View Full Version : Google sues Adsense affiliate for click fraud

Robert from SI
11-18-2004, 08:47 PM
They are suing a company in Houston for inflating their Adsense click throughs.

Sorry I fdon't have a link for you...I suppose it'll be in the news tomorrow.

11-18-2004, 11:15 PM
Good. There seems to have been a little uptick in fraudulent activity lately. Our AdWords account was credited for $13.xx in illegitimate clicks last week; this being the first time in many months that I've seen a refund come through our account.

While AdSense remains one of the most promising tools in Google's media arsenal given that they are certain to lose market share as a stand-alone search destination next year, it's also arguably the avenue faced with the greatest risks as pertains to fraud.

11-19-2004, 12:42 AM
Let's hope we see more of this sort of thing; I'm sure fraud is one of the big reasons why many of our AdSense earnings have been slowly declining ... Google has to pay out less to cover the fraud :(

11-19-2004, 04:32 AM
I hope the find a good way to counteract fraud, instead of just disabling accounts for honest publishers. As said in the privious thread, a lot of people have been banned as of late. and granted, I know a lot of then, even though they cry foul were cheating themselves, but a lot of pusbishers such as myself were deleted with no cause what so ever. they claimed fraudulant clicks, but I'm not buying it. I never once clicked on of my own adds, and we're not in a niche where a competitor would want to run us out.

Luckily I use many different networks as back ups and never rely on one sorce. So we're back to using the companies who we have been using for years who never had an issue with the traffic we give them 9Fast Click, Burst, Tribal, Mamma's Media, Realcast, JoeTech and a few others) I just never understood how google had a problem yet none of the other companies have ever had a problem and have even contacted us telling us how good the traffic is and asking for more impressions. And it's not like we're using shaddy companies either.

I don't think google had done anything back handed with the banning as of late, I just think their policy and investigation work on such issues need a lot of work. Cause like I said, they are a lot of cheaters out there, but a lot of honest publishers get ccaught in the cross fire

11-19-2004, 11:16 PM
They are suing a company in Houston for inflating their Adsense click throughs. Robert - I sure would like to know more of this. Nothing on searches yet. If you find a source please do share. I am mostly curious to know the company, being in Houston myself.

11-20-2004, 09:05 AM
One of the issues I always had with fraud detection/prevention is how do you know it's the publisher doing it.

Let's say there are 3 big sites in a particular niche using AdSense. What's to stop one of them from running a bad clickbot against the other 2 and getting them kicked out of AdSense? Especially in niches where AdSense does really well this could be a huge competitive advantage.

If anti-fraud measures are limited to just denying payment for fraudulent clicks it won't happen but that's such a small penalty to pay that it also won't deter the real cheaters.

11-20-2004, 02:47 PM
This should be one interesting lawsuit. How can they prove the fraud in court - i.e. beyond a reasonable doubt - when it seems that clicks can be so easily manipulated by competitors.

I use both adwords and adsense and I"m all for fighting fraud in any possible way, but I just don't know how they can prove it in court.

11-20-2004, 04:10 PM
Did a Google news search for this and couldn't find anything. BUT I did find this article which really talks about click fraud and a previous Google action against an individual. Plus the "click fraud industry".

However, it wasn't until March of this year that the click fraud cottage industry came under a major spotlight. The Pandora's Box busted open after a 32-year-old California man was arrested and charged with extortion and wire fraud in connection with the software he developed called Google Clique. Google Clique was designed to automatically click on paid ads, while remaining virtually undetectable by the search engine.

Here is a link to the full article. http://www.payperclickanalyst.com/article-dmitri-eroshenko-005.htm

Ted S
11-20-2004, 05:47 PM
Originally posted by Anat
This should be one interesting lawsuit. How can they prove the fraud in court - i.e. beyond a reasonable doubt - when it seems that clicks can be so easily manipulated by competitors.

This isn’t a criminal case, the publisher isn’t going to jail, they are being sued for fraud and thus the burden is to have a preponderance of the evidence which is far less then beyond a reasonable doubt. I would imagine that Google picked this publisher because they had a LOT of fraudulent traffic easily tracked and shown to be what it was (i.e. thousands of clicks from a script/bot originating from the same IP address). The publisher may try and say the clicks came from competitors but I would imagine there is a lot more to it then just a few false clicks.

11-20-2004, 07:08 PM
Agreed; I'm sure there's plenty of attempted AdSense fraud going on, and Google would have carefully picked this case because they knew there was persuasive evidence ... ex, the clicks are all coming from the same IPs, and the IPs all seem to be from the same geographic location as the company ... hmmmmmmm ;)

Robert from SI
11-20-2004, 09:05 PM
Here is a snippet of the article sent to me.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Internet search giant Google Inc. filed a lawsuit against one of its AdSense Online clients this week, claiming the company defrauded the search company by clicking on its own ads multiple times.
The case, filed in Santa Clara County Court, also alleges that Houston, Texas-based Auctions Expert International were in breach of their contract with Google for intentionally manipulating the advertising program.

