Advertising Fraud Meaning, Prevention and Detection

Ad fraud costs advertisers billions each year. Get key details including common types of ad fraud, how to prevent ad fraud and how AdTech platforms can limit ad fraud with DeviceAtlas.

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In 2019, the online ad revenue totalled over $100 billion. Such high revenue inevitably attracts criminal activity. Research shows that by 2022, the advertising industry will lose an estimated $44 billion due to advertising fraud.

Below, we take a look at advertising fraud, including the most common types and methods of prevention.

What is Advertising Fraud?

Typically, advertising fraud is committed by creating illegal or fake traffic. The growth of search engine marketing and lack of security protocols created a favourable environment for scammers to develop click fraud