COVID Feature: Click Right Here

Close-up photo of a woman using a smart phone app to type in the amount of cryptocurrency she wants to sell.

Click fraud is a type of fraud where the owners of websites are paid a certain amount every time someone clicks on the ads featured on their website. This fraud can drain advertisers of their funds and put money in the pockets of website owners.

This type of fraud has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic which has led to billions of dollars being wasted by advertisers. ClickCease conducted a study analyzing more than 1.8 billion clicks across 78 countries.

They concluded that fake ad clicks have increased 62 percent between May and June due to the primary peak of the coronavirus pandemic. ClickCease’s fraud detection engine determined that the fake ad clicks are being generated manually and by automated bots. (Humans are even becoming too lazy to commit fraud on their own.)

Their analysis also determined that out of 1.8 billion clicks, 14 percent of search traffic was fraudulent. Furthermore, 85 percent of the fraudulent clicks originated from mobile devices as people are spending an increased amount of time on their devices during the pandemic. (I’d say the average teen spends 85 percent of their time on their phone regardless of a pandemic or not.)  

Paid search marketing matches ads with users based on their search activity in an attempt to have them click on the ads and spend money. (Ever wonder why you get a million ads for  luxury hotels when you only searched for accommodations once?) This kind of marketing is crucial to reignite the economy during times of economic downfall as the market is largely dependent upon the actions of consumers. (Crucial or annoying? You decide.)  

Mobile devices have the potential to generate tons of revenue but can also cost companies a fortune in wasted advertising due to invalid clicks. The publisher of the site benefits as their profit increases. The advertiser loses funds as they must pay the site for the click regardless of legitimacy. This imbalance throws off companies expected costs versus revenue projections. 

Coronavirus has generated an increase in time spent online and the frequency with which consumers purchase from online retailers. These consumer behavior trends are expected to continue for the duration of the pandemic and correlate with company’s marketing plans.

Fraudsters also take notice of the changing behaviors and use it as an opportunity to take advantage of changing trends for their own financial gain. (Unfortunately, trying to predict the behavior of fraudsters is like trying to herd cats.)  At the end of the day it may be consumers and marketers who are paying the price for the manipulative actions of fraudsters.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Mobile click fraud jumped 62% during peak COVID-19 months,” published by Campaign Live on July 20, 2020.

Click fraud is a $24 billion global problem that involves generating fake ad clicks either manually or via bots, and the issue has been getting worse on mobile devices amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

During peak coronavirus months, mobile click fraud increased 62 percent, according to “Trends in Mobile Click Fraud during Covid-19,” a study by ClickCease. The research looked at more than 1.8 billion clicks across 5,000-plus online ad accounts in 78 countries. The clicks were analyzed using the ClickCease fraud detection engine, which uncovers non-human, fraudulent or invalid clicks.


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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.