CHICAGO (CN) - Pacific WebWorks runs a "work-at-home" Internet scam that falsely promises people can earn "thousands of dollars" by buying a "Google Business Kit," then charges outrageous, hidden monthly fees, according to a class action in Cook County Court. It's not the first recent case in which a company is accused of using (nonparty) Google's name to sucker people for money.
Pacific WebWorks uses spam emails and banners ads and fake news articles, blogs, testimonials and photos to push its "work-at-home" products, which are "promised at the minimal price of $2.00 or less," the class claims.
The class claims that Pacific falsely promises that consumers "will work directly with and be well-paid by the giant web search engine Google."
But Nevada-based Pacific WebWorks charges its customers $69.90 to $79.90 per month once it gets ahold of a credit card number, and sometimes adds another $24.90 a month "for another, unknown product," the class says.
The extra, recurring charges are hidden in small print or not listed at all on Pacific's checkout page, according to the complaint.
The class says that Pacific runs several bogus news sites, with false testimonials. For instance, "Mary Steadman" claims she "'quit her boring job as a manufacturer's representative' and 'now makes $6500+ a month.'"
"Mary Steadman" is the "most widely used fake person" in bogus testimonials, the complaint adds.
Pacific allegedly lures customers by falsely claiming that its products have been seen on Fox News, CNN and USA Today. It pressures consumers to make a quick purchase through the use of "timers counting down the minutes left before an offer 'expires,'" or statements such as, "these kits are going FAST!" and "LIMITED TIME OFFER!" according to the complaint.
Named plaintiff, Barbara Ford, who is "elderly, retired and on a fixed income," says that she came across one of Pacific's new stories on her AOL homepage. The article pitched a "Google work-at-home opportunity," and "described the life-changing experience of a woman that utilized a Pacific WebWorks product to make $5,000 a month," she says.
Ford authorized a charge of $1.97 to her credit card for a "Google Business Kit," and was unaware that she had putatively "consented" to an additional charge of $79.90. Ford says Pacific never ever sent her the kit, and refused to issue a refund.
The class claims that Pacific sells its victims' information to third-party merchants as well.
The class demands damages and restitution from Pacific WebWorks and its unidentified marketing affiliates, alleging consumer fraud, deceptive business and trade practices, breach of contract, unjust enrichment and violations of the Automatic Contract Renewal Act.
Lead counsel is Christopher Dore with KamberEdelson.