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Facebook is investigating reports that advertisers on the social networking site have been left well out of pocket as a result of click fraud.

Networks of compromised PCs are often used to click on banner ads, generating income for unscrupulous affiliates at the expense of online advertisers, who effectively wind up paying for a bot to visit their sites. Such visits, of course, never result in any purchases.

The issue has affected pay-per-click schemes such as Google Adsense for years, despite the best efforts of Google and others to crack down on the problem.

Facebook offers pay-per-click advertising to small self-serve advertisers, who have begun complaining of a ramp-up in click fraud on an even greater scale. An online forum at WickedFire is littered with complaints, many alleging that Facebook is charging for clicks in excess of those recorded by server logs, Techcrunch reports.

The complaints strongly suggest the problem is worse than even income-sapping visits from bots - advertisers are getting billed for visits that never happened.

In response, Facebook acknowledged a potential problem with suspicious clicks and promised to reimburse advertisers for any losses. It said it was in the process of rolling out anti-fraud measures, designed to thwart the fraud.

"We take click quality very seriously and have a series of measures in place to detect it," a Facebook spokesman told Techcrunch. "We have large volumes of data to analyze click patterns and can identify suspicious activity quickly.

"Over the past few days, we have seen an increase in suspicious clicks. We have identified a solution which we have already begun to implement and expect will be completely rolled out by the end of today.

"In addition, we are identifying impacted accounts and will ensure that advertisers are credited appropriately." ®

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