4 Trustworthy Tips for Advertisers to Avoid Ad Fraud 

4 Trustworthy Tips for Advertisers to Avoid Ad Fraud
Reading Time: 6 minutes

According to recent findings, the first six months of 2019 witnessed a whopping $2.3bn loss to the phenomenon of mobile ad fraud globally via fake mobile app installs. This staggering amount, let alone all other adverse impacts on businesses, is drastic enough for digital marketers across the world to take major steps to detect and avoid ad fraud.

Before thinking about solutions, we first need to understand what it really is.

In this article/


What is Mobile Ad Fraud?

In the simplest of definitions, mobile ad fraud is the act of deceiving businesses, publishers and supply partners by sucking up their advertising budgets through systematic methodologies and manipulation of user data. This can create huge opportunities for fraudsters to steal money from businesses via illegal means.

Andreas Naumann, Head of Fraud at Adjust, mentions some alarming figures by his organization – around 90% of individual campaigns are directly affected or have been a victim of mobile ad fraud. In 2018, these malicious attempts cost the global mobile industry around $5bn. Now, the important question to ask here is how do we reduce and limit this impact in a world where over 5 billion people have a mobile phone – 3.5-4 billion of them being smartphones. Well, to study that, we first need to understand the different ways these fraudsters can make you a target.

1. Know Your Ad Fraud Types

Do you know how to interpret the difference in CTIT distribution times between a click spammer and a click injector? These are the type of questions you should be able to answer if you want to embark upon identifying and rejecting ad fraud in-house. Let’s take a look at some of the most common forms of ad fraud.

Click Spam

Click spamming is a way to deceive organizations by manipulating attribution tools through random clicks on behalf of users who, in most cases, might not even view the ad. It is also known as organic poaching or click flooding. According to findings by Adjust, click spam contributed to around 16% of global fraudulent ad installs between 2017 and 2018.

Click Injection

Another way to affect mobile advertising is by solely focusing on Android devices. Click injection occurs when a fraudster injects a fake click upon an app download by the user. This usually occurs within a few seconds or minutes after an app has been downloaded on the phone. As soon as the user opens the app, it creates an ‘ad click’ impression that looks real but it’s not.

Invalid Ad Traffic (IVT)

This is defined as all the traffic that is not coming from actual users. These could be bots, crawlers, and other automated systems. However, all bots are not necessarily categorized as IVTs. This is more or less a generic term to describe a host of different types of IVT, that may or may not be fraudulent. 

Ad Stacking

This is another type of mobile ad fraud where random and multiple ads are displayed at once. These ads are normally stacked, one over another, with the primary goal to hide an ad instead of letting it being readable or viewable at the receiver’s end. In records, the publisher can claim that an ad was served and they should be paid for it.

App Spoofing

With this specific fraudulent activity, the user tries to steal the identity of another user or a brand in order to get advertisement demands to generate money. The businesses that want to advertise with a well-known brand might become a victim of such app spoofers (also known as domain spoofing).

Fake Installs

This happens when a fraudster deceives a publisher by showing an app install that never takes place in reality or the install is disingenuine, for example, achieved by a device farm. Fake installs are particularly problematic as they may deceive an advertiser or marketer into believing that they have found an excellent sub-publisher. When instead, they have only found a device farm, producing fake installs, disguised as a sub-publisher on an ad network. 


2. Know How to Detect Mobile Ad Fraud

Now, as a digital marketer, you know the common ways through which a business can be targeted. How can you prevent it? Let us have a detailed look at some of the mobile ad fraud detection methodologies that are globally accepted and practiced by businesses online:

Tools to Verify Ads

As per a report published by eMarketer, one of the most important and effective steps business owners can take is to have adequate ad verification tools. A verified and well-recognized ad verification vendor will make your life a whole lot easier as they provide you with useful insights and data on your Ad Spend stats and trends. Vendors like Moat and DoubleVerify can come in quite handy for ad verification. In addition to this, you should ask your vendors about the safety parameters they have in place for mobile ad fraud prevention.


