Today I spent some time on the FTC website reading the lawsuit that FTC has filed against the corporation running the Google Treasure Chest Scam (and other Google named scams). Hope you will take the time to go read it also. http://www.ftc.gov/os/caselist/0923060/090622googlemoneytreecmplt.pdf
It is very enlightening and certainly vindicates what I have been saying all along about this being a scam and just why it was a scam. I don't know what the final outcome of this lawsuit will be but I hope these con artists get locked up and the key thrown away. From what is being alleged in the lawsuit the con artists were no better than a burglar that breaks into your house and steals what they can get their hands on.
What seems to me to be so strange about this in regard to the mentality of the con artists is "What were they thinking?" Did they really think they could get away with such blatant disregard for the law? And another thing, why did it take the law so long to go in and take some action.
I guess the con artists think that if they out-source part of the action overseas that the law won't be able to reach them but they better brush up on the law concerning the Electronic Fund transfer act and regulations. The law can still reach them and they can't hide--it just might take a little longer but sometimes that makes the penalty even more stiff when it finally comes home to roost.
The counts being levied against GTC in the lawsuit:
Count 1. Failure to disclose material terms
Count 2. False or unsubstantial representations regarding income
Count 3. False representations regarding affiliation (misleading one to think Google was behind them)
Count 4. Violation of the electronic Fund Transfer Act and regulation E.
(it seems that they should have gotten written authorization or similar pre-authorization
for further debits to your account plus provide you with a copy of such. Also it seems that in the unauthorized debiting of your account they did not even have proper authorization to show to your financial institution to make such a recurring debit. Makes you wonder what other loop holes the financial institutions ignore. I would think that to debit your account electronically that the banks would need to have some kind of proof showing that such a debit could even be made. )
Section 907(a) of the EFTA, l 5 U.S.C. j I 693e(a), provides that a ''preauthorized
electronic fund transfer from a consumer's account may be authorized by the consumer only in
writing, and a copy of such authorization shall be provided to the consumer when made.''
Section 90349) of the EFTA, 1 5 U.S.C. j 1 693a(9), provides that the term '- 'preauthorized
electronic fund transfer' means an electronic fund transfer authorized in advance to recur at
substantially regular intervals."
In numerous instances, the defendants have debited consumers' bank accounts on
a recurring basis without "obtaining" or "providing" a copy of a written authorization signed or similarly authenticated by the consumer for preauthorized electronic fund transfers from the consumer's account, thereby violating Section 907(a) of the EFTA, l 5 U.S.C. j l 693e(a), and Section
205. l 0(b) of Regulation E(a) I 2 C.F.R. j 205. 10(b).
My advice to anyone who was involved in this scam and still having a hard time trying to contact these con artists to get their money returned is to copy the FTC lawsuit PDF and take it to the bank to show them how you were swindled. The bank has some responsibility in this matter too as they maybe should have required more proof that the debit had some merit or backing before they sent your money off to the con artists.
Finally, FTC has heard our complaints.
Comments taken from Complaintsboard.com
July 27 (killingthemsoftly)
I worked for Platinum Teleservices as well. The company shut down this week because the police showed up and told everyone to go home. This place is a complete scam. The company itself doesn't take hard working peoples money but they for companies that do. That to me, is a scam!!
July 2nd (killingthemsoftly)
If you are trying to get ahold of googletreasurechest.com, googlemoneytree.com, or internetincomeinitiative.com, you won't be able to because this call center is closed..hopefully for good. If you need charges reversed I would call your bank &/or credit card company and file a fraud report. You will more than likely get your money back. As for grantspring.com I am not sure if their company is up and running. Platinum teleservices also did customer service for safelockid.com, acaix3.com, and xanathin3.com.
July 1 (Chuck Turner)
FTC opens all-out assault on economic cyber-scammers.
