[imagesource: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York]
One can’t be too cautious when it comes to adverts on the internet.
An immediate warning sign is when the product seems too good to be true: oh, a chic, high-fashion looking dress for only R600? Ja, nope.
But being fooled by fake ads as a potential customer is just one side of the fake ads coin.
Advertisers also run the risk of being scammed out of millions by a fake ad network.
Meet Aleksandr Zhukov (seen above), a 41-year-old Russian who once called himself the ‘King of Fraud’.
He, along with several co-conspirators, devised an ad network for advertisers to place their online ads on various websites like the New York Times and the New York Daily News.
In actuality, they created a bot farm and rented servers to simulate a bunch of users who would then visit fake versions of these websites.
At the end of the day, no real humans ever saw the ads, and the advertisers, who paid inflated rates, completely lost out.
This fake traffic scam became known as “Methbot” after the name of Zhukov’s bogus ad network Media Methane.
Between September 2014 and December 2016, he managed to rake in $7 million, which he then funnelled into offshore banks around the world, according to the Department of Justice in the US.
The Verge has more:
White Ops [a computer security company] said the scheme was “bringing whole new levels of innovation to ad fraud,” operating at an unprecedentedly large scale that spooked advertisers.
The defendants were charged with wire fraud, money laundering, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, among other offences.
Zhukov was convicted in May, charged with wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, and money laundering:
“Sitting at his computer keyboard in Bulgaria and Russia, Zhukov boldly devised and carried out an elaborate multi-million-dollar fraud against the digital advertising industry, and victimized thousands of companies across the United States,” US Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.
As part of the elaborate plan, Zhukov recruited programmers and others to help build the infrastructure that made the scheme possible. Authorities said he referred to the recruits as his developers and to himself as “the king of fraud.”
He will sit in prison for 10 years, and in addition, pay $3,8 million in forfeiture.
Sounds on par with some of our very own scammers and fraudsters.
There’s Sandile Shezi, who for some time was known as South Africa’s youngest self-made millionaire before his company, Global Forex Institute (GFI), came under scrutiny.
Don’t forget Martin Levick, SA’s spicy ‘fraudster’ of 2019, whose investment house Genesis Capital came crashing down after an investigation.