AdSense allows for “unobtrusive and context-sensitive advertising,” according to Google, by linking a web user’s queries with similar advertising.

“The advertiser pays Google for the user’s click and Google, in turn, pays the majority of the money it receives back to the website author,” Google said in its legal filing.

The AdSense agreements, though, expressly bar any company from clicking on its own sites in order to create ad revenue or to pay other people to click on the company’s sites.

“[Auctions Expert] flagrantly abused the AdSense Online service by artificially and/or fraudulently generating ad clicks,” the complaint stated. “These clicks were worthless to advertisers because they generated significant and unjust revenue for the defendants, who were paid by Google as if the clicks were legitimate.”

11-20-2004, 09:59 PM
Thanks Robert. Here is a link to the same article recently shared with me.

< URL snipped due to the presence of a great deal of adult-oriented material on destination site. Please see below for transcript details. >

11-20-2004, 11:07 PM

But why is this action kinda a secret given the fact that the case was filed on 11/15/04.

For your reading pleasure direct from the Superior Court records:


THe following defendents are of course innocent untill proven guilty and will have thier day in court.

Against: Auction Expert International L.L.C. / DEF
Against: Sergio Morfin / DEF
Against: Alexei Leonov / DEF

Take a gander at their site:


I wounder if all their advertisers and other affiliate networks are aware of this action which is yet to be resolved?


11-21-2004, 08:46 AM
As per the snipped post above, please find following the remainder of the article posted in relation to this story:Pay-per-click fraud has been a hot topic recently for Google over the past year.

In March, 32-year-old Michael Bradley was arrested by the FBI after he developed a piece of software called “Google Clique” that roamed the Internet, clicking on AdSense advertisements.

Bradley first tried to sell his software to the search company for $100,000, and then, when Google failed to respond, threatened to release the program to the “top 100 spammers.”

Google also mentioned the subject in its April IPO filing with the SEC as a potential threat to its stock viability.

“We have regularly paid refunds related to fraudulent clicks and expect to do so in the future,” said Google. “If we are unable to stop this fraudulent activity, these refunds may increase.”

Calls to Google attorney David H. Kramer, with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto, were not returned as of this posting.

The case is Google Inc. Vs. Auction Expert International L.L.C., et al., CV030560.
Thanks to long-time lurker larwee for this contribution.

11-22-2004, 10:06 PM
I was a lurker for more than 5 years.

I am proud to say I am no longer a lurker since I have now joined Geek/Talk.

I introduced myself in geek/yak, so this is my first official post.

I sent the article mentioned in above postings to the people in this thread who had said they wanted to know more after Robert from SI started the thread. It ended up being posted in two parts by Robert from SI and Czar.

There is another article that I think is even better than the one above. It contains more details, as well as other information that is both interesting and useful.

I have posted it below.

Google gets gruff over click fraud

Stefanie Olsen, Special to ZDNet
November 23, 2004

Google filed a lawsuit against an Internet operation that it claims systematically clicked on text ads to defraud its advertising network.

The case, filed November 15 in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County in California, is among the first civil lawsuits to relate to click fraud. The lawsuit charges that Texas-based Auctions Expert International signed up to display Google's targeted text advertising on its Web site, and then fraudulently clicked on the ads to profit from its pay-per-click system.

Google and others are under scrutiny as advertisers grow concerned about phony clicks."Because advertisers pay Google for each click on their advertisements, Google strives to ensure that each click is generated by a user legitimately interested in accessing the site being advertised," according to the complaint.

"Defendants...flagrantly abused (Google's service) by artificially and/or fraudulently generating ad clicks," the filing says. "These clicks were worthless to advertisers, but generated significant and unjust revenue for defendants."

Mountain View, California-based Google did not say how much money was lost, but the company is seeking compensatory and punitive damages to be determined at trial.

As old as Internet advertising itself, click fraud is the practice of inflating traffic to advertisements or Web sites for profit. It has proliferated as Google, Overture Services and others have built multibillion-dollar, pay-per-click ad services that pair sponsored listings with related search results. With each click of a sponsored text link, they collect fees from advertisers, and then often share that revenue with publishing partners that display those ads.

The fraud is perpetrated in both automated and human ways. The most common method is the use of online robots, or "bots," programmed to click on advertisers' links that are displayed on Web sites or listed in search queries. A growing alternative employs low-cost workers who are hired in China, India and other countries to click on text links and other ads. A third form of fraud takes place when employees of companies click on rivals' ads to deplete their marketing budgets and skew search results.

