Coronavirus and Marketing - How Fraud is Targeting Covid19 Search Terms

The biggest talking point across the world in 2020 has been, undeniably, the Coronavirus. Almost every country on earth has been affected by Covid19, and it has affected business and marketing in a way we’ve never seen before.

For many businesses, Covid19 has actually been a boom for business, and in fact one of these industries benefiting is click fraud. The practice of click fraud is when fraudulent parties click on pay per click ads, often to divert the marketing budgets of businesses to their own pockets.

Data from anti-click fraud protection software company ClickCease shows that the amount of fraud on PPC ads was around 14% during May 2020. 

Looking at specific industries shows a more alarming picture. On-demand businesses such as locksmiths and plumbers who were running PPC campaigns on Google Ads and Microsoft Ads (previously Bing Ads) were seeing around 45% of all clicks coming from fraudulent sources.

Specific countries too saw higher volumes than others. 

Fraudulent click volumes by country in May 2020

South Africa 45%
France 41%
Ukraine 33%
Belgium 33%
Russia 29%


Zack Shipman, senior consultant at ClickCease says, “Fraud traffic varies throughout the year, but doesn’t really drop below 12%. During the global lockdown due to Coronavirus, we saw the volume of fraud traffic go between 12.5% to just under 20% overall”.

Beyond click fraud, there has also been a boom in opportunistic malware targeting concerns around the Coronavirus. These apps targeted Android devices but were not available on the Google Play Store, being distributed by new Coronavirus domains. The apps included unofficial contact tracing apps and self-help apps for those worried about the Coronavirus outbreak.

Researchers at Check Point found 16 such Covid19 themed apps loaded with malware, using a mixture of premium dialer malware, mobile trojans, and banker Trojans.

For users concerned about fraud there are several steps to take. The first thing is to avoid downloading apps directly from websites, making sure to only download verified apps from within an app store. 

Google’s Play Protect is designed to filter out malware apps from the Android ecosystem, which it can’t do if an app is downloaded from an external source. 

The act of click fraud on pay per click ads is a well-publicized and growing problem for marketers. Although organized criminal botnets get a lot of publicity for defrauding marketers out of billions of dollars, low-level click fraud such as clicks from competitors is still a huge problem.

Despite the major PPC ad networks investing millions to cut down on click fraud, the problem has continued to grow. Estimates expect the cost of global click fraud to hit $24 billion in 2020.

“Although Google and the ad networks do have algorithms in place to protect users, they still fall short, as is evidenced by the fact that we block such a huge volume of fraud”, says Zack at ClickCease. “The best way for marketers to avoid paying fraudsters to click on their ads is to use an anti-click fraud software package”.

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I am Lara Slowik, I have done my bachelor’s in English literature, and further on I did my master’s in Medicine. My most preferred genre of writing is health and biotech, Entertainment. I have been writing from the past 6 years about articles, web content, and blogs. In my career and education, I like to play along with work. I have also been a teacher in the past for 2 years. I use to teach business and technical writing in a very famous university. However, most recently! i am working as an instructor, designer, and training writer. I enjoy socializing a lot. I am a very big extrovert when it comes to nature. A part from all this I enjoy exploring the world and traveling makes me happy.


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