I know of somebody that makes dirty money on the Publisher program. He has been collecting checks from Yahoo since February of this year. In total, he has collected about $5K.
Here's how he does it. He displays Yahoo ads on his web sites and gets paid when people click on them. The sneaky part is how he gets people to click. If you click your own ads, you get banned from Yahoo's program. To get around this, he joins co-ops that click on ads for each other. You scratch my back I'll scratch yours. The people in these co-ops all run the same kind of scam, build a worthless site with auto-generated articles, place Yahoo ads on it and get other scammers to click on your ads and collect money from Yahoo.
He needs to keep his click/hit ratio down to about 1% to fly under Yahoo's radar. If his site only gets 100 hits a day, but the ads get clicked 50 times, Yahoo knows something is up and will ban him. He slithers around this by buying junk traffic that is directed to his site. He buys 200,000 hits a month for around $200. The traffic is generated by pop-ups, pop-unders and any other crappy way that you can imagine. It's just plain garbage traffic. None of the traffic is targeted to his ads, and none of the traffic generates ad clicks.
The reason that this all bothers me is because I pay good money for Yahoo advertising to increase traffic to my own legitimate sites. When people do things like this, it increases the cost of advertising for everyone else. I think what he is doing is sleazy and downright dirty. I hope for his sake that they catch him before he makes too much money. They might just ban him if they catch on now, but he plans on ramping up his fraud operation to make a lot more money. If they catch him after he makes big bucks, they will more than likely sue him for a lot more than he scammed from them. They might also pursue legal action.
Is it just dirty, or is it illegal?