Posts tagged consumer reporting website
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?
Yelp’s Shakedown of Small Business Continues
Over the past six years, thousands of complaints have been filed against the popular consumer reporting web site Yelp. This number is surprisingly low considering every week there is a large number of unofficial complaints expressed against Yelp. These complaints can be found on other internet sites, and they usually accuse Yelp of keeping all the positive reviews a business receives out of sight unless the business spends money on advertising with them.
After reviewing these complaints, a reporter from the Wall Street Journal said that most of the complaints were from small business owners who claimed that when they turned down an offer to advertise with Yelp, suddenly they had unjust, or even outright false, reviews posted on their page. One business owner even said that when he decided not to advertise with them, Yelp contacted him and told him the bad reviews would go away if he advertised with them. Of course, Yelp denied all accusations and claims of bad business behavior.
In an effort to validate these accusations, in January 2014 the Court of Appeals of Virginia requested the names of the users who left negative anonymous comments about small businesses. Having these names could have proven whether Yelp was fabricating negative reviews in an attempt to bully small business owners to spend money with them, but the consumer reporting website refused to provide the information.
Unfavorable comments generated online can have a devastating effect on businesses, even causing layoffs. This is not the first time Yelp was taken to court to obtain names of reviewers. Every month, legal requests are made, and still no names. In addition, whenever a new charge is brought against the consumer reporting website, the negative reviews seem to magically disappear.
This mob-style approach of intimidation to acquire revenue leaves many upset. Some have even considered their tactics to be frighteningly close to extortion. Even though these claims have yet to be proven, there have been too many to ignore.