Where there is easy money to be made from the internet, you can bet your house on the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of different companies trying all they can to extract as much revenue as possible before crashing, burning and jumping onto the next get rich quick scam. According to the web traffic analytics company Spider.io, known ad fraudsters Sambreel, caught out once before, have returned in a series of guises and have been tricking users into installing plugins on their PCs that deliver ads on YouTube, without YouTube's knowledge or consent.
The scheme taps into the demand for software that will download YouTube content straight to a user's desktop, a practice banned under the current YouTube Terms of Service. Spider.io found that Sambreel had created two plugins (Easy YouTube Video Downloader and Best Video Downloader) and offered up their own ads when users returned to YouTube after installing the software. These fake display and video ads were then sold onto big name advertisers such Kelloggs and Ford with the California based company keeping the dividends for themselves. Spider.io have found 3.5 million instances of Sambreel plugin downloads and estimate that at one point Sambreel were driving as much as 15% of inventory on some ad exchanges.
Here are some examples of the fake ads:
According to Forbes, both plugins have now been discontinued. YouTube's T&C's makes it very clear that users of the site are forbidden from downloading, rather than streaming, any of its content. YouTube have issued the following statement regarding the matter;
Applications that change users’ experiences in unexpected ways and provide no value to publishers are bad for users and bad for the Web. We’re continuing to look into these types of bad actors and have banned them from using Google’s monetization and marketing tools.