Save yourself from the latest 'Google' scam

Want to make $5,000 a month by working from home for approximately 10 hours a week?

Me too! And Scott Hunter, from Brooklyn, NY...err...Bluffton, OH...I mean Buenos Aires, Argentina, can show you how to realize your dream if you simply follow the directions on his blog.

Scott claims that his life changed as soon as he discovered the Google Cash Kit, which helped save him from astronomical debt and gave him the green light to quit his "boring" job as an account manager for a pipe manufacturing company. Heck, he even got married.

The Google Cash Kit he endorses is free, and for a teeny shipping fee of $1.97, we can put our feet up and wait for weekly $1,500 (and up) checks from Google Inc. to make their way into our mailboxes. And lest we think this is a scam (gasp)! Oh no! This works; it's different. Scott's argument? The numbers he's throwing at us are reasonable, compared with the $500,000 or $1,000,000 often promised in inheritance letters from Nigeria.

Does that still sound too good to be true? Perhaps, because it is. Not only is the company whose product you'd be purchasing in no way affiliated with Google, but Scott and his story are as real as the $5,000 check displayed on the site.

Let's dissect.

Scott's Money Blog isn't the only site offering to put you out of your financial misery; several others promise to do so in the exact same way. Josh Parker of Josh Made Cash, Danny Goldberg of Earn Cash Fast with Google and Joan Faletta of Joan's Money Making Story all urge web users to "act fast" and make easy money with the enchanted Google Cash Kit. And many of us might believe them; after all, they seem to be our next-door neighbors. If Scott from Brooklyn can do it, so can I!

Except here's the trick: all these Web sites are programmed with a JavaScript code from MaxMind, which scopes out where Web users are located. The hometown is sprinkled throughout the site, to force us to identify with Scott and his "story." The web site developers and "Scott," however, forgot to weave another script into the story to adjust rent and salaries according to web users' location, to make sure that the rent of the "even smaller" apartment Scott was forced to move to as a result of his grave financial distress didn't cost $1,200--average for Brooklyn, but pretty steep for Bluffton.

The deception doesn't stop there. The routing number on the proudly displayed $5,000 check from Google does not show up as valid, according to my findings from Perhaps, Google is writing fake checks, or maybe, "Scott" is just not very good at forging one.

When I asked a Google spokesperson whether the company was aware of the blogs claiming to have made money from it via the Google Cash Kit, he said that Google knows about such blogs but he could not comment on individual claims. "However, we recommend that users exercise the same amount of caution they would when evaluating other types of get-rich-quick claims. Our legal team reviews them and takes appropriate action, if necessary," he added. The spokesman noted that Google does provide Internet users the ability to generate revenue through programs like Google AdSense and the Google Affiliate Network, for which one can sign up at no cost.

While Google may not be affiliated with the Google Cash Kit, the search engine does profit from it. The putative provider of the product, Google Treasure Chest, pays Google to advertise it. All I had to do was type in "google cash" in Google search, and multiple advertisements with similar success stories showed up on the right rail, under "Sponsored Links."

If it sounds too good to be true, in most cases, it is. But a good way to be sure is to check out questionable sites and their claims through Ripoff Report or the Better Business Bureau, where -- if you type in Google Treasure Chest -- you will discover many posts cautioning gullible minds not to release their credit-card information and sign up to receive the Google Cash Kit. Victims of this scam reported an additional one-time charge of $39.95, while others reported 10- and 20-cent monthly deductions. Weeks went by and no kit arrived.

You might think that people wouldn't fall for something so transparent, but think again. The economic crisis deeply affected people all over the world, and thus, many search for any hope of financial stability, even when attaining it requires the purchase of a sketchy product. Therefore, if you (or anyone you know) fell for this scam, call your credit-card company and/or bank and notify them of the charges. Cancel the card if necessary. Calling Google Treasure Chest customer support (1-800-951-1406) or Earn Cash Fast with Google customer support (1-888-541-0915) to inquire about surprising charges will only lead to frustration. When I checked out the phone numbers, both redirected me to automated messages that said to call back during business hours: Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. MST, respectively, which I did on multiple occasions with no luck.

To prevent yourself from being a victim of a scam, however, always read the fine print -- and do some digging -- before giving away your credit card information, even if it promises you a prosperous future. Chances are, the two bucks you'd spend on the shipping cost of a "free kit" won't make you rich, but spending five extra minutes researching your purchase to "make thousands of dollars" will at least help you keep the money you have.

If you have to respond to Internet marketing schemes that require credit-card information, buy a prepaid card (an American Express gift card worth $25, for example) to prevent identity theft, and use it to purchase the advertised product. This way, when you don't see it in the mail, you won't be too disappointed, since you saved yourself from being charged additional fees.

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