November 22, 2004 3:26 PM PST

Google gets gruff over click fraud

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Google filed a lawsuit against an Internet operation that it claims systematically clicked on text ads to defraud its advertising network.

The case, filed Nov. 15 in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County in California, is among the first civil lawsuits to relate to click fraud. The lawsuit charges that Texas-based Auctions Expert International signed up to display Google's targeted text advertising on its Web site, and then fraudulently clicked on the ads to profit from its pay-per-click system.

Related reading
Exposing click fraud
Google and others are under scrutiny as advertisers grow concerned about phony clicks.

"Because advertisers pay Google for each click on their advertisements, Google strives to ensure that each click is generated by a user legitimately interested in accessing the site being advertised," according to the complaint.

"Defendants...flagrantly abused (Google's service) by artificially and/or fraudulently generating ad clicks," the filing says. "These clicks were worthless to advertisers, but generated significant and unjust revenue for defendants."

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google did not say how much money was lost, but the company is seeking compensatory and punitive damages to be determined at trial.

As old as Internet advertising itself, click fraud is the practice of inflating traffic to advertisements or Web sites for profit. It has proliferated as Google, Overture Services and others have built multibillion-dollar, pay-per-click ad services that pair sponsored listings with related search results. With each click of a sponsored text link, they collect fees from advertisers, and then often share that revenue with publishing partners that display those ads.

The fraud is perpetrated in both automated and human ways. The most common method is the use of online robots, or "bots," programmed to click on advertisers' links that are displayed on Web sites or listed in search queries. A growing alternative employs low-cost workers who are hired in China, India and other countries to click on text links and other ads. A third form of fraud takes place when employees of companies click on rivals' ads to deplete their marketing budgets and skew search results.

According to Google's complaint, Auctions Expert erected its Web site and signed up for its Adsense programs with the sole intention of generating false clicks and collecting advertiser fees.

Click fraud is an elephant in the room of the search-advertising market, the fastest-growing sector of online advertising. While no one is certain of how much money is generated fraudulently, some executives in the industry estimate losses account for 5 percent to 20 percent of total sales. Some suspect the problem is growing, too, as Google, Overture and others syndicate their ads to small or international publishers that can be hard to police.

Unlike advertising in traditional media such as billboards and print publications, "cost per click" Internet ads displayed with

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7 comments

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Click fraud and Google robbed me.
I complained about click fraud in 2003 when my ad fees jumped from $100.00 per week to $2,000.00. I complained to Google, but they did nothing. They said they would look into it. I was dumb enough to wait weeks, and then several months.

Finally I went to my credit card company to complain. Unfortunately Google's foot dragging surpassed the time alloted to fight such charges and I ended up losing nearly $16,000.00.

I ranted and yelled at Google. They mailed me a beach towel! Then I threatened to sue Google, and they banned me from their service.

Real nice people these young folk at Google. They claimed it was somehow my responsibility. Funny I had a similar problem with Overture. They were very helpful and solved my problems.

What recourse should I take with Google?
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Here is my bad experience for our site posting ads for Google
Dear all,

I come from Hong Kong and have a security web site, InfoSec Hong Kong (www.infosec-hk.org). The following message is the conversation between I and officers in Google. They claim my site has got illegal clicks and disable my accounts. However, I suggest them to remove those suspicious clicks, it doesn't matter to me, however, they do not disclose the logs and get my suggestion.

As a security professional, I think there is no audit mechanism for such fraud detection, meanwhile, there are no consideration included in track records of past months to determine whether those clicks are deliberately produced. They have no prior warning/action on such violation (like removing those malicious clicks) before officially disabling an account. The disabling process is purely judged by their proprietary system.

It seems that their Illegal Click Detection System & operation may exhibit some kind of weakness

I would like to gather comments from all of you for this issue.

Thank you for your attention.

