Imagine paying for an ad that was never seen. Advertising Age recent article, Ad-Fraud Operation Fools Detection Companies, Nets Millions, unveiled how at least 75 advertisers — including Ford, Coke and McDonald’s spend money on these ads.

It’s a familiar story with a nasty twist.

A sizable ad fraud operation was recently discovered sticking websites running lucrative video ads inside nearly invisible windows and placing those windows on legitimate sites via dirt cheap banner-ad buys. This allowed the fraudsters to piggyback off the traffic of real sites.

Those behind the operation skimmed tens of millions of dollars from advertisers, according to online security firm Telemetry, which uncovered the fraud. And the twist: They got away with it for months, in part, by fooling a number of anti-fraud products into believing they were seeing something legitimate.

“This is the first time we have seen an attempt to molest each ad-quality product individually and with a unique approach per product,” said Telemetry CEO Anthony Rushton.

The operation is the most significant instance of ad fraud seen to date by Telemetry, Mr. Rushton said, who co-founded the firm in 2009. It hit the most advertisers, the most exchanges, and importantly, earned the most revenue of any operation Telemetry has witnessed. In all, at least 75 advertisers — including Ford, Coke and McDonald’s — spent money on these ads. In the past month alone, at least $10 million was wasted, according to Telemetry.

Read the full article on Advertising Age.

Canada now has the world’s toughest anti-spam legislation, but as the article points out so much more needs to be down to prevent fraud.

Though the people behind the fraud took pains to show advertisers their ads were running on “real” websites, some of the sites should have raised immediate red flags…  “You go to one of these sites, you look at it, do you believe that they could deliver tens of millions of visits in a month?” said Mr. Carncross. “No way.

Read the full article on Advertising Age.

advertising age