Click fraud is a sophisticated online crime that targets online advertisers. Criminals, by impersonating legitimate website owners, deceive ad networks into allowing them to place genuine ads on their fraudulent websites. Every time an ad is clicked, advertisers pay ad networks a small fee, which is then passed on to the scammers.

What makes click fraud even more sophisticated is that criminals generate thousands of fake clicks every day. Instead of using people to click on ads, they use “bots” – software that pretends to be people. Bots repeatedly visit fraudulent websites and click on ads, generating revenue for fraudsters.

However, click fraud detection company Polygraph warns that a growing number of legitimate website owners are inadvertently committing crimes and facing the wrath of ad networks themselves.

Trey Waynes, director of marketing for Polygraph, said they are seeing a rise in website owners losing their ad accounts in this way.

“There are companies on the Internet that promise unlimited cheap traffic to website owners. Sounds like a great deal – why bother advertising online when you can just pay a company to send you tons of real website visitors? Well, there’s a catch. More often than not, these real website visitors are bots created by a shipping company and they end up clicking on the website’s ads.”

“From the advertising networks perspective, that’s click fraud. It doesn’t matter that the website owner thought they were buying real visitors. If thousands of bots come to the website and repeatedly click the ads, they’re probably going to get paid for those clicks, even though they’re fake. They’re inadvertently doing the same thing as the click fraudsters.”

Polygraph is urging clients to be extra cautious when using third-party traffic providers to boost the number of visitors to their websites.