Click fraud is a real problem for advertisers. Not many deny that. But just how big of a problem is it? If you listen to companies providing PPC advertising services, it's manageable. They've got things under control.

But a click fraud ring recently uncovered by click fraud monitoring firm Anchor Intelligence may lead you to believe otherwise. The size of this ring is remarkable: it employed over 1,000 people, 10,000 websites and 200,000 IP addresses. All told, Anchor Intelligence reports that it generated $3m worth of fraudulent clicks in a two week period of time before it was discovered.

TechCrunch has the details of Anchor Intelligence's discovery and reports that the click fraud ring, which was based in China, has been shut down. Nobody knows how long it had been in operation and nobody has been arrested. The ring was dubbed DormRing1 "because it was centered in dorms at technical universities in China such as the Shanghai Technology Institute".

Such a click fraud ring is no surprise if you follow the undercurrent of the internet's criminal underground. Botnets are just about everywhere you turn and clever criminals have no shortage of ways to use them to make money. Big money.

PPC ads are an obvious target and while DormRing1 was shut down because its operators got a little too ambitious, there can be little doubt that conservative criminals are operating in a far more subtle manner, slowly separating advertisers from their money a little bit at a time in a distributed fashion. It's no different than stealing pennies from tens of millions of bank accounts.

DormRing1 hints at the breadth and depth of the online networks criminals can build today and so long as the most sophisticated of them are disciplined enough to stay below the radar, the scourge of click fraud will be an endemic part of the PPC market. Maybe on the surface that's not a huge problem. After all, well-managed PPC campaigns can be highly effective and drive significant ROI -- click fraud or not.

But complacency is the last thing that's needed here. Advertisers can't assume that they're not being cheated and that PPC providers are effectively looking out for them. Some proactive effort to mitigate click fraud is often advisable. And PPC providers, whose financial interests are in some ways more closely aligned with online criminals, shouldn't dismiss the potential aggregate effects (and risks) of criminals who are becoming bolder and more sophisticated all the time.

Photo credit: Davichi via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 9 October, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (5)


Joe Cibula

Click fraud aside, the pay-per-click model is ridiculous. Anyone or anything from a botnet to a 3-year-old can click your money away. Read about inverse search at

almost 9 years ago



Really Agree the authors comment. I am aware of atleast one company based in Hyderabad,India, who are doing the same thing as stated click fraud, they have recruited about more than 2000+ people back in 2007 and all of them have some websites related to high paying keywords in google. They will get an excel sheet which states which site they need to visit and click ads on. They need to make sure that they should not click on their own ads.

The company owner made huge money using adsense for referrel back then. I am not sure now about that. I am sure those will not work in long run.

If you want to have your adsense account use it is best possible legitimate way. You can still make good amount of money.

I am not sure why google does not take care of these things.

almost 9 years ago


punch press

I couldn't agree any more

over 8 years ago


filter housing

I hate the click fraud, too

over 8 years ago



I just hate this type of fraud. I personally suffered from this typd of fraud. Can anyone suggest me how we can control this type of fraud

over 8 years ago

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