Google Cash Scams Targeted By “White Knight” SEOs

A group of search engine optimizers have their sights set on Google Cash. No, they’re not trying to make money off that keyword or the product it represents; they’re trying to influence the natural search results to tell the public that it’s a scam.

Google Cash — also known as Google Treasure Chest and Google Money Tree — is already on the federal government’s radar, as Jonathan Hochman explained recently:

According to the feds: “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…”

Jonah Stein has written about it, Google’s Cash Cow – Scam Advertising & Profits, as has David Rodnitsky: Alert – Google Cash Scam. In my searching, Rodnitsky’s article is already on page two of Google’s search results for “google cash.”

Targeting “Google Cash” like this is part of a project that’s being called “White Knight SEO.” Stein says the goal is to dominate the natural search results for “Google cash” (and related terms) with articles and information that will serve to warn consumers.

We hope that we can place advisory content to take over the top 10 results in Google for searches related to common scams and online fraud with a particular focus on areas which are using adwords & adsense to snare victims.

Indeed, there are plenty of PPC ads on the search results pages for “Google cash,” “Google money tree,” and similar terms. At the moment, the natural search results are a mixed bag, but already lean toward pointing out that it’s a scam. The number one result, in fact, is a thread on the Google webmaster forum: Is Google Cash a legitimate service.

google-cash-serp

Stein and other SEOs are hoping their articles soon join the forum thread on the first page of Google’s results. It’ll be interesting to watch because we know Google doesn’t like coordinated actions that attempt to influence its search results, but in this case don’t the ends justify the means?

Postscript by Barry Schwartz: This is indeed still a major issue and Google is very aware of the issue. Let me give you some history on this topic that goes a bit beyond what Matt has already said above.

Staring in March of this year, these programs started to get pretty heavy. They came under the name of Google Money System, Google Money Kit, Google Cash and so on. It took a few months, but Google began banning those offering them from using AdWords. Most of the bans were automatic, so as time went on, these advertisers were able to find loopholes around the AdWords system to start again.

On July 10th, Google took this scam public with a very visible blog post on their main blog named How to steer clear of money scams. They even added help documentation specifically on being ripped off, trying to help educate those before they are scammed.

Most recently, over the weekend, ABC News covered this scam both on TV and in an article named 10 Telltale Signs of a Work-From-Home Scam. Google then promoted this article in the Google Web Search Help forum in order to drive more attention to this.

As you can see, Google is doing a lot to try to educate and prevent these scams. But often, the scammers, hackers and spammers are at the advantage.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: AdWords | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | SEM Industry: General | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://misc.info Misc.info

    I agree with John, plus its odd for me to see this and at the same time see some of the “respected” seo/marketers heavily involved with ringtones and casino advertising.

    As for me the biggest crime on the Internet is ringtones, as poor kids are tricked into signing up for ringtones and then billed money they don’t have.

    Followed up by casino’s, gambling is controlled and online gambling illegal in the US for a reason, not to mention that the sites that are being advertised have built in system to ensure them higher than normal profits.

    Gets worse when you look at the social impact ringtone and gambling have on family’s and kids, abusive parents taking it out on the kid who didn’t know he would be billed so much month after month and kids spending most if not all thier disposable income on these things. People losing their money to online gambling and then losing the family/jobs they’ve worked so hard at.

    I all for having the internet free of scams, but John is right this is not the issue to focus on and this solution clearly comes with a non-pure intent to try and solve it.

    Google itself is working at stopping these ads, the algorithm is at work to stop the sites, just need facebook and other sites to catch up.

    My comment to the people in the business, if you promote ringtones* or gambling sites then you are no worse than a drug dealer or a pimp and deserve no respect and should be treated like a criminal.

    *my comment on ringtones are based on those ringtone offers which charge monthly fee’s after the first download/free offer. There are legit ringtone sites, so while my initial reaction to those are sceptical they are legit and offer a good service.

  • http://ItsTheROI.com Jonahstein

    I am more than a little surprised by those defending Googles (lack) of action here. How hard would it be for Google to prevent adds from showing on the keyword “Google Money Tree” or “Google Cash”???

    Seriously, how can anyone pretend Google is trying hard to prevent this problem? Bing doesn’t accept ads for adult sites because they want a cleaner, family friendly experience. They also move faster against whole categories of advertisements to ban them.

    I have already written about other reverse billing scams, such as ringtones. Others have suggested that Google’s policy that accepts ads for text link brokers is hypocritical. These examples are obvious to search professionals, but do not tell the story to the general public the way a story about Google Cash and Google Money Tree

  • http://www.seroundtable.com/ Barry Schwartz

    Jonah,

    I wouldn’t consider Bing to be all that good at managing their ads. Did you read http://searchengineland.com/report-90-of-bings-internet-pharmacies-search-ads-lead-to-rogue-sites-23607

    I am not defending Google, Bing or even Yahoo, just providing more history here.

  • http://searchengineland.com Andrew Shotland
  • http://ItsTheROI.com Jonahstein

    Barry

    I did miss that particular article and I do not mean to give Bing a free pass. In some areas their policies are more conscious of protecting users than Google and others they fail…some times spectacularly. My real point is that this is largely a policy issue, not a technical one.

    Google and Bing have restrictions on the ads they accept, whether it is Bing’s refusal to carry ads for adult content or the government driven restriction on casino ads and it is about time Google address their POLICY about this type of ad.

  • http://dennisyu dennisyu

    I know many of the folks that are promoting Google Cash and other scams that bill people’s credit cards. In general, they LOVE Google for looking the other way, allowing them to peddle their offers and deceptive messages.

    “5 people have a crush on you!” is clearly deceptive, but “crush” offers were the largest category of Google ads last year. The IQ Quiz ads are similar. Same with the Acai weight loss products and their close cousins.

    I can understand having to do some policing on minor offers– but not when it’s one of the primary sources of your advertising income. That’s like saying you accidentally cheated on your girlfriend– accidentally saw this woman at the restaurant, accidentally decided to have dinner with her, accidentally went back to her place…. and you know the rest.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com nickstamoulis

    It is amazing to me that Google related scams like these can get as far as they do before the public outrage takes over to put a stop to them…you would link Google would have a team of employees that spend their time monitoring scams (Google related and non-Google related) to help clean up the SERPs from scammers (not spammers, but non-legitimate sites that rip off consumers)…

  • http://ItsTheROI.com Jonahstein

    Nick

    Actually, cleaning up the SERP is a difficult question that involves censorship, even when you are dealing with scams. That’s why White Knight SEO is needed.

    Removing Advertisements is an entirely differently story. That requires a policy and the internal political decision to carry it out.

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