Why Ad Fraud Succeeds: Even After the Curtain Is Pulled Back

Sometimes an online scam strikes it big and claims millions of dollars for the scammers. This is one way why ad fraud succeeds. Eventually, however, the operation gets revealed for what it is and that’s the end of it. Or is it?

Recently, a popular site that reports scams revealed one that was costing unsuspecting advertisers millions of dollars. It was done by the perpetrators selling ad spots that no one would ever see. So, what happened after the scam was reported? The con artists quickly closed down their operation after the unwanted exposure. After all, no one was going to fall for the scam once word got out that it wasn’t legit, right? Maybe not. Just a few weeks later, the scam came back and has continued to be successful.

Here’s how the scam works. Fraudsters were setting ads to run muted and so tiny that no one would ever know they were running. Then they jacked up prices for each time that the ads played. This means that the ads were playing, invisible to everyone, while users were watching videos that had nothing to do with the ad (cute kitties, for example). Major corporations were paying out millions for these ads that people ‘clicked on,’ but that the end user couldn’t even possibly see, hear, or know existed.

Of course, many of the sites running this scam were put on a blacklist and corporations were warned not to use these sites to advertise. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for a scammer to start up a new domain name and play the same song and dance. Moreover, if it is done on a smaller scale, it doesn’t attract as much attention.

With the right technical know-how, you can actually maximize the tiny videos and watch them. Of course, the only people who are looking for these videos are people who are trying to reveal the scam. Because it is happening on a far smaller scale, at least for the moment, most companies are turning a blind eye to the reemergence of this scam.

The question, then, isn’t why ad fraud succeeds. Rather, how many companies will need to get cheated out of their money this time before someone cries foul?