FTC goes after Google Money Tree, Mentoring of America and others in Operation Short Change
Full story at:
Federal Trade Commission v. Infusion Media, Inc., a corporation, also d/b/a Google Money Tree, Google Pro, Internet Income Pro, and Google Treasure Chest, West Coast Internet Media, Inc., a corporation, also d/b/a Google Money Tree, Google Pro, Internet Income Pro, and Google Treasure Chest, Two Warnings, LLC a limited liability company, Two Part Investments, LLC a limited liability company
(United States District Court for the District of Nevada)
Dubbed “Operation Short Change, ” the law enforcement sweep announced today includes 15 FTC cases, 44 law enforcement actions by the Department of Justice, and actions by at least 13 states and the District of Columbia.
FTC Cracks Down on Scammers Trying to Take Advantage of the Economic Downturn
New Public Education Video Helps Consumers Steer Clear of Business Opportunity Fraud
The Federal Trade Commission today announced a law enforcement crackdown on scammers trying to take advantage of the economic downturn to bilk vulnerable consumers through a variety of schemes, such as promising non-existent jobs; promoting overhyped get-rich-quick plans, bogus government grants, and phony debt-reduction services; or putting unauthorized charges on consumers’ credit or debit cards.
Dubbed “Operation Short Change,” the law enforcement sweep announced today includes 15 FTC cases, 44 law enforcement actions by the Department of Justice, and actions by at least 13 states and the District of Columbia. During a joint press conference today at the FTC, David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, was joined by Assistant U.S. Attorney General Tony West; Roy Cooper, Attorney General of North Carolina; and a Washington, D.C. job seeker who was conned by a company that made false promises of maintenance and janitorial work.
“Rising unemployment, shrinking credit, record-setting foreclosures, and disappearing retirement accounts are causing consumers tremendous anxiety about making ends meet,” Vladeck said. “But to con artists, today’s challenging economy presents just another opportunity to play on consumers’ worry and bilk them out of money.”
“Thousands of people have been swindled out of millions of dollars by scammers who are exploiting the economic downturn,” Vladeck added. “Their scams may promise job placement, access to free government grant money, or the chance to work at home. In fact, the scams have one thing in common--they raise people’s hopes and then drive them deeper into a hole.”
To help consumers understand how easy it is to be conned--and how to avoid fraud--the FTC produced a new consumer education video featuring a former scammer who hawked phony business opportunities and ultimately served prison time for deceiving investors. To view the video, go to ftc.gov or YouTube.com/ftcvideos. In the video, the former scammer gives an insider account of how these operations use high-pressure tactics and celebrity endorsers to trick cash-strapped consumers, and how consumers can protect themselves by demanding written disclosures on earnings and other sales data.
Operation Short Change: FTC’s Law Enforcement Actions
The FTC today announced that it has brought eight new cases against companies that have conned consumers who are struggling to make a living and pay their bills during these difficult economic times. The Commission brought seven additional cases challenging similar conduct earlier this year.
In each new case, the FTC alleged that the defendants’ practices were deceptive or unfair. In some of the cases, the FTC also charged the defendants with making illegal electronic funds transfers or violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule.
In the law enforcement actions announced today, the Commission charged:
John Beck/Mentoring of America, two principals, and three purported “inventors” marketed three get-rich-quick schemes, duping hundreds of thousands of consumers into paying approximately $300 million. The defendants marketed “John Beck’s Free & Clear Real Estate System,” “John Alexander’s Real Estate Riches in 14 Days,” and “Jeff Paul’s Shortcuts to Internet Millions.” The defendants allegedly made false and unsubstantiated claims about potential earnings for users of these systems. They used frequently aired infomercials to sell the systems for $39.95 and then contacted the purchasers via telemarketing to offer “personal coaching services,” which cost several thousand dollars and purportedly would enhance their ability to earn money quickly and easily using the systems. In addition, all purchasers were signed up for continuity programs that cost an additional $39.95 per month, but which were not adequately disclosed to consumers. Some consumers also continued receiving unwanted sales calls after they told the defendants’ telemarketers to stop calling. This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Wagner Ramos Borges, through a host of front companies, including “Job Safety USA,” allegedly systematically targeted people seeking maintenance and cleaning work. Luring job seekers with print and online classified advertisements in newspapers throughout the country, Borges allegedly tricked them into paying $98 for a worthless and needless credential called a "certificate registration number" supposedly so that the consumers could get maintenance or cleaning jobs–jobs that Borges did not provide. This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland Greenbelt Division.
