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Google: Online Scammers Using Our Name

Internet giant Google is targeting online scammers it says are fraudulently using the widely-known Google name and logo to steal money from unsuspecting consumers.

Google says it has seen a definite increase in the problem since the recession began, with hundreds of complaints every month, CBS News correspondent Kelly Wallace reports.

If you factor in the number of incidents that haven't been reported, Wallace says, there could be thousands of victims out there and millions of dollars lost.

Google sued Monday to take the fight directly to the alleged scammers -- and educate consumers along the way. The suit alleges "a widespread Internet advertising scam" by Utah-based Pacific Web Works and 50 unnamed defendants.

Jason Morrison, of Google, said, "We hope this does kind of send a message that you can't use Google's name to trick users. It's just not going to fly."

Wallace pointed to one of the ads Google says is part of the lawsuit.

Google, she said, is in the title with the Google logo prominently displayed.

"I enter my personal information," Wallace said during a demonstration, "and just one click later, they're asking me for my credit card information."

In 2008, Internet fraud cost consumers $264.6 million, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Shawn Henry, assistant director of the FBI Cyber Division, told CBS News skepticism might be the consumer's best defense.

"It comes down to that old adage, 'If it looks too good to be true, it probably is,'" Henry said. "If someone is offering to pay you a thousand dollars a day and all you have to do is walk in and cash a check and send them the proceeds, it's probably a scam."

Wallace added, "Be skeptical -- as skeptical as you would be off-line."

CBS News contacted Pacific Web Works -- the target of the Google suit -- and the company did not return phone calls or e-mails. The company, Wallace said, was sued in November by an Illinois resident who alleged deceptive billing practices.