BROOKLYN (CN) - A Web-based company that calls itself "GoogleProfits" defrauded more than 20,000 people of millions of dollars by promising they can "make thousands of dollars from at-home businesses," according to a federal class action. The company - which is not affiliated with Google - aided by New York-based Intermark Media, preys upon desperate people "facing the worst economy in decades," according to the complaint.
James Piccione claims the defendants defrauded more than 20,000 customers of more than $5 million by bogus offers, over the Internet, of a "risk-free trial" of an instructional CD on how to make "250 - $573 per day."
Piccione says he fell for the scheme to "Get cash from Google," but that the deceptive "risk free trial" came with an additional $7.71 monthly charge and obligated him to subscribe to "something called 'Google Profit Resource' for $47.50 per month."
GoogleProfits is an unregistered Arizona corporation, and it built its sophisticated, and dishonest, Web page with help from Intermark Media, of Woodbury, N.Y., according to the complaint.
Piccione says he was unwittingly charged $99 that the defendants' fine print said would be come "after the 30 day trial." But Piccione says the 30-day trial is bogus, and the heftier hidden charges follow.
Piccione says he called GoogleProfits "repeatedly and was shunted to voicemail many times without ever receiving a return call." He says he eventually reached a representative from Scottsdale, Ariz., who told him the charge was "non-refundable."
He claims Intermark helped GoogleProfits create its sophisticated Web site, which lures customers with fake news stories, bogus endorsements, deceptive ad copy and source code that generates fraudulent customer "testimonials."
"That is, 'Kevin M.' from 'Connecticut' is in fact simply a fictitious person whose state name is generated by source code that recognizes and responds to the [Connecticut] IP address of the consumer's computer," according to the complaint.
Intermark designed the GoogleProfits site to flash "pressures" such as "Only 20 Left!" and a timer counting down the minutes before an offer "expires," Piccione says.
The come-ons are inserted "at random," according to the lawsuit.
"Americans presently find themselves facing the worst economy in decades, and in these desperate times, ordinary consumers are more than ever subjected to a proliferation of work-at-home offers that promise an ability to easily make thousands of dollars from at-home businesses," the complaint states.
Piccione seeks more than $5 million in class damages for fraud and unjust enrichment.He is represented by Steven Teppler with Kamberedelson of Chicago
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.