Grants For You Now and its affiliates and principals operated Web sites such as
grantsforyounow.com, grantoneday.org, and easygrantaccess.com that deceived consumers by promising them free government grant money to use for personal expenses or to pay off debt. According to the FTC complaint, after obtaining consumers’ credit or debit account information to process a $1.99 fee for grant information, the defendants failed to adequately disclose that consumers would be enrolled in a membership program that cost as much as $94.89 a month. Some consumers also were charged a one-time fee of $19.12 for a third-party “Google Profit” program. All the defendants’ Web sites falsely offered a “100% No Hassle Money Back Guarantee.” This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Cash Grant Institute and its principals allegedly waged an automated robocall campaign promoting bogus claims that consumers were qualified for grant money from the government, private foundations, and wealthy individuals that they could use to overcome their financial problems. They made similar misleading claims about "free grant money" on their Web sites, cashgrantsearch.com and requestagrant.com. This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.
Mutual Consolidated Savings, its affiliates, and principals used telemarketing robocalls and the Internet to push a phony “Rapid Debt Reduction” program to consumers in the United States and Canada, according to the FTC complaint. The defendants allegedly convinced consumers to pay them $690 to $899 for the program by misrepresenting that the program would reduce credit card interest rates, save thousands of dollars and enable consumers to pay off their debt three to five times faster than they could under their current payment schedule. The defendants also failed to make good on promises that they would refund the fees paid if consumers’ credit card interest rates were not reduced. Finally, they did not disclose to Canadian customers that the quoted price was in U.S. dollars. This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Tacoma. In investigating Mutual Consolidated Savings, the FTC received assistance from the Canadian Competition Bureau. Both the Competition Bureau and the FTC are members of the Vancouver Strategic Alliance, a law enforcement task force located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. In carrying out the terms of the court order in Mutual Consolidated Savings, the FTC received assistance from the Tacoma, WA Police Department.
Google Money Tree, its principals, and related entities allegedly misrepresented that they were affiliated with Google and lured consumers into divulging their financial account information by advertising a low-cost kit that they said would enable consumers to earn $100,000 in six months. They then failed to adequately disclose that the fee for the kit would trigger monthly charges of $72.21, the complaint states. This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.
Penbrook Productions, run by Michael Allen Brooks, promoted a work-at-home scheme
online that used spokesperson “Angela Penbrook,” and charged $197 for the opportunity to become a “certified” rebate processor, earning as much as $225 per hour. According to the FTC complaint, after purchasing, consumers discovered that the work-at-home “opportunity” had nothing to do with processing rebates, but merely instructed the consumers about becoming an affiliate marketer. Despite Penbrook’s “100% Ironclad, 3-month ‘Make Money Or It’s Free,’ Triple Satisfaction Guarantee,” consumers then found that they could not get a refund. The
defendants thus misrepresented that consumers would be hired as rebate processors, made false earnings claims, and misrepresented the refund guarantee. This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Southern Division.
Classic Closeouts, illegally made unauthorized charges and debits to the consumers’ accounts months or years after they bought low-cost clothing or household goods from classiccloseouts.com, the FTC charged. The charges usually ranged from $59.99 to $79.99, and Classic Closeouts charged some consumers’ accounts multiple times. Consumers’ efforts to contact the defendants to contest the charges were unsuccessful. Many consumers also disputed the charges with their financial institutions. After the financial institutions reversed the unauthorized charges, the defendants contested these disputes, falsely claiming that consumers had chosen to join the Classic Closeouts “frequent shopper club.” This case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
The Commission vote to issue each complaint was 4-0. The Commission has obtained
temporary restraining orders barring further illegal conduct and freezing the assets in these cases: FTC v. Wagner Ramos Borges d/b/a Job Safety USA, FTC v. In Deep Services, Inc. d/b/a Grants For You Now, FTC v. Cash Grant Institute, FTC v. Mutual Consolidated Savings, FTC v. Google Money Tree, and FTC v. Classic Closeouts, LLC. The agency is asking the courts for permanent injunctions that would provide for possible consumer redress in each of the cases announced today.
