A secondary source of click fraud is non-contracting parties, who are not part of any pay-per-click agreement. This type of fraud is even harder to police because perpetrators generally can not be sued for breach of contract, or charged criminally with fraud. Examples of non-contracting parties are:
- Competitors of advertisers: These parties may wish to harm a competitor who advertises in the same market by clicking on their ads. The perpetrators don’t profit directly, but force advertiser to pay for irrelevant clicks, thus weakening or eliminating a source of competition.
- Competitors of publishers: These persons may wish to frame a publisher. It is made to look like the publisher is clicking on their own ads. The advertising network may then terminate the relationship. Many publishers rely exclusively on revenue from advertising, and can be put out of business by such an attack.
- Other malicious intent: As with vandalism, there’s an array of motives for wishing to cause harm to either an advertiser or a publisher, even by people who have nothing to gain financially. Motives include political and personal vendettas. These cases are often the hardest to deal with, since it is hard to track down the culprit, and if found, there is little legal action that can be taken against them.
- Unwanted “friends” of the publisher: Sometimes upon learning a publisher profits from ads being clicked, a supporter of the publisher (like a fan, family member, or personal friend), will click on the ads, to “help”. However, this can backfire when the publisher (not the “friend”) is accused of click fraud.
Advertising networks try to stop fraud by all parties, but often do not know which clicks are legitimate. Unlike fraud committed by the publisher, it is hard to know who should pay when past click fraud is found. Publishers resent having to pay refunds for something that is not their fault. However, advertisers are adamant that they should not have to pay for phony clicks.