to your site from your name.

To others – as with any other site, use due caution. While some of the links may be okay, keep in mind that most of what you see are ads and no one can vouch for the legitimacy of those.

Randy D.

October 13, 2009 at 8:48 am
(9) Neil says:

Well… some of these ads just pop up on your screen when you browse an unrelated web site. For example

Google Work at Home Scam URL

popped up while I was reading news on samachar.com ( An Indian news site).

October 14, 2009 at 8:15 am
(10) homebusiness says:

Neil:
Some pop up blocker software (like that included with some security suites) might help. Otherwise, I’d let the site know that you don’t appreciate the ads for scams popping up on their site. I converted the URL you posted to an image so the SOBs don’t get a link from my site.

Randy D.

October 13, 2009 at 8:59 pm
(11) John says:

Well said. I am getting sick of seeing ads for these scams too.

I posted this on the Google Help Forum:

Look at how blatant these scams are with their lies, even claiming to quote Google!

“Google Now Hiring People To Work From Home
Google is Set To Hire A Group Of Americans To Work From Home In The Next Few Days. Thousands Of Jobs Available, Anyone Can Apply. ”

“Google has now released a new “Work From Home Program” that will allow Americans to work for the titan from the comfort of their own homes.”

“The way this works is very simple, Google says.

First you will need to apply for their work from home kits. Google has release a limited amount of kits, all distributed through local websites in your area, which will cost $2 of shipping and handling to the public. ”

Google Work at Home Scam URL

Come on Google – this has been going on for months now – why don’t you sue out of existence these sites which abuse your brand like this?

You are allowing the trust in the Google brand name to be damaged by these affiliates of the cpa networks who create these flogs (fake news sites/blogs) full of lies.

October 14, 2009 at 8:47 am
(12) homebusiness says:

John:
Good post. I converted the link to an image so these jerks don’t get a link from my site.

I’ve seen similar posts in Google forums – they seem to go unanswered. Sometimes it makes me if Google monitors the forums at all, or if they are selectively disregarding these.

Randy D.

November 5, 2009 at 3:34 pm
(13) Brent says:

It is impossible for Google to monitor all of these forums and spam emails. Take a look at the number of scam emails for banks, reward programs, online games, etc. My take is that before you start pointing the finger at Google, take a look at the number of scams on the internet; you will find that it is quite impossible to stop all of it.

November 5, 2009 at 3:42 pm
(14) homebusiness says:

Brent:
Thanks for your comment. I agree, it’s impossible for anyone to stop the emailers and forum posters. But Google has to approve every single ad in the AdWords/AdSense network, so I don’t accept that argument at all. I also know that many companies spend time and effort to find those who are illegally using their brand – and prosecute them accordingly – and that’s what some of these jokers are doing to Google.

Randy D.

November 20, 2009 at 9:03 pm
(15) anne says:

I was scammed by this ! they kept taking money out first 1 dollar the 50 then 100 before i noticed! thank god my bank is very good about those things and canceled my card

November 21, 2009 at 7:38 am
(16) homebusiness says:

Anne – sorry to hear you got caught in the trap. At least you’ve learned something from your bad experience.

Randy D.

December 3, 2009 at 1:44 pm
(17) Joy says:

Just FYI: WAHMom left the exact same post on another article I just read. This is obviously spam.

December 3, 2009 at 2:33 pm
(18) homebusiness says:

Joy:
Which “post” were you referring to? Banker’s comment?

Randy D.

December 4, 2009 at 10:30 am
(19) Victoria says:

I got scammed with this crap from [link edited by moderator to disable it] – {dub dub dub}internet rich gurus {dot com}[end moderator edit] website, they first charge 3 dollars which nobody cares about to take the risk, its all fake no work from home or anything , once they have your credit card number they will charge you 130 dollars initial fee!! and 40 dollars every month, unless you cancel, there are 2 phone numbers and e-mail to cancel, guess what one number is fake nobody even answers it dials forever and nothing happens, the other line they answer and they pretend like they dont know who you are like you are not registered or anything, and they don’t answer emails of course. so once you pay those 3 dollars they now have all your information and they will try to steal hundreds of dollars and money every month!!!! dont fall in their trap! Also after i checked my credit card statement there was those first 3 dollars on hold from this company AdTech Academy, they can be found on Facebook, I invite you to bash them!! After I made my mistake I google this and I heard that after the first 3 days I am going to be charged 130 dollars, so I went to my bank and CANCELLED MY CREDIT CARD, if this happens to you CANCEL YOUR CARD ASAP!!!! they will not let you cancel your kit “order”. its so sad that theres so many scammers out there!!!!!!!!!!!

