AIT has supplied WebmasterRadio.FM with several documents supporting their allegations of fraud and evasion

AIT has supplied WebmasterRadio.FM with several documents supporting their allegations of fraud and evasion post thumbnail image

AIT has supplied WebmasterRadio.FM with several documents supporting their allegations of fraud and evasion. These documents are available to registered journalists and tech-bloggers on the WebmasterRadio.FM website or by written request to jim – at – webmasterradio.fm/.

Before joining the class-action, AIT attempted to work with Google AdReps to seek explanation and remedy. In a letter to Google Reps Bret H, and Melissa L, (last names not included, as per Google policy), dated Thursday September 6, 2005, AIT’s Vice President of Marketing, John Horton outlined AIT’s concerns. “After analyzing our log files with respect to our Google PPC traffic, we have concluded that an alarming percentage of the clicks AIT has recorded is [sic] fraudulent.”

Mr. Horton’s letter continues to outline the steps AIT techs took and the evidence gained that informed their conclusions.

“Our methodology began with the raw log files and eliminating any BOT traffic. Then we eliminated anything that was not a paid click from Google. Next we looked at IP addresses and class C blocks for suspicious activity – multiple clicks from Google on the same day at nearly the same time repeatedly with no time spent on our site from the same class C blocks of IP addresses or exact IP. We then looked at session and cookie activity – multiple clicks from Google on the same day from the same user with no time spent on our site. Other disturbing findings include an inordinate amount of clicks from Asian networks and odd local times for anyone to be clicking. This click thru fraud represents a substantial amount of our total Google traffic.”

Before informing Bret and Melissa that AIT’s legal department and CFO were getting involved, Mr. Horton requests advice on how to best proceed. (BofA Ltr.PDF – page8)

On behalf of Google, Bret responded to Mr. Horton’s request telling him that the matter had been passed to Google’s “… invalid click specialists,” who would review the account and contact him in the coming days. In a bid to reassure AIT that, “… the security of Google AdWords advertisers is a top priority for Google,” Bret cites what appear to be boilerplate paragraphs explaining how Google detects invalid clicks. (BofA Ltr. PDF – page10)

A few days later, AIT began the process of documenting their reasons for demanding a refund on their corporate credit card. That document is the 83 page Bank of America PDF (BofA Ltr.pdf) found in the WebmasterRadio media center.

Feeling he was failing to get remedy from his Google reps, Mr. Briggs began looking at the two class actions forming, one in Arkansas, and the other in California. His story is documented in a WebmasterRadio interview conducted in New York on November 7, 2006.

The initial interview with Mr. Briggs was conducted in a busy hall way at the ad:Tech conference. In it, Mr. Briggs outlines his case. As he does, he makes some very controversial claims, including one linking Google AdWords to organizations involved in the funding of terrorist groups. After an investigation by WebmasterRadio.fm found examples of Google advertising in highly questionable places, we began working our contact lists to find sources to go on the record.

A little digging goes a long way when you want to get to the bottom of a problem. Unfortunately, after a little digging, we discovered we were only scratching the surface. We were looking for direct linkage in a world where the shadows provide safety for scoundrels.

Though we found enough in the open to know we were on a hot trail, (such as the Orkut material presented in the WebmasterRadio.FM media center), none of it could be used to nail a direct connection between criminal or terrorist related activity.

I was able to obtain an interview with a young Iraqi man named Waleed who claims to have been behind the lines in Falujah during one of the assaults on the city. Waleed outlines how monies raised through several popular blogs, including SalamPax, and Where’s Rahid, were funneled towards smuggling goods into Falujah.

Waleed worked as a translator, fixer and photo-journalist for the BBC, Al Jazeera, Christian Science Monitor, and other publications while in Iraq. While he has a political message behind his words, his description of how the money is transformed into supplies and moved into the warzone makes sense. The interview was conducted in a noisy cybercafé and the sound quality is not as high as radio quality would normally demand. In the coming days, a transcript will be posted to the media center at WebmasterRadio.FM.

Also, in our investigation of Mr. Briggs’ claims, we became interested in bot-nets and their effect on click fraud. I was able to interview Ryan Sherstobitoff, a security evangelist from Panda Software. That interview became an article, “The Silent Epidemic of BotNets“, which ran in SiteProNews.com last week. In the article, Mr. Sherstobitoff outlines what Panda Software found during the investigation that led to the dismantling of a 50,000 PC botnet earlier this year.

While WebmasterRadio’s investigation continues, we feel we have opened and attempted to answer enough questions to bring the issue public. This is going to be an ongoing series on click fraud in our efforts to initiate an industry wide effort to discuss, examine and eradicate click fraud. Stay tuned for a lot more information.

About The Author
Search marketing expert Jim Hedger is one of the most prolific writers in the search sector with articles appearing in numerous search related websites and newsletters, including SiteProNews, Search Engine Journal, ISEDB.com, and Search Engine Guide.

He is the co-founder of Markland Media, an independent search marketing journalist for Webmaster Radio and the Executive Editor for the Jayde Online news sources SEO-News and SiteProNews.

All of this talk about terrorists being funded by Google AdWords may be sexy journalism but the real story is really about click fraud. While Waleed may have witnessed a war going on and that was could be funded by money from Google AdWords, it could just as well be funded by the sale of soda pop at the local 7-11. Money flows in a lot directions.

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