Some website owners are inadvertently enabling a cyber-crime called click fraud, and are at risk of being banned by the advertising networks, and may even face criminal prosecution.
Click fraud is a sophisticated internet crime targeting online advertisers. Criminals, posing as legitimate website owners, are tricking advertising networks into allowing them to place genuine adverts on their scam websites. Every time the ads are clicked, the advertisers pay a small fee to the advertising networks, which is then shared with the fraudsters.
What makes click fraud extra devious is how the criminals generate thousands of fake clicks every day. Instead of using people to click on the ads, they use “bots” – software pretending to be human. The bots repeatedly visit the fraudulent websites and click on the ads, generating revenue for the scammers.
Most advertising networks make some effort to detect these bots. When click fraud is detected, the criminals’ advertising accounts are closed down and some have faced jail time.
However, click fraud detection firm Polygraph is warning that a growing number of legitimate website owners are inadvertently committing the crime, and are themselves also facing the wrath of the advertising networks.
Trey Vanes, Chief Marketing Officer at Polygraph, said they have seen an upswing in the number of website owners losing their advertising accounts in this way.
“There are companies on the internet promising website owners unlimited, cheap traffic. It sounds like a great deal – why bother advertising online when you can just pay a company to send you tons of real website visitors? Well, there’s a catch. More often than not, those real website visitors are bots created by the traffic company, and they end up clicking on the website’s ads.
“From the advertising networks perspective, that’s click fraud. It doesn’t matter that the website owner thought they were buying real visitors. If thousands of bots come to the website and repeatedly click the ads, they’re probably going to get paid for those clicks, even though they’re fake. They’re inadvertently doing the same thing as the click fraudsters.”
Polygraph is urging clients to be extra cautious when using third-party traffic providers to boost the number of visitors to their websites.
“Not all traffic companies are shady, but some are,” added Mr. Vanes. “Therefore, it’s important you check the traffic is legitimate before sending it to your website.”
Polygraph are experts at detecting bots, fake clicks, and all forms of ad fraud. By sending the traffic to a test webpage which is being monitored by the Polygraph click fraud detection service, website owners can check to see if the traffic is human or a bot.
“By testing the traffic before sending it to your real website – and clicking on your ads – you can use Polygraph to ensure it’s real. Polygraph is easy to use, and our team are always available to advise you if you need help.”
That is just one of a wide range of techniques that Polygraph has developed to detect, and prevent, click fraud. Advertisers can protect their ad budgets by using Polygraph to monitor their adverts for fake clicks.
The methods have been created and refined through consistently monitoring the activities of cyber-criminals, using their own playbook built on inside information sourced by those who have previously been involved in committing click fraud and other cyber offences.