December 5, 2009 at 11:52 am
(20) homebusiness says:

Victoria:
Don’t hold back – tell us how you really feel ! (Kidding). Thanks for stopping in and venting some of your frustrations. For you and those like you who have been shafted, I invite you to share your story here:

http://homebusiness.about.com/u/ua/workathomescams/internet-scams-reader-responses.htm

Thanks!

Randy D.

January 9, 2010 at 6:41 pm
(21) AC says:

Sorry to read about Victoria’s experience. Not to take the scammer’s side but just FYI, I had a better experience cancelling the Google Kit I ordered and almost received. I entered on the Google Work from Home webpage my credit card information. Luckily, I wasn’t sure I’d done the right thing and called the toll free number on the website the very next day. They were decent enough to cancel the ‘Google’ Kit. Just to let you know, the toll-free number may work if you wish to cancel.

January 10, 2010 at 10:26 am
(22) homebusiness says:

AC:
Glad to hear it worked out for you. Yes, you need to try whatever you can to cancel, rather than go straight to the bank. However, some of these sites don’t have working phone numbers, and often those that do leave you on hold forever then cut you off. A week later the number is disconnected. This is not just one scammer at work here.

Randy D.

April 16, 2010 at 1:51 pm
(23) Jay says:

Sounds to me like the best bet is to persuade the perps to stop scamming people by using a very large and heavy blunt metal or wooden object. This is best accomplished by showing up in person thereby allowing them to feel the same victimization that the victims felt when these scumbags stole their money…

April 17, 2010 at 10:47 am
(24) homebusiness says:

Jay:
Maybe – if you could locate them in the first place, although I don’t advocate violence. I think outing them online works, too, just make sure that what you say is true – you don’t want them to sue you for libel, and the truth is always the best defense for that.

Randy D.

October 3, 2010 at 11:45 am
(25) Kim says:

I just had one of these Google work from home ads come up on my screen and wondered how it got there because I have pop-up blocker. The most deceptive part is where these ads are posted with a Consumer site or so called “News” outlet background. I did not fall for the Google work at home scam because I had already been caught by a similar scam posted on a medical information site that linked to a Consumer News site. The common feature in both pitches was the background that gave the impression of offering consumer advice or a breaking news story. Both focused on a mothers success story so perhaps this is also considered a more compelling sell.

The scam I fell for was for Brite White tooth whitening, suggesting that a clever combination of two free samples would produce outstanding results. There were 48 comments posted where people wrote glowing praises about how well the two products in combination had worked for them as if it was just a great consumer tip. “As seen on TV” and Dental Association endorsements helped solidify the con as did links to legitimate dental and medical information. It is these crafty attempts to legitimize the scam that need to be exposed.

There was a small postage charge and I was not suspicious when it wanted a debit card (there was a credit card option that incurred an additional fee). The second of what posed as two separate companies did not accept my transaction and I gave up trying to put it through. A “Commercial Sample” arrived from Brite White with a customs declared value of $2. I had charged the debit to a little used joint account I shared with my mother for emergency transfer of funds. I therefore did not notice that Bright White and another company had started deducting larger amounts from the account.

I was surprised several months later when I received an identical commercial sample with the same $2 declared value; I thought it was a simple mistake. However, my mother was shocked when an astute bank clerk alerted her to a series of questionable debits from the account; Brite White was taking bites as costly as £60 out of our account. A £60 charge for something that was declared to customs as a “Commercial Sample” valued at $2 is fraud. The bank stopped all further transactions, changed our cards and started pursuing the case as fraud. While our money was refunded by the bank it would have been better not to go through this in the first place.

