Your computer could be clicking on fraudulent advertisements, without you even knowing.
A new report by the World Federation of Advertisers says online ad fraud is projected to become a $50 billion industry by the year 2025, with some estimates as high as $150 billion.
Malware makes your browser act like a robot, visiting sites while pretending to be you. The more "visits" they record, the more money they make.
The report points to prior research, saying 88 percent of all digital clicks are fraudulent, bot traffic is up more than 61 percent, and 40 percent of all mobile ad clicks are worthless.
The WFA predicts online ads will soon become the second largest market for organized crime behind cocaine and opiate sales. Criminals like the approach because it's low risk and high reward.
It remains to be seen if the industry can combat the fraud problem. The WFA recommends new standards, increased transparency, and hiring employees specifically to counter fraud. But, they say some exposure to fake ads will always exist.
The malware that gains access to your computer can do more than just click, it also can be used to steal your personal information.
A non-profit anti-fraud group says more than half of the money made stays in the industry, and brands typically end up paying for it.