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AIT Weaves Tales Of Click-Fraud Networks

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2005-12-16

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Web-hosting company AIT CEO Clarence Briggs can't tell you much about the company's taking over the lead for Click Defense in a class action lawsuit against Google. "It's a bunch of legal stuff," he says. What he can do is take you on a journey of retailers that sell click fraud software, of affiliate networks set up to dupe advertisers with automated clicks, and computer geeks with mob-like tendencies.

Briggs says AIT has lost up to $500,000 to fraudulent clicks, most which come from over seas IP addresses. WebProNews reported on his company's lawsuit last week after an exclusive interview with him. The report detailed how Briggs struggled with the idea of setting up a fraudulent network that took advantage of click-fraud software or going after the click-fraud ring.

"There are so many of these affiliate pages out there. It's unbelievable," Briggs told WebProNews.

The sheer number of fraud networks that register websites only to display sponsored links that are mechanically clicked (Briggs estimates in the millions) is the prime reason his company decided to go after Google, whom the company accuses of tolerating the fraud-a choice between one behemoth company or scores of tiny domestic and foreign companies.

"I've never seen anything on this scale," said Briggs. "And forensically, it's difficult to prove."

Affiliate pages, like this one, are cheap and easy to set up. And it's also easy to become part of an affiliate network.

"Once you set up a site you can literally see yourself make money," said Briggs.

Using software like Caca Clicking Agent, found on this website registered to a Russian by the name of Anatoly Smelkov, webmasters can automate ad impressions and clicking, generating revenue for the affiliate webmasters.

From the site:

"Take your chance, try to fool advertisement companies and earn money! This utility lets you automate the process of showing and clicking ads on your web-pages."

Or take testifier Gaia DiLoreto's word for it:

"We are computer consultants ourselves, and qualified to recommend one software over another. Caca is a HUGE help for fooling the sponsors, and a must-have program in our opinion. Our comments are completely unsolicited, and quite sincere."

Briggs said AIT has been watching syndicated pages and click-fraud software company websites for months.

"The funny part is they have a copyright on there too like they don't want you do something illegal," he said. "Some of this software is so sophisticated you can vary the rate of clicks," he continued illustrating that click-frauders are getting craftier at duping the industry.

After noticing a rash of overseas clicking on AIT ads, Briggs confronted the company who's IP address had been tracked. The company denied all knowledge of the clicking. The next day, Briggs was contacted by another company claiming to be able to protect him from click fraud for a fee.

"You know what this sounds like don't you? It sounds like the mob," he said. "Instead of two big bruisers named Deano and Vito, what you have are two guys with glasses behind computers who are the new mob."

More to come on the AIT/Google saga…

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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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