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Ad buying scams

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Tuesday November 3, 2009 )

Phoney ad buyers are causing havoc around the web by getting unwitting publishers to help them spread malware. This is an important issue for all site owners who make their money from ad revenue to be aware of.

The scam usually operates in this way:

A party claiming to be an ad executive or marketer approaches a site owner using an email address that appears to be credible as it contains the name of a recognizable company.

The “ad buyer” usually asks for a campaign to be run as soon as possible, often over weekend, and will offer a good price for speedy turnaround. The ads being run will then place malware on the machines of visitors who arrive on the publisher’s site; infecting systems with software that will harvest sensitive information or turning the computers into “zombies” to be used as part of a bot network.

What makes these scams difficult to spot is the professionalism of the perpetrators and the intermittent nature of the attacks once the ads are running – sometimes the malware will be installed randomly, making it harder for those infected to track the source and alert the site owner and to also help evade testing run by the publisher.

Some of these ad buyers will have no qualms in having a phone conversation with you and the language they use is sufficient in terms of industry knowledge to convince site owners they are legitimate media buyers.

While these elaborate ad buyer scams appear to have a preference for targeting larger sites, even small content site owners should get up to speed on how these schemes operate. Running one of these campaigns, even accidentally would not only be embarrassing, it could spell death for your site once word gets around. If Google happens to index your site why the malware is being served, you may also wind up with one of the dreaded “Warning: this site may harm your computer” flag accompanying your Google listings.

There’s a great article about these ad buying scams on Adage that goes into more detail – well worth reading.


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