Online ad fraud is the bane of every good digital marketer’s job. It can be hard to detect and if not nipped in the bud, it destroys all of your valuable website data, making good data driven decisions impossible. For this blog post, we are going to narrow down from general online ad fraud, to email marketing fraud.


Email marketing can be based on a CPA/CPS or CPL

– CPA (Cost-per-Acquisition) or CPS (Cost-per-Sale) are hard to fake as these are paid for on a per sale basis. This means that the email marketer gets paid a commission of every sale, this works particularly well with retail offers.

– CPL (Cost-per-Lead) these are easily faked as the payment is on per form filled in (usually for a service such as insurance, debt consolidation etc). The information usually collected are name, contact details and then a few offer specific fields such as how much debt is owed to how many people etc.

As an email is sent out, the fraudsters send fake/fraud leads through, giving the impression that the campaign is converting into valid leads; generating a pay-out. This is not good for anyone in the chain apart from the fraudster. The company trying to generate leads will not get a good impression of email marketing as they are spending money on leads that aren’t converting and also the company at the top of the chain; supplying the leads, will get a bad reputation. Not to mention that online ad fraud is illegal.


Well there are two main ways of doing this:

Automated systems that run on infected computers, hidden in the background. You can get infected by opening a dodgy email attachment, clicking a dodgy link or downloading the bot thinking you are downloading something else. Once infected, you will not notice any difference to your computer, apart from maybe a slight increase in your CPU. The fraudster can now remotely target ads and landing pages, where the bot will push through as manly leads as possible.

Click farms
These are actually real people! Whether they understand what they are doing or not, who knows. They are paid to sit at a computer and send through realistic leads for the fraud farmer. This, if undetected by affiliate networks can be very costly and provide a high ROI for the fraudsters.

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The legal Do’s and Don’ts of Direct Marketing
How much should you pay for your CPA
PPC Wastage on Ad words-what to do about it?