By Mike Haaren
Sept. 12, 2012
Dear Rat Race Rebellion: I’m embarrassed to say that I got scammed with a work-at-home job I found online. The ad said that I could make money by doing Google searches, and that a kit would show me how. I paid for the kit, but never received anything. My credit card was also billed multiple times. What can I do? – Ellen in Milwaukee, Wis.
Dear Ellen: It sounds like you may have been a victim of the “Google Money Tree” scheme, or one of its related come-ons, all of which have been under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC just mailed 93,000 refund checks to victims, totaling almost $2.3 million. Here are the details.
According to the FTC, the ads promised that buyers would make significant earnings by “filling out forms and running searches on Google and Yahoo.” Purchasers were “unaware, however, that the fee for the kit would trigger recurring monthly charges of $72.21, because the defendants did not adequately disclose the charges….Moreover, the defendants were not affiliated with Google Inc., and their work-at-home product did not provide a method for earning the income promised.”
Per the FTC’s announcement, “Consumers who made purchases from ‘Google Money Tree,’ ‘Google Pro,’ or ‘Google Treasure Chest’ will receive approximately $24.50. Consumers who have questions, or who have not yet filed a complaint with the FTC and wish to do so, should call the Redress Administrator, Gilardi & Co. LLC, toll free, at 1-877-226-2847.”
For more on the settlement, go to http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2012/09/google.shtm. Separately from the possible refund, you can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, at IC3.gov, and with your state’s attorney general’s office.
One final warning. Perversely, FTC announcements about scam refunds will often trigger more scams. Scammers monitor FTC and other government funding announcements closely, and tailor their come-ons accordingly.
For example, the federal government’s “stimulus package” of a few years ago triggered a wave of “free stimulus money” scams. So watch out for “FTC refund” scams, or you may be victimized twice.
Dear Rat Race Rebellion: My daughter is living at home while she goes to college. I’ve told her that she should build her resume with an internship or something like that while she’s working on her degree, even if it’s unpaid. Is there any such thing as a “virtual internship”? – Kathryn in Rockville, Md.
Dear Kathryn: Yes, with the spread of high-speed Internet, videoconferencing and the like, many companies are creating virtual internships, both paid and unpaid.
Depending on your daughter’s interests and goals, you can find them at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s site, at http://journalism.berkeley.edu/jobs/. Searching with phrases such as “virtual internship” and variations thereof will also turn up leads.