A number of American “phone farmers” are rigging up groups of 20 or even 100 phones in order to generate fake engagement with ads and make a few easy bucks, reports Vice.
The scheme works because people buy and sell ‘incentivized traffic’
Since it’s legal to pay someone for their attention, some apps — like Perk — pay viewers for watching videos — sometimes at a rate of about 1/1000 of a cent per video watched.
It works like this: A farmer buys as many cheap phones as possible and then arranges them to constantly play videos.
The payouts are consistent, but tiny: A seasoned farmer with 20 phones reported earning between $50 and $100 per month.
Ad fraud is a bigger deal for some ‘farmers’ than others
It’s worth noting — nearly all of these phone farms violate the terms of service of the apps they use to earn money (although the apps seem reluctant to crack down on the low-grade fraud).
Some advanced farmers, however, set up software that simulates clicks and finger movements, enabling them to earn more money.
But the really fruitful farms operate outside of the US. In China, where 90% of views on some video sites are believed to be fake, some click farms with thousands of phones have been exposed by local outlets.