The FTC would like to acknowledge the assistance of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and the Better Business Bureau of Southland, Inc., Colton, California, in connection with FTC v. In Deep Services, Inc.; and the Utah Department of Commerce’s Division of Consumer Protection and the Draper Police Department in connection with FTC v. Google Money Tree.
In addition, the FTC initiated, settled or otherwise resolved seven law enforcement actions earlier this year in similar types of cases:
The enforcement actions announced today named the following defendants:
Mentoring of America – Gary Hewitt; Douglas Gravink; John Beck; John Alexander; Jeff Paul; Family Products, LLC; John Beck Amazing Profits, LLC; John Alexander, LLC; and Jeff Paul, LLC, doing business as Shortcuts to Millions, LLC. Wagner Ramos Borges – d/b/a, Job Safety USA, Sparkle Industrial, Sparkle Maintenance, Star Maintenance, Aim Janitorial &
Flooring, and United Maintenance. Grants for You Now – Ryan Champion and Joseph C.
Fleming IV. Cash Grant Institute – Paul Navestad aka Paul Richard; Global Ad Agency, Domain Leasing Company, and/or Global Advertising Agency; and Chintana Maspakorn aka Christina Maspakorn. Mutual Consolidated Savings – Paul Morris Thompson and Miranda Cavender. Google Money Tree – Infusion Media, Inc.; West Coast Internet Media, Inc.; 2 Two Warnings, LLC; Two Par Investments, LLC; Platinum Teleservices, Inc.; Jonathan Eborn; Stephanie Burnside; Michael McLain Miler; and Tony Norton. Penbrook Productions – Make You Famous Consulting; Process from Home; and Michael Allen Brooks. Classic Closeouts – classiccloseouts.com; ThirdFree.com; and Daniel Greenberg.
NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of complaints when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. A complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law.
Copies of the documents related to these cases are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.
Federal Trade Commission v. Infusion Media, Inc., a corporation, also d/b/a Google Money Tree, Google Pro, Internet Income Pro, and Google Treasure Chest, West Coast Internet Media, Inc., a corporation, also d/b/a Google Money Tree, Google Pro, Internet Income Pro, and Google Treasure Chest, Two Warnings, LLC a limited liability company, Two Part Investments, LLC a limited liability company, Two Part Investments, LLC, a limited liability company; Platinum Teleservices, Inc., a corporation; Jonathan Eborn, individually and as an officer of Infusion Media, Inc., Two Warnings, LLC, Two Part Investments, LLC, and West Coast Internet Media, Inc.; Stephanie Burnside, individually and as an officer of Two Warnings, LLC, Two Part Investments, LLC, and West Coast Internet Media, Inc.; Michael McLain Miller, individually and as an officer of Infusion Media, Inc., Two Warnings, LLC, and Two Part Investments, LLC; and Tony Norton, individually and as an officer of Platinum Teleservices, Inc.
(United States District Court for the District of Nevada)Civil Action No. 09-CV-01112
FTC File No. 092 3060
July 1, 2009
Plaintiff’s Complaint for Permanent Injunction and Other Equitable Relief
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Here is a comment that was posted on www.complaintsboard.com in the google treasure chest complaints.
Here's what you should do: PAY ATTENTION AND READ ALL OF THE DETAILS BEFORE YOU SIGN UP FOR SOMETHING! The details were there - you just didn't bother to read them. There's no cure for stupid...
