Click fraud is a form of cyber crime.  It occurs when someone clicks on your "pay per click" advertisement in order to cost you money, with no intention of doing business with you.  Fraudulent clicks can be done by a person, automated script, online robot (bot), or computer program.  Attempting to appear as a legitimate internet user, the false clicks are designed to create an artificially large number of clicks.  This costs advertisers billions of dollars per year.  In 2006, law suits against internet giants Google and Yahoo! resulted in both companies agreeing to refund millions of dollars to advertisers who were wrongfully charged for click fraud.

Why is Click Fraud Committed?

There are two basic reasons for someone to commit click fraud:

  • Increased Profits for Webmasters  Who Publish Ads -  If a webmaster charges advertisers by the click, they may use a click fraud scheme as a way to increase profits.  By artificially increasing the number of clicks, a webmaster can run up the bill on an unsuspecting advertiser.
  • Competition Among Advertisers - Advertisers who are competing in the same market area may use click fraud to drain money from their rival's advertising budgets.  While not directly increasing their own profits, a competitor can cost a rival large sums of money by artificially increasing the number of clicks on their ads.

Is Click Fraud Illegal?

Using a computer to commit click fraud is a felony in many jurisdictions, such as California.  Currently, marketing lobbyists are seeking to have federal anti-click fraud laws passed.  However, few legal remedies currently exist.

How Can I Tell if my Business is Being Targeted by Click Fraud?

Currently it is very difficult to determine if your business is a victim of click fraud.  However, there are several signs that may indicate click fraud.

  • Sudden and dramatic changes in click counts
  • Intermittent periods of extremely high click counts, followed by periods of relative stability
  • Significant click count differences in very similar terms.  For example, three times as many clicks on "San Francisco Lawyer" as "San Francisco Lawyers"
  • Clicks from parts of the world where business is not conducted
  • Unusually high click activity on expensive key words

What Should I do if I Believe That my Business is a Victim of Click Fraud?

If you believe that your business is being overcharged for pay per click advertisements due to click fraud, you should contact the webmaster of the website on which you advertise immediately.  Alerting them to potential click fraud can save you money.  The webmaster or website owner may refund money for clicks that are found to be fraudulent.  Google and Yahoo! have both agreed to refund large amounts of money to overcharged advertisers. 

Do I need a Lawyer for my Click Fraud Problem?

Yes.  Pressure is being put on the Legislature to pass laws aimed at preventing click fraud.  A business attorney will be familiar with these new and changing laws.  Additionally, your attorney will be able to help you get money refunded if you have been overcharged due to click fraud.  Your attorney will help ensure that your business's rights and assets are protected.