To prevent financial loss, advertisers and ad networks have to use various tools and methods to detect ad fraud early. In 2022, the total cost of ad fraud was approximately $81 billion, with the Asia-Pacific region constituting $75 billion of that sum. This year, ad-fraud losses are estimated to increase to $100 billion.
These figures offer a stark impression of how much effort fraudsters put into stealing money from advertisers and ad networks. Criminals are always looking for new ways to make money illegally, and now, using various techniques and technologies, they have marketing budgets firmly in their sights. The following will delineate the 10 most common forms of ad fraud and how to prevent them.
Popular ad frauds
1. Cookie stuffing
Cookies are tiny bits of code that help track user behavior and provide insight to ensure your ad campaign is successful. With cookie stuffing, however, fraudsters insert a cookie from another website rather than from the one the user visited. They try to take advantage of the payment model by changing the attribution.
2. Click spamming
In this type of advertising fraud, fraudsters execute clicks from a different device without the user’s knowledge. They do so in order to claim credit for clicks or impressions.
3. Click injection
This is a sophisticated form of click spamming and aims to win last-click attribution from CPI campaigns.
4. Pixel stuffing
In this form of ad fraud, attackers place multiple ads in a tiny pixel making it difficult for the users to see the ads. When the user clicks that pixel on a webpage, they are then greeted by multiple pop-up ads. Fraudsters then claim credit for the impressions or clicks generated from these ads.
5. Ad stacking
This is almost similar to pixel stuffing. The only difference is that the users can see the ad at the top. By stacking multiple ads one behind the other, users who click on the ad ‘on top’ will unwittingly be shown the rest too. Scammers also use this method to claim credit for the impressions these ads generate.
6. SDK Spoofing
SDK spoofing is a form of fraud that works by creating legitimate-looking installs using data from real devices. In reality, however, there are no actual installs.
7. Bot Fraud/Click Fraud
8. Domain spoofing
With domain spoofing, attackers impersonate popular or high-value domains. In this method, both the impressions and the users that visit the website are genuine, but since the site itself is low quality, the money advertisers spend on ads goes down the drain.
9. Location fraud/Geo masking
Many companies use ad networks to reach their target audience, especially those potential customers living in a specific location.
With location fraud and geo-masking, however, fraudsters send data from false locations to trick advertisers and ad networks into believing their ads are reaching the right area. Advertisers, therefore, end up spending money on the wrong audience groups.
10. Install farms
Here, scammers use emulator programs and bots to install applications on real devices. Since these devices are undertaking tasks rather than actual users, not a single real person actually interacts with any ad.
These are some of the most common forms of ad fraud today. In what follows, we’ll show you how to stop them.
How to detect ad fraud and prevent them?
Here are some of the best ways to detect ad fraud and prevent it.
1. Use trustworthy ad networks
Before using an ad network, do some research. A good business partner will ideally do everything they can to mitigate fraud. Before working with an ad network, take time to read the reviews online to understand how efficient it is and to learn about the features they offer.
Always pick an ad network that is conscientious of ad fraud and has the capacity to detect and prevent it.
2. Audit the samples of users
Ad fraud and mobile ad fraud are real, and criminals are constantly looking for advertisers and ad networks that will fall prey to their tactics. It is, therefore, crucial to be vigilant in order to stop them from laying their hands on your marketing money.
If you think that a specific source or sub-source is producing fraudulent installs, you should therefore examine a sample of around 10–15 individual installs. This is a time-consuming task that will require you to check lots of things, but it will help validate traffic quality and stop fraudsters in their tracks.
In doing so, you will verify if real users and devices were in use when the reported installation occurred. Techniques such as Internet Protocol Quality Score (IPQS) and bot fingerprinting help protect you from fake installs and human interaction.
3. Set up ad quality guidelines
If you haven’t already, set up some ad quality guidelines. These rules will give you control over how you want the ads to be displayed. Through this, ad partners will know what you expect from them and will stick to these guidelines if they want to get paid.
In these guidelines, you can, for example, indicate which categories your ad partners should not serve, such as (e.g.):
4. Use tools to detect ad fraud
Today, there are many different types of tools that can help detect ad fraud. And by using them, you can use them to prevent fraud and safeguard your marketing budget from getting robbed.
Swaarm, for instance, has features such as optimization rules that can identify fake traffic by checking its authenticity. This software will automatically discard the same if the traffic does not fall under configured rules.
Before signing up for any anti-fraud software, you should always check if the company selling it offers a trial period. During the trial period, you will be able to find out if the platform is as good at preventing fraud as they claim. If satisfied with the results, consider taking out a subscription or purchasing the product.
5. Make use of AI solutions
Fraudsters are becoming sophisticated, and every day, they’re finding new ways to defraud people.
Against these odds, detecting ad fraud manually is a tough business. Instead, look for tools or platforms that use artificial intelligence to prevent fraud. Platforms that use AI solutions can help solve numerous issues at once. They are efficient and easy to use.
The best part about AI solutions is that they can stream the data quickly. Machine learning will also enable the platform to produce better results with every new round they review.
6. Pay for ad performance
Many advertisers still pay for clicks or impressions, but for fraudsters impersonating a real user pressing their trackpad on an advert is a relatively easy task. In order to do so, they use bots and other techniques. And once they’ve done so, they expect you to pay for the numbers they produce.
Instead of paying for clicks and impressions, use tangible performance metrics instead, such as subscriptions, purchases, and/or conversions. Faking these sorts of things requires far more effort, and by using filters, you will know which ones to pay for and which ones are fake.
7. Monitor key metrics
Metrics can provide a lot of information you might otherwise not know, but simply following any performance-related figure isn’t a good idea. Instead, you should constantly monitor certain key metrics to check what is happening. Some of the metrics that you should keep a tab on if you want to avoid ad fraud include:
You can use these metrics to check for unusual activity or sudden spikes in conversions or other activities. By using this method, it will be easy to detect ad fraud if there is anything unusual going on.
8. Check the conversion rate
One of the easiest ways to detect digital ad fraud is by checking the conversion rate. If the conversions are low during peak traffic, something is not right.
Always check the click-to-install time (CTIT) when using a mobile app. If the average CTIT is low, it could mean install hijacking. On the other end, click spam can cause high CTIT.
9. Make use of Ads.txt
In this buying method, every webpage uploads and attaches a file to its root domain, giving details of which supply-side platform (SSP) is offering its inventory. It also provides information such as Placement ID and how it relates to the SSP. SSPs are crucial in managing programmatic advertising for a website. This way, publishers publicly display which SSP is taking care of their ad inventory. Checking the ads.txt will help prevent falling prey to inventory fraud.
10. Be informed
It is good to keep a tab on new trends in ad fraud. Learn about the latest technologies launched in the market and how to use them to detect ad fraud. If you look online, you will find a plethora of resources that will shield you from ad fraud.
Criminals are using different methods to rob advertisers. In this article, you would have discovered 10 ways to detect ad fraud and protect your money.