Recent reports have surfaced regarding “Methbot”, which is reported to be the largest online marketing fraud scam to date.
Perpetrated by Russian criminals, Methbot targeted high-value American advertisers and used sophisticated software to trick anti-fraud systems. Here’s more information about the Methbot scam, including what it means for your business.
What is Methbot?
- Methbot were a group of Russian hackers that made millions out of selling ad space on fake websites.
- Russian hackers faked “premium” websites such as Vogue.com and CNN.com to sell ad space to legitimate advertisers using video ads.
- The fake ad space then displayed video ads created and placed by real advertisers.
- The Russian hackers made money out of this ad space by sending Robot Traffic to their fake websites. Every time their ad was viewed by the Robot Traffic the Russian hackers received a commission.
- The technology used by the Russian Hackers was incredibly advanced and would not be easily duplicated.
- The scam was shut down by a digital advertising fraud security firm White Ops and The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG).
How does the Methbot scam affect my business?
- If you are an American business who placed a premium video ad with an “Cost per Impression” objective between September 2015 and December 2016, you may have been affected by the Methbot traffic.
- While this scam has been shut down, if there ever appears to be any issues with your online advertising, your online advertising provider can request an investigation from the online advertising platform (such as Google).
How can I combat online advertising fraud?
Online scams are a reality of the online marketing industry. The good news is that Google AdWords and other digital marketing organisations are constantly working together to shut down known scams and minimise the impact of even the most complex operations.
Here are some other precautions you can take to help ensure your advertising dollars are reaching meaningful, human audiences:
- Work with a reputable, certified online advertising agency to ensure your ads and traffic can be properly administered and analysed.
- Use trusted online advertising platforms, such as Google, who participate in anti-fraud initiatives – TAG has certified a number of organisations.
- Review monthly online marketing reports to verify that your online activity is in line with your recent business activity. Communicate any discrepancies to your online marketing manager (ie “We had 5,000 visits to the website this month, but zero sales…”) so that they can further investigate any inconsistencies.