Regards,
Anthony LAI, CISA, CISSP
Founder and Editor
InfoSec Hong Kong
URL: www.infosec-hk.org



---------- Forwarded message ----------

- Hide quoted text -
From: Anthony LAI, CISSP <anthonation@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 2004 09:43:05 +0800
Subject: Re: [#16913425] Google AdSense Account Disabled
To: Google AdSense <adsense-adclicks@google.com>

Dear officials,

Again, I should declare that I can't control others to make invalid
clicks on my site. Of course, 139 US dollars is not deemed a large
amount to me or even your listed company. However, I do suggest that
the clicks may not be generated by the owner himself, if I go to
another popular web site and do some numerous clicks for it, they will
suffer. That's reason I raise the point. If you write me with policy,
it is fine, however, you may need to manage my complain with
flexibility. You could not still identify whether I am a victim or an
attacker.

I have suffered for my previous accounts, anyway, there is no
confidence for me to enrol in such kind of advertisement and I would
prefer to publish this experience to public for your company's policy.
Meanwhile, I could you could pass my message to your management to
consider.

I think it is worthwhile to understand Google''s style because 139 US
dollars could show your company's black-box technological management
and how to deal with the clients. By the way, Google has a good
technology supported but disappointed managing flexibility.

Regards,
Anthony LAI, CISSP, CISA

On Tue, 16 Nov 2004 14:03:31 -0800, Google AdSense

<adsense-adclicks@google.com> wrote:
> Hello Anthony,
>
> As you know, Google treats instances of invalid click activity very
> seriously. Due to the proprietary nature of our algorithm, we cannot
> disclose any details about how our monitoring technology works or what
> specifics we found on your account. However, we can assure you that we
> have again reviewed your account thoroughly and accurately, and have
> confirmed that your account violated our program's Terms and Conditions.
>
> In addition, your AdSense account was found to be related to an account
> previously disabled for invalid click activity. A publisher who has an
> account that has been disabled for invalid clicks is not allowed further
> participation in the AdSense program.
>
> Regarding earnings, please note that publishers disabled for invalid click
> activity do not receive further payment as our advertisers are properly
> credited for the clicks generated on your site.
>
> Finally, as outlined in our program Terms and Conditions, Google reserves
> the right to terminate any publisher's participation at any time.
>
> Sincerely,
>
> The Google AdSense Team
>
> ----------------
>
> Original Message Follows:
> ------------------------
> From: "Anthony LAI, CISSP" <anthonation@gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: Google AdSense Account Disabled
> Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2004 04:22:05 +0800
>
>
>
> Dear Officials,
>
> Meanwhile, I have over 100 US dollars indeed for the clicks, if you
> deny my suggestions and freeze my payment, I am afraid that Google is
> playing such kind of tricks with the participants, to freeze their
> payment, again, I insist that you could remove those suspicious clicks
> of my web site, I don't care i learn a lot or not.
>
> Regards,
> Anthony
>
> On Mon, 15 Nov 2004 10:40:20 -0800, Google AdSense
> <adsense-adclicks@google.com> wrote:
> > Hello Lai Cheuk Tung,
> >
> > It has come to our attention that invalid clicks have been generated
> > on the ads on your web pages. We have therefore disabled your Google
> > AdSense account. Please understand that this step was taken in an
> > effort to protect the interest of the AdWords advertisers.
> >
> > A publisher's site may not have invalid clicks on any ad(s), including
> > but not limited to clicks generated by a publisher on his own web
> > pages, clicks generated through the use of robots, automated clicking
> > tools, or any other deceptive software.
> >
> > Practices such as these are in violation of the Google AdSense Terms
> > and Conditions and program polices, which can be viewed at:
> >
&gt; &gt; <a class="jive-link-external" href="https://www.google.com/adsense/localized-terms?hl=en_US" target="_newWindow">https://www.google.com/adsense/localized-terms?hl=en_US</a>
&gt; &gt; <a class="jive-link-external" href="https://www.google.com/adsense/policies?hl=en_US" target="_newWindow">https://www.google.com/adsense/policies?hl=en_US</a>
&gt; &gt;
&gt; &gt; Sincerely,
&gt; &gt;
&gt; &gt; The Google Team
&gt; &gt;
&gt;
&gt; --
&gt; Regards,
&gt; Anthony LAI, CISSP, CISA
&gt; System and Security Consultant
&gt; UniBean Consultant
&gt; URL: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.unibean.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.unibean.com</a>
&gt;
&gt;

