In Your Corner: Exposing An Online Scam

By Ryan Elijah

June 18, 2010 Updated Jul 8, 2010 at 3:49 PM EST

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Back in November, Ball State student Carrie Olinger received an article from the Muncie News that looked like it was e-mailed by her mother. The link, went to a blog that detailed how a student could make extra money at school using Google Cash.

Carrie Olinger said "I thought it couldn't be a fraud since it was affiliated with Google, and since it was from my mother, I went ahead and signed up"

Carried paid a one-time set up fee of $1.95, shortly after that a charge of $79.90 showed up on her account, that charge was hidden in the fine print. She endured long wait times and dropped calls before finally getting the Utah company, Pacific Web Works to stop the charges, but she was told she couldn't get a refund because she agreed to the charges.
"it brought on panic, because I had bills to pay", said Carrie.

We contacted Pacific Web Works on Carrie's behalf and they declined to return our phone call, Google was much more willing to talk about the subject, in fact, they recently filed a federal lawsuit against the Utah company.
Two weeks after Carrie's charge, Google filed a federal lawsuit accusing the company of roping in customers and taking them for millions of dollars by using Google's name. Google provided us with graphs showing an explosion in search terms like "make money online" and "google money".
The company tells us they've shut down thousands of URL's trying to scam people out of money using it's name. They recommend doing a web search and see what others are saying about a company, in this case you'd find thousands of complaints about Pacific Web Works. They also caution users to be careful of deals that are simply too good and come with upfront fees.
Carrie did everything correctly, including getting a new account number once she realized she'd been taken, but it was still an expensive and painful lesson to learn.
"I wish it wouldn't have happened, but it was a good lesson to learn", said Carrie.
We also found out 3 states, including Illinois have class action suits against Pacific Web Works, Indiana's Attorney General's office told us they've had only 3 complaints and 2 have been closed. Carried never received the software she was promised and is now one of thousands who have been taken by a practice that has now gotten the attention of the Federal Trade Commission.

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