According to Google's complaint, Auctions Expert erected its Web site and signed up for its Adsense programs with the sole intention of generating false clicks and collecting advertiser fees.

Click fraud is a 600-pound elephant in the room of the search-advertising market, the fastest-growing sector of online advertising. While no one is certain of how much money is generated fraudulently, some executives in the industry estimate losses account for 5 percent to 20 percent of total sales. Some suspect the problem is growing, too, as Google, Overture and others syndicate their ads to small or international publishers that can be hard to police.

Unlike advertising in traditional media such as billboards and print publications, "cost per click" Internet ads displayed with specific keyword searches have been promoted as a definitive way for companies to gauge their exposure to potential customers. As a result, U.S. sales from advertiser-paid search results are expected to grow 25 percent this year to US$3.2 billion, up from US$2.5 billion in 2003, according to research firm eMarketer. From 2002 to 2003, the market rose by 175 percent.

Google spokesman Steve Langdon confirmed the lawsuit and said the company is vigilant in protecting its advertisers and the integrity of its programs.

"We have sophisticated technology that detects and eliminates fraud," Langdon said. "This lawsuit against Auctions Expert demonstrates the success of our antifraud system and that we will take legal action when appropriate."

Still, at least one marketing executive said the lawsuit is proof that Google's fraud detection technology is not as foolproof as it would like advertisers to believe.

"We know Google doesn't need to seek funds," said Jessie Stricchiola, president of Alchemist Media, a search-engine marketing firm based in Los Angeles.

"This is a politically strategic move in the industry to show that Google's protecting its advertisers. But that could be a distraction from the glaring truth that its high-end technology doesn't protect advertisers as much as it should," Stricchiola said.

Earlier this year, Google's service was at the center of a criminal case related to click fraud. A California man created a software program that he claimed could let spammers bilk Google out of millions of dollars in fraudulent clicks. Authorities said he was arrested while trying to blackmail Google for US$150,000 to hand over the program. He was indicted by a California jury last June.

The current suit names Auctions Expert International and its owners Sergio Morfin and Alexei Leonov as perpetrators of click fraud and of breach of contract with Google Adsense Online's terms of service. However, Google said in the suit that it does not know the true identities of the defendants. It said it will amend the suit once their identities are known.

Auctions Expert's Web site was inaccessible Monday.

David Kramer, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati who represents Google, said the suit should be a warning shot to other rogue operators.

"It sends a message to people participating in Google's advertising network that just because it's online, it doesn't make it OK to commit fraud," Kramer said.

URL: http://www.zdnet.com.au/news/softwa...39167600,00.htm

Copyright © 2004 CNET Networks, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
ZDNET is a registered service mark of CNET Networks, Inc. ZDNET Logo is a service mark of CNET NETWORKS, Inc.

Robert from SI
11-22-2004, 11:22 PM
"We have sophisticated technology that detects and eliminates fraud,"

Says the Google spokesman as he comments on Google suing a company for commiting fraud.

Does anyone else see the irony in this?


Aaron Dragushan
11-22-2004, 11:24 PM
larwee - thanks for contributing and welcome to geek/talk!

11-23-2004, 02:02 AM
Hi larwee,

Welcome to the "village" :) Great to have you FINALLY appear! :)

G already PAID this affiliate. The check was cashed. The demand for return of the funds was made. Thats a very critical issue which seems to be somewhat diluted by some of the PR spin. You are supposed to catch them BEFORE the check clears.

You normally DON'T sue unless this occurs since you generally have no damage incurred.

For example, you catch a cheater before the check is cut and cashed/cleared, terminate the fraudster and credit back funds to the advertiser. Sometimes you issue a stop order on the check. Iv'e never seen a Superior Court action under these circumstances.

Natch, I'm not an attorney but this should be self evident!

Edit: Try this link for the article:


11-23-2004, 02:52 AM
It's 1999 all over again.

Click and impression fraud used to be the hottest issue in online advertising, with operators of 'get-paid-to-surf' programs and early CPC-based ad networks virtually crippled by simplistic devices and methods in the late 90s and into 2000-2001. The issue appeared to fall from the radar of mainstream online advertising for a couple of years after that as online ad spending began to dry up and advertisers moved to support CPM-based networks that placed an explicit emphasis on fraud prevention.

Many in the industry (including a huge number of Geek/Talkers) have long feared that this issue would inevitably arise to challenge AdSense extraordinarily. While it's easy to guard against the more simplistic software-based methods and proxy exploits, AdSense's supreme roster of advertisers and their high rates of pay serve as irresistable carrots dangling in front of hungry click fraudsters.

