click fraud (pay-per-click fraud)

Click fraud (sometimes called pay-per-click fraud) is the practice of artificially inflating traffic statistics for online advertisements. In the common pay-per-click advertising model, advertisers pay a fee for each click on their ad, anticipating that they have attracted a potential customer. By using automated clicking programs (called hitbots), the perpetrators of click fraud create the illusion that a large number of potential customers are clicking the advertiser's links, when in fact there is no likelihood that any of the clicks will lead to profit for the advertiser.

How click fraud works

Click fraud scammers often take advantage of the affiliate programs offered by Web sites, such as Google. The scammer signs up for an affiliate program, agreeing to provide exposure to an advertisement in order to receive a portion of the pay-per-click fees the advertiser is paying the affiliate.

Instead of placing the as on legitimate websites, the scammer might place the ad on Web sites created solely for the purpose of placing the ad. And a site like that, quite naturally, will not have any real, organic traffic. Once the ads are in place, the hitbots generate large volumes of fraudulent clicks, often in a very short time period, for which the scammer bills the owner of the affiliate program. 

This was last updated in April 2007

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