Computer Crime Research Center


Online click fraud a growing problem

Date: March 01, 2005
Source: Miami Herald
By: Michael Liedtke, Gregory Schmidt

Like thousands of other merchants, Tammy Harrison thought she had struck gold when hordes visited her website by clicking on the small Internet ads she purchased from the world's most popular online search engines.

It cost Harrison as much as $20 for each click, but the potential business seemed to justify the expense.

Harrison's delight dimmed, though, when she realized that the people clicking on her ads weren't interested in buying her products.

She was being victimized by ''click fraud,'' a scam that threatens to curtail the online advertising boom that has been enriching Google, Yahoo and their many business partners.

Pay-per-click advertising has turned into a fast-spreading craze as more merchants realize substantially higher returns on search engine ads than on more traditional marketing campaigns conducted through the Yellow Pages, direct mail and newspapers. But as money evoted to search-engine advertising has increased, so has the incentive for fraud.

The ruse has different twists, but the end result is usually the same: Merchants are billed for fruitless traffic generated by someone who repeatedly clicks on an advertiser's Web link with no intention of ever buying anything.

Entrepreneurs like Miami's Dmitri Eroshenko are trying to develop solutions to counteract click fraud.

''This has become a real cat-and-mouse game,'' said Eroshenko, who runs Clicklab, a Web analytics firm. ``Advertisers are going to have to accept a certain level of click fraud as a cost of doing business.''

Some scammers have gone overseas to hire cheap labor in India to sit in front of computers and click on targeted links all day, according to a story published in The Times of India last year...

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