3. Know How to Prevent Ad Fraud

Partner Trustworthiness

Make sure the partners and publishers you work with have a good repute in their field, prior to giving them access to your product or service. The aforementioned ad verification tools will help you differentiate between a trustworthy third-party publisher or provider from the rest of the scam out there. 

Target Specific Audience on Social Media Platforms

If you know how to use Facebook Ads Manager, then you know what this means. Limiting your target audience on various social media outlets eliminates the possibility of mobile ad fraud instances in the future. When you are selecting your target audience type on Facebook from the three available options ‘Custom’, ‘Look Alike’ and ‘Saved’, you are selecting the mechanism to only display ads who fall into one of these three categories, therefore, limiting the number of bogus or fake traffic on your advertisement.

Monitor and Ban Specific IPs and sub-publishers:

Try to stay vigilant when it comes to specific IPs making illegal attempts to make you a victim of fraudulent activity. A lot of businesses use static IP addresses and this assists in generating accurate reporting. If you can spot bad IPs from these reports, try to get rid of them as quickly as possible. However, it is important to note that many publishers are actually victims of ad fraud themselves, and many reputable ad networks are actually enlisting the support of ad fraud protection tools in order to clean up their network. 

If It Doesn’t Seem Real, It’s Probably Not:

Beware of inventory advertisements that display information that seems too good to be true. If you are seeing an ad using a well-known brand selling their merchandise for ridiculously low prices, then most probably it’s a fraudster trying to spoof the domain. A little bit of skepticism goes a long way. 

Trusted DSPs Only

Demand-side platforms (DSP) are systems that allow digital ad buyers to interact with ad exchange accounts using a single platform. This specific environment of transactions can get vulnerable if appropriate safety measures are not in place. Using only a trusted DSP will eliminate the possibility of ad fraud. However, it is important to note that DSPs also host fraudulent activity also, and thus, the programmatic ecosystem should not be regarded as ‘safe’ from ad fraud. A well-known example of ad fraud on the programmatic ecosystem is the ‘Dicaprio’ spoofing case. 

Use Anti-Fraud Tools

Last but certainly not least, we would always recommend to outsource this incredibly complex and evolving problem to the professionals who can do this best, and most importantly, do this easily and painlessly. Thus, leaving your precious human resources available to focus on their critical tasks. There might be a misconception that ad fraud tools are more effort and money than they’re worth, however, all of our customers have gotten a ROI on our tool within the first few months. This is also easily tracked through our estimated savings tab, which is updated live. Our customers can track the ROI on our ad fraud prevention tool. 

Whilst you can stop some ad fraud in-house, you can certainly not stop all, especially more sophisticated forms of ad fraud, such as SDK spoofing. 

4. Discover Which Are the Most Effective Ad Fraud Prevention and Detection Tools

4 Trustworthy Tips for Advertisers to Avoid Ad Fraud

It is imperative to understand that all these tools have the ability to detect and prevent such fraud. However, the quality and capabilities between the different third parties and MMP anti-fraud tools differ greatly. Whilst we advise that some important factors are a blend of probabilistic and deterministic rules along with real-time detection and prevention, our customers often feel most comfortable seeing the ad fraud prevention capabilities in real-time with our one-month free trial. Better yet, Interceptd often loves going head-to-head with other third-party ad fraud prevention tools and MMP anti-fraud features to truly show our capability. 

However, this war can only be fought once there is a thorough understanding, acceptance, and recognition of this phenomenon as being real and devastating in both the short and the long-term. With a global mobile ad spending of around $230 billion in 2019, a growth rate of more than 20% from the previous year, businesses, publishers and advertising giants have a definite problem at hand which needs to be dealt with as a topmost priority. Real and positive impacts will only be seen when this global issue is talked about at all world forums, digital marketing expos, and conferences, global business summits, etc.

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