My reply to the comment:
Good advise on "Pay Attention and read all the details before you sign up for something." The only problem with that is: in my case of involvement, and I'm sure other's involvement in these nasty "google"scams was that there were "no details" to read. It was "not" that I or we did not bother to read them, the details were just not there. Since all the complaints from consumer victims have been rolling in, the con artists are learning WHAT they need to change on their bait websites in their tactics to stay ahead of the game. One of the things that they have had pointed out to them is that they should disclose the terms and conditions of the transaction before the consumer submits his financial information. The thing they are not "realizing" is that they are still "not following" the law on how they can do this "legally". One thing, is that they are still not properly disclosing the fact that the "upfront dvd" is tied to a membership with other debits intended which have not been properly disclosed to the consumer. Some of the "bait websites" are now putting a bit of small unreadable type on their transaction page but not in a manner that really discloses the real purpose they have in mind for getting your financial information. Their purpose or intent is still not being disclosed in the manner prescribed by law. Another thing--the law states that they have to get legal "permission" for "each debit" they make on a consumer's transaction. They are not getting "permission" to use the consumer's finances for further debits since they are not disclosing in the upfront transaction that their intent is to pass your financial information on to 2nd, 3rd or 4th parties for use or what that use would even entail. No where in their upfront disclosures are they letting the consumer know this bit of information. If they did disclose this "important" bit of information the consumer would probably not take the bait. These types of "google" scam websites do not state in any of their disclosures "upfront" before the transaction that the transaction will be considered a "negative option" or even explain what a negative option entails. Granted, negative option is mentioned in their "hidden" terms and conditions, but, they are still required to put that important information in a "warning disclosure" along side where you submit your financial information.
Here is paragraph from FTC site:
c) Disclosure of conditions. When making ``Free'' or similar offers all the terms, conditions and obligations upon which receipt and retention of the ``Free'' item are contingent should be set forth clearly and conspicuously at the outset of the offer so as to leave no reasonable probability that the terms of the offer might be misunderstood. Stated differently, all of the terms, conditions and obligations should appear in close conjunction with the offer of ``Free'' merchandise or service. For example, disclosure of the terms of the offer set forth in a footnote of an advertisement to which reference is made by an asterisk or other symbol placed next to the offer, is not regarded as making disclosure at the outset.
Now FTC defination of "FREE".
§251.1 The guide. FTC Guidelines defining the meaning of "FREE"
(a) General. (1) The offer of ``Free'' merchandise or service is a promotional device frequently used to attract customers. Providing such merchandise or service with the purchase of some other article or service has often been found to be a useful and valuable marketing tool.
(b) Meaning of ``Free''. (1) The public understands that, except in the case of introductory offers in connection with the sale of a product or service (See paragraph (f) of this section), an offer of ``Free'' merchandise or service is based upon a regular price for the merchandise or service which must be purchased by consumers in order to avail themselves of that which is represented to be ``Free''. In other words, when the purchaser is told that an article is ``Free'' to him if another article is purchased, the word ``Free'' indicates that he is paying nothing for that article and no more than the regular price for the other. Thus, a purchaser has a right to believe that the merchant will not directly and immediately recover, in whole or in part, the cost of the free merchandise or service by marking up the price of the article which must be purchased, by the substitution of inferior merchandise or service, or otherwise.
(f) Introductory offers. (1) No ``Free'' offer should be made in connection with the introduction of a new product or service offered for sale at a specified price unless the offeror expects, in good faith, to discontinue the offer after a limited time and to commence selling the product or service promoted, separately, at the same price at which it was promoted with the ``Free'' offer.
(2) In such offers, no representation may be made that the price is for one item and that the other is ``Free'' unless the offeror expects, in good faith, to discontinue the offer after a limited time and to commence selling the product or service promoted, separately, at the same price at which it was promoted with a ``Free'' offer.
Here is what FTC regulations say about "Deception".
Quoting from Ftc policy statement on deception:
"Commission cases reveal specific guidelines. Depending on the circumstances, accurate information in the text may not remedy a false headline because reasonable consumers may glance only at the headline.33 Written disclosures or fine print may be insufficient to correct a misleading representations.34 Other practices of the company may direct consumers' attention away from the qualifying disclosures.35 Oral statements, label disclosures or point-of-sale material will not necessarily correct a deceptive representation or omission.36 Thus, when the first contact between a seller and a buyer occurs through a deceptive practice, the law may be violated even if the truth is subsequently made known to the purchaser.37 Pro forma statements or disclaimers may not cure otherwise deceptive messages or practices.38"
What that paragraph says is that even though the con artist is changing some of his t/c tactics on his websites-- the underlying "deception" has not been remedied.
As for being considered "Stupid" --That is yet to be determined.
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