Click fraud now multi-million pound threat warns expert

Online Fraudsters are shifting their focus on to new ways to orchestrate online fraud with fraudsters monetising popular advertising keywords, using real clicks by unsuspecting website visitors.

While ‘click fraud’ is a relatively new type of crime, it is fast establishing itself as the premier method criminal gangs are using to make millions of pounds illegally.

According to cyber security firm Polygraph there are examples where English teachers working overseas have been recruited to create a respectable face for the operations, and often do not realise they are involved in fraud, as they are tricked into believing it is a legitimate business. One teacher who has spoken out about the scam said he was able to earn tens of thousands of pounds before cutting ties with the criminals once he realised it was fraud.

Cyber criminals who use click fraud the most are targeting the three sectors which collaborate around online marketing; the advertiser, the publisher, and the advertising network.

With the advertiser paying for the ‘ad clicks’ and wanting to attract visitors to their website, they are at risk from click fraud which is committed by fraudsters posing as legitimate publishers.

The click fraud is committed by displaying adverts which use high value keywords, those in demand by advertisers, and uses technology and trickery to force large numbers of web traffic to click on the ads.

Polygraph said the publisher receives money every time an ad is clicked, with the advertiser’s fee split around 60/40 between the publisher and the advertising network.

By creating their own publisher accounts, websites which display adverts, the click fraud gangs are able to choose which ads are displayed and how many times they are clicked.

One industry targeted by the click fraud gangs is the ‘pay day loans’ sector due to its high paying ad keywords. Cyber criminals are displaying ads based on over 1,000 pay day loan related keywords, resulting in huge losses for advertisers.

According to Trey Vanes, chief marketing officer at Polygraph, this new scam often stays under the radar due to its use of real web traffic.

“In the past the cyber criminals used bot traffic, software pretending to be normal website visitors, to click on the ads,” he added. “But due to the recent rise in bot detection software, the criminals now frequently buy real website traffic and use trickery to force the visitors to click on the ads. This helps the fraud remain undetected, as it comes across as legitimate ad clicks by people.

“Each click only makes a small profit for the fraudsters, but multiply that by millions of clicks per day, and dozens of publisher websites, and the profits are massive.”

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