It’s been a while since I’ve seen click fraud in the news, but this Times story caught my eye, in particular because it was Microsoft. Google usually gets all the headlines around this issue, but it’s interesting to see Microsoft leading the charge in this arena. The story is worth reading, it sheds some light on the darker underpinnings of the search economy. From it:
Microsoft’s theory is that Mr. Lam was running or working for low-ranking sites that took potential client information for auto insurers. The complaint said that he directed traffic to competitors’ Web sites so they would pay for those clicks and exhaust their advertising budgets quickly, which let the lower-ranking sites that he sponsored move up in the paid-search results.
When people clicked through to his site, it asked them to supply contact information, which he then resold to auto insurance companies, according to Microsoft’s complaint, which estimated his profit at $250,000. In the complaint, it also said it had to credit back $1.5 million to advertisers because of the Lams’ alleged fake clicks. Microsoft is seeking $750,000 in damages from the defendants.
Although small advertisers have sued search firms, complaining the firms did not do enough to prevent fraudulent clicks, this is among the first cases where a search provider has gone after a suspected perpetrator.