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Web crawling and scraping solutions can often be misconstrued in negative light, in absence of legal and technological information in this field. Contrary to unpopular belief, data scraping technique deploys automated bots to visit and extract data from the web, and  is gaining significant importance. Web crawling, just like any other technology, can be used for both constructive and destructive purposes — depending on how you use it. Web crawlers can be used to detect fraudulent activities online, providing much needed insights to track and stop these frauds on time . Here is how data crawling set up can help you monitor websites for such cases.

web crawling to detect fraud

Why Web Crawling

Web crawling is incredibly fast and powerful. When it comes to keeping track of webpages for their content, employing humans is an inefficient and impractical approach. With webpage crawlers, it is possible to keep track of hundreds of thousands of webpages and be notified if fraudulent activities are detected. The speed and scale at which web crawling works makes it the best solution for fraud detection.

Applications of Web Crawlers to Detect Fraud

1. Check adherence to TOS 

If you have partner websites that you need to monitor for compliance with your company’s terms of services, crawling web is the best way to go. For example, if you are an internet advertising marketplace company that provides ads for publishers online, you might want to make sure that these websites are publishing content that’s in line with your policies. You might want to be notified if the publishers are posting questionable content. This can be done by setting up a web crawler to look for blacklisted keywords on the publisher sites. Checking adherence to TOS is a great use case of web crawling that helps in avoiding policy violations and fraud.

2. Detect illegal goods sales

You can track down the sales of illegal goods by your partner sites using a web crawling setup. If you are running a payment gateway service that is used by a huge number of websites, you might want to make sure that they are using your service to sell legal and genuine products. To track down illegal goods sales, you can configure a monitoring system using a web crawling setup. This crawler can be programmed to look for keywords that are related to the restricted categories of products or illegal items. This way, crawling websites will ensure that your business gets protection from fraudulent activities of partners.

3. Monitor copyright infringement

Copyright infringement takes so many different forms on the internet. From text content to movies and music, nothing is exempted from being copied and reproduced illegally. You can use web crawling to scan websites for the presence of content that belongs to you. This can be a one time or ongoing activity depending on the expected frequency of copyright violations. With webpage crawl, scanning huge number of websites to detect plagiarism is fast and efficient.

How to Crawl Web to Detect Fraud

A web crawling setup should be manually programmed for each of the specific use case. This is because, each website on the web would be different in its structure and design. For fraud detection, webcrawler should be fed with a list of URLs to be monitored and another list of keywords or pieces of code to look for.

Keywords can include text that is associated with the possible violations that you’re expecting. Pages with illegal goods for sale can be tracked down by using the names of these goods as the keywords in the crawler setup. In this case, it is important to use a huge list of keywords with all possible variables to improve the efficiency of the setup. Webpages with malware can be detected by setting up the web crawler to look for pieces of code that are commonly used for phishing, malware injection or clickjacking.


It’s ironic that a technology that has immense applications in fraud detection is itself thought of as something unethical or illegal. Web crawling can help in the detection of fraudulent activities such as illegal goods sales, plagiarism and even scams. This stresses on the fact that there is no bad technology, but only bad people. Hence, with right application, web crawling technologies will continue to help businesses from various verticals succeed with the power of insightful data.

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