What worries me is not only a rise in the use of devices that have been developed explusively for use in exploiting AdSense, but the presence of requests on programmer BBs and freelance marketplaces for people to click on ads a given number of times a day in exchange for a share in the revenues. These worrying trends, along with exploitation by orchestrated criminal networks, are threats not only to AdWords advertisers but to the viability of AdSense itself.

We've already seen a number of publishers expelled from the network this month who claim to have done nothnig in breach of Google's terms. This could very well be the case, as it was when high rates of 'innocent' publishers were expelled from networks in the late 90s due to poor validation systems employed by networks at the time. If Google can't discriminate between genuine fraud and either anti-competitive clicking or normal human/bot activity, much more collateral damage may be suffered before fraud is diminished as a major issue for the network.

This is a worrying trend and while I wouldn't like to be in Google's shoes right now, I have my fingers crossed that other Geek/Talkers are spared from having their accounts deactivated due to hostile or genuinely irregular click activity.

11-23-2004, 01:21 PM
Originally posted by Steve_S

G already PAID this affiliate. The check was cashed. The demand for return of the funds was made. Thats a very critical issue which seems to be somewhat diluted by some of the PR spin. You are supposed to catch them BEFORE the check clears.

You normally DON'T sue unless this occurs since you generally have no damage incurred.

But to be fair to google, if it was a sophisticated play across numerous accounts it might not be "catchable" the first month or so because you might dismiss it as just a stats irregularity, we have all probably seen sites of ours have giant traffic spikes when google falls just right or stories get passed around the bloggers etc. So I think if anything, this shows that google just doesn't dismiss high paying sites out of hand as some try to insist they do.


11-23-2004, 06:39 PM
I'm not surprised at all that the owner of the company that is sued by Google is a Russian national (or Russian-American)...

<Snipped defamatory remarks. Firstly, Google has stated that it has yet to confirm the true identities of its defendants. The two names appearing in the claim may be false. Secondly, this BB does not tolerate discrimination/generalisation based on one's nationality. People from many countries are responsible for spamming and other rogue activities online. In fact, the country that still produces the largest volume of spam globally is a highly developed western nation that maintains only 5% of the world's population, so suggesting that Google should be wary of working with people simply because their names appear to reflect a particular foreign nationality is largely irrational.>

11-23-2004, 08:36 PM
PageUP the co-founders of Google are:

Larry Page born in East Lansing, Michigan
Sergey Brin born in Moscow, RUSSIA

11-24-2004, 06:54 AM
<<Edited in Czars absence>>

11-24-2004, 09:52 AM
PageUp, please refrain from targetting a certain country in regards to abuse. It is rife everywhere and may be more obvious from certain countries because of the sheer population of such.

Thanks for your future co-operation in advance :)

07-05-2005, 08:32 PM
Yes, my beloved GEEKS its an old thread but JUDGEMENT has been granted in this case to G for 75 K :

Against: Auction Expert International L.L.C. / DEF
Against: Sergio Morfin / DEF
Against: Alexei Leonov / DEF

Dated: 05/17/2005



Current News:


Thoughts: G needs to sue dozens more. Just do it and send loud signals accross the planet. Why keep this so quiet G. Leak the news to the press back in May. Next, a debtors exam and actually attempt to collect the Judgement. Hire a PI, follow the money trail, continue to feed the press with "leaks" and get your "INK"

HTH :)

07-07-2005, 07:26 PM
It is intriguing that Google didn't have a field day with this judgement. Perhaps back in May the company felt that its best course of action would be to avoid issuing any release that deals with click fraud in an effort to keep the concept out of the headlines. This date also corresponds fairly closely with the network's debut of the CPM-based site targetting feature, which was a proactive gesture aimed at subtly sending a message to the market that click fraud could be battled through evasion (whether the message made sense or not is another matter).

The only other factor that seems to have possibly had a bearing is the fact that Google certainly realises that even a quiet judgement will be heard by the underground elements that the network is trying to target. While small operators who click on a few of their own AdSense ads from the comfort of their bedroom may not have heard of the $75K fine, it's almost certain that organised, commercial operators would have felt the ripples within days of the announcement. Perhaps Google felt that this was a safe medium between serving as a moderate deterrent and keeping the issue out of the public eye for a few weeks.

Since G has suffered from a number of click fraud related articles during the past two months, however, perhaps they'd take a different strategic approach if the judgement had been presented in July rather than May. Nowadays, they'd surely see that a release that discusses click fraud is not necessarily going to do the company harm, as long as the release puts a positive spin on the topic by making G seem either inpenetrable (which it isn't) or determined enough to mean business in protecting its advertisers' accounts from fraud (which it hopefully is).

At least we heard about the outcome, thanks to the savvy PI work of Steve. :D