--
Regards,
Anthony LAI, CISSP, CISA
System and Security Consultant
UniBean Consultant
URL: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.unibean.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.unibean.com</a>
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Google AdSense -> Important tips for participants!
Hello,

AdSense is a cool program, but it has a few underwater stones which one should know not to be disqualified! So if you will get a message from Google It has come to our attention that invalid clicks have been generated on the ads on your web pages. We have therefore disabled your Google AdSense account. etc then you should not be surprised, because most likely it was due to the invalid clicks.

Here are a few insider tips:
1.Never click on your Google advertisements with the public IP address that you use to log-on into your Google account (they register it and thus may disable your account!) (if you do not know how to obtain your public IP address go to www.askprofi.com);
2.If someone wants to ruin your Google Adsense, he may do a few hundred of clicks within one hour on your Google advertisements and you are lost! There is no simple defence against this at the moment. AdSonar is more advanced in this case because they allow you providing a list of IP addresses which can be blocked (not counted as valid clicks). AdSense from Google is weak here.
3.Pay attention to the following: the rate (number of clicks * 100 / impressions) should not be more than 10 %. If &gt; 10 %, it may become suspicion for Google.
4.Your web site users are not interested in Google advertisements? There is a simple method on how to change it &

Best Regards,
Profi

Free software development support and more &
www.askprofi.com
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
Google is Simply Going To Crumble
I like google, but their ppc auditing system is absolutely a fraud. I installed a click auditing program from whosclickingwho.com and 40% of our clicks were redundant clicks from four competitors. We lost over 12k that month. Oh, Google is professional. They told me dozens of times they saw a problem and will get back to us. In fact, I email them daily and everyday I get the same wonderful response. We're looking into it. We cannot blame google for bad business owners that click on ads to run up a competitors cost structure. Bad businesses will do this. Those owners cannot compete because they were morons to begin with. However, we can BLAME google for not doing what they say they will do. Google simply does not credit fraudulent clicks accurately.

IN ADDITION, businesses do not receive an IP or detailed ppc report of clicks. Imagine getting a 20,000.00 phone bill and not getting the numbers dialed and the minutes used on your phone bill? Google is hiding, google is misleading the financial sector, google is a bubble ready to bust.

Had they just been sincere, honest, and forthright they could have saved themselves. Google at $180.00/Share? Are you people insane? Almost all of their revenue is now suspicious ppc fraudulent clicks. Geeeeeez, when will we learn ?
Posted by geraldcctv (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
BLAME google
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/dodge_daytona_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/dodge_daytona_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Ubber geek (325 comments )
Link Flag
is google protecting spammers using google ads?
I received hundreds of spam comments to sites using Google Ads (Google AdSense and Google AdWords). If you have the same problems, please post your examples on my fighting against spam blog: the spam link, the main site of spammer using google ads and place of spam on your group, blog, guest book...

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://360.yahoo.com/google_is_protecting_spammers" target="_newWindow">http://360.yahoo.com/google_is_protecting_spammers</a>
Thank you!
Posted by google_is_protecting_spam (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
how to resurrect your adsense account
Just like many other publishers, I also had my account shutdown because someone went nuts and generated tons of clicks and then I've figured out how to resurrect my account. Here is whole story with details, including suggestions on whether you can rely to run a business with adSense
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://stason.org/articles/money/how_to_bring_google_adsense_down.html" target="_newWindow">http://stason.org/articles/money/how_to_bring_google_adsense_down.html</a>

-- Stas Bekman
Posted by stas_bekman (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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