The lesson learned: Beware of fake signs of legitimacy. The Consumer site or News site background is not for real. Legitimate medical information links or pictures of Google headquarters can be very deceptive. Those same 48 comments are right back up there posted verbatim by the exactly the same people using the exact same wording as if they only just discovered this super consumer tip. “Evan” has exposed the same set of before and after pictures of his teeth again; I think he loses time every 10 days or so! Perhaps checking back with the same site a few weeks later is a good way to expose a con. I hope this info helps other to learn what to look out for; I felt pretty foolish getting conned,
Kim.

October 4, 2010 at 10:19 am
(26) homebusiness says:

Kim:
Thanks for sharing your personal experiences. You’re right – the news type site is one of the biggest cons out there.

Randy D.

October 3, 2010 at 2:01 pm
(27) Kim says:

I hate to have to tell you, but I just noticed an ad that had sneaked right onto your site, but goes straight to one of those typical pariah scam pages. It says: “1 Trick of a tiny belly: Cut down a bit of your belly every day by using this 1 weird old tip” This crude message is accompanied by a really bad drawing of a woman with her belly shrinking and expanding in a most unnatural way! There is a blue arrow link taking you to a page with the key word “Advertorial” at the top. The word Advertorial is a fairly new word that describes adverts posing as genuine editorial content. Take note of this word of warning and do not confuse Advertorial with Editorial or serious investigative journalism.

On the site the typical legitimizing features are there: “BRITAIN HEALTH NEWS” and “DAILY HEALTH ALERTS, Reporting what matters” Right below that is what looks like a true disclaimer statement: “This site is not affiliated with any newspaper publication.” This important point is almost totally obscured by a strategically placed colored line! The obligatory disclaimer statement is something they obviously do not want you to read; I only captured it by pasting it into a word document. Then there is more fake legitimacy, “As seen on TV” and there are informative related videos to help blur reality in the grey area between information and con.

The title gives the false impression of true skepticism: “Acai Berry Diet Exposed: Miracle Diet or Scam?” As part of a new series: “Diet Trends: A look at Britain’s Top Diets” we examine consumer tips for dieting during a recession.” A nice touch! “Katherine investigates the Acai Berry diet to find out for herself if this super diet works.” A bit more skepticism so we are conned into thinking this is genuine investigative journalism, but wait! Remember that strange new word “Advertorial” and the hidden disclaimer that disavows connection to any legitimate news publication? We could wait to see if the special offer that coincidentally ends tomorrow is mysteriously extended one day at a time or we could keep record of those endorsement comments from people with unusual names like Davis and Damo to see if the date of their posts rolls forward with the tide of deception.

The format for these scams is very similar to the typical Google con with a lot of the key features present. The one I saw had a News9Today logo heading the page with link buttons to other areas of the fake “news publication.” I tried pressing the link to “Politics,” but surprise, surprise I got advertising and pop-ups: a sure sign this was not a real news outlet. What looks like a legitimate Ad button: “Make a fortune with Google” is at the top of the page a little lower down a picture of the Google headquarters building is set to catch your attention. How do they get away with that? Then they enlist “Mom” in the title line for the sympathy and believability angle; you gotta trust mom. “Breaking News: Mom makes £379/day Working From Home”… time to stop unreservedly trusting mom.
Telltale Giveaway: Look out for the word “Advertorial”

October 4, 2010 at 10:44 am
(28) homebusiness says:

Kim:
Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have reported the offending Tiny Belly ad to About.com and have asked them to report it.

I agree, this is the same modus operandi of the Google scammers, giving the false impression of being a news site and putting the light gray disclaimer text at the bottom where most people won’t even notice it.

I think they should be required to use the text, “Advertisement” and not allowed to use “Advertorial” at all, since there is nothing editorial or newsworthy about the text on the landing page that is real.

I’ve written advertorials for newspapers in the past – the term itself shouldn’t be considered a negative. For example, I reported on how a local real estate company had grown over the years and the services they provided. The company paid for the writeup in the newspaper, but there was nothing “scammy” about it at all.

Randy D.

Randy D.

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