Make us your home page

Work-from-home scams cite reputable news organizations

Jerald Marshall was searching for jobs online when he came across an ad for a Google work-at-home business. The ad featured a "Chicago Tribune News" story about Mike Steadman, a college dropout from North Carolina who was earning buckets of money placing links on the Google Web site.

"I get paid about $25 for every link I post on Google and I get paid every week," the story said. "I make around $10,500 a month right now."

But something about the story didn't seem right to Marshall. When he checked with the real Chicago Tribune, he learned the story was bogus. Experts say the ad is part of a growing trend on the Internet: companies using fake stories that co-opt the names of respected news organizations and other firms to gain credibility for their work-at-home business schemes. They dupe consumers into believing they are trusted companies with good reputations.

"It's a pandemic problem across the Internet. There are so many fake Web sites with the BBB seal as well," said Steve Bernas, president and chief executive of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois. "If (consumers) see that it's supposedly endorsed by a newspaper, they think it's true. They think there's no need to check it out because (the news organization) did."

Business Kit for Google, the business behind the ad, didn't return a phone call. Several days later, the company attached to the Web link had changed its name to Google Fortune and the name of the publication in the ad was now the "New York Tribune News." Again, phone calls weren't returned.

A Google representative said the company is not affiliated with the Web site and recommended that users exercise caution when evaluating such claims.

Steve Baker, director of the Midwest Region for the Federal Trade Commission, said it is illegal for a company to disguise an ad as a news article and warned consumers to be suspicious of such ads. While he declined to comment on the Business Kit for Google offer, Baker said the FTC filed a case in July against a company running a similar scheme called Google Money Tree.

"If you have someone running an ad that looks like a newspaper article without labeling it 'as an advertisement' that's a deceptive act or practice in addition to any false claims in the substance of it," Baker said.

Consumers also need to read the fine print in such ads.

On the Business Kit for Google Web site the company says anyone "with a computer and basic typing skills" can earn up to $978 a day using Google. It offers a free startup kit with a charge of $1.97 to cover shipping and handling. But the fine print tells a different story. The free kit is actually a seven-day free trial, after which your credit card will be billed $79.90 a month for continued access to the system.

"What the big print giveth, the small print taketh away," Bernas said. "If someone asks you to pay to learn how to make money, that's the tipoff to the ripoff."

Marshall had his own advice for his fellow job-hunters:

"Just be cautious and make sure it's a legitimate source before you get vested in it," he said. "You think there's some credibility, you think that these are reliable sources and reliable companies, and they're not."

Work-from-home scams cite reputable news organizations 10/11/09 [Last modified: Sunday, October 11, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Chicago Tribune.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Former Sen. Greg Evers, advocate for law enforcement, dead at 62.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Former State Sen. Greg Evers, the Baker Florida strawberry farmer and veteran politician, was killed in a single car crash hear his home in Okaloosa County. The Florida Highway Patrol confirmed the death late Tuesday, but deferred any further information pending an investigation. He was 62.

    Former Florida Senator Greg Evers, R- Milton, was a passionate advocate for law enforcement and corrections officers. He was found dead Tuesday afternoon in a car crash. He was 62. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Foundation Partners buys Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home


    ST. PETERSBURG — Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.

    Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Water Street Tampa unveils video showing downtown's transformation


    TAMPA — Water Street Tampa, the sweeping, 50-plus acre redevelopment project in Tampa's urban core, has unveiled new images and video of what the downtown district will look like upon completion.

    Strategic Property Partners released a conceptual image of what the Tampa skyline will look like once its redevelopment of 50-plus acres of downtown will look like. [Photo courtesy of  of SPP]
  4. Florida ranks high for workplace equality between men and women

    Working Life

    When it comes to the workplace, Florida ranks fifth in terms of gender equality, a WalletHub study released Tuesday found.

    Florida ranks high in terms of equality between men and women in the workplace. Pictured is Sandra Murman, county commissioner in 2015, talking about the differences in pay between men and women. | [Times file photo]
  5. Treasury secretary's wife boasts of travel on government plane, touts high fashion


    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's wife, Louise Linton, boasted of flying on a government plane with her husband to Kentucky on Monday and then named the numerous fashion brands she wore on the trip in an unusual social media post that only became more bizarre minutes later.

    Steven Mnuchin and his then- financee Louise Linton watch as President Donald Trump speaks during Mnuchin's swearing-in ceremony as  treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 13. [Mandel Ngan | AFP via Getty Images]