Is Click Fraud Illegal? Can You Go to Jail for Ad Fraud?

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Is Click Fraud Illegal? Can You Go to Jail for Ad Fraud?

Photo by Lex Photography

Are you worried that you might end up on this website if you do either click fraud or ad fraud? You can rest a bit easy for now since the law is not that clear about what can happen when people do these things. “Murky” would be the best word to describe the state of those laws.

It can also depend on where in the world the click or ad fraud is occurring. You definitely do not want to be caught doing this in the United States. Other countries, though, are not as specific or punitive when it comes to click or ad fraud.

What Is It?

When you set up an online ad, you want to get people to click on the ad. If you work for a competitor, though, you might set up some bots to do false-clicking. That can wind up eating away at the budget, since the advertisers only pay for a certain number of clicks and anything that goes over will cost them more money. If the people that you are doing this find out that it is you, you could have the authorities coming after you.

Ad fraud tends to be a much more sophisticated operation. Rather than individuals, they bring in botnets and also malware, which can cause unsuspecting people to have their computers or phones doing this behind the scenes, undetected. They also create websites that look just like the victims’ and any money that is sent that way goes right to their own bank accounts. This is known as spoofing. Unfortunately, people don’t always check if a website is legitimate, which is also a problem with credit card theft.

The Penalties

When it comes to click fraud or ad fraud, a lot of countries don’t have laws that specifically pertain to those crimes. Instead, they lump them in with crimes that are against cybersecurity or information technology.

There are certain aspects that the authorities will try to look for when they are prosecuting someone for click fraud – they search for proof of things like money laundering, data theft, wire fraud, and deception. They also are on the lookout for signs of things like trade secrets being stolen or any bribery. Basically, they are trying to keep one company or individual from having an unfair advantage over another.

Overall, the world is adding digital rights to their laws since computers and the Internet are so prevalent and vital in running businesses. Entire careers are staked to this, so they need to be protected as much as possible. It can also be difficult if the people in one country are committing click fraud or ad fraud on people in another country. While many of them have extradition treaties, some don’t.

Ultimately, the penalties tend to be fines and up to a year in prison for most cases. There have been harsher ones but those tend to get knocked down to the less severe levels of punishment. It’s largely considered a white collar crime.

he main thing that makes it difficult to prosecute these things is that it can be hard to find concrete evidence that a certain person or company is actually responsible for the click fraud or the ad fraud. The so-called proof is often hidden in a maze of computer networks that can rival the one Theseus went into. Fortunately, there is no Minotaur inside to wreak havoc on people trying to find the evidence.

People are also concerned about click fraud being perpetuated against them. There are companies out there that can protect them and also find proof of that said click fraud. It’s not a small matter either – companies can lose a lot of their online advertising budget due to click fraud.

You could find yourself possibly going to jail for click or ad fraud. It may also depend on where you rank in the hierarchy of those who committed the crime. The authorities tend to go after those who are behind it, not the middlemen or the lower tier people. They want to get it at the head, not the rest of the body.

This is something that is going to become even more prevalent over the years as advertising continues to become digital. More and more people will get bolder. Time will tell if the penalties get more teeth as the years go by. Those who get caught may face more jail time than before. Then a new form of advertising may take shape for people to try to take advantage of.

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