Online Advertising Is Fraught With Fraud

Online Advertising Is Fraught With Fraud

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There's a dirty five letter word making the rounds online: fraud.


A witty commercial for Adobe, the software firm, that aired last year showed a blissful team of executives and factory workers, who return to work when they think sales are up for their “Encyclopedia Atlantica”.

It turns out that an adorable baby in nappies is repeatedly clicking “buy” on a computing tablet. Real-world companies share the imaginary encyclopedia publisher’s challenge of correctly sizing their audience, but are troubled by bots, not babies.

A dirty five-letter word is haunting the advertising community: fraud. This year online marketers will spend more than $140 billion on digital advertising globally, but billions will be siphoned off by clever fraudsters, who make money by falsely claiming advertisements have been seen by consumers. Evil-doers infect personal computers with a “bot”, a piece of software that visits websites in the background. It cannot be detected by the user, and is nearly impossible for advertisers to spot, because it shares the real user’s unique “cookie” identifier.

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