AP News

Consumers get $2.3 million in refunds from scam

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday that it is mailing nearly $2.3 million in refund checks to consumers who were charged hidden fees for a bogus "Google Money Tree" product.

Online marketers behind the scam falsely promised consumers that they could earn $100,000 in six months through its work-at-home product. They lured consumers into divulging their financial account information to pay a modest shipping fee for a work-at-home kit.

But the FTC says most consumers were unaware that the fee would trigger recurring monthly charges of $72.21.

The "Google Money Tree" business also operated under names such as "Google Pro" and "Google Treasure Chest" but is not associated with the internet search giant Google Inc.

The FTC also said that the work-at-home product also did not provide a method for earning the income as promised.

As part of a settlement with the FTC, the online marketers must surrender cash and other assets, which are now being used by the FTC for the refunds to consumers. They are also banned from making misleading claims or selling products through "negative option" transactions, in which the seller interprets consumers' silence or inaction as permission to charge them.

Consumers who made purchases from "Google Money Tree," ''Google Pro" or "Google Treasure Chest" will receive a check for approximately $24.50. The 93,086 checks will be mailed on Sept. 11.

The FTC said that consumers who have questions, or who have not yet filed a complaint with the FTC and wish to do so, should call the Redress Administrator, Gilardi & Co. LLC, at 1-877-226-2847, or visit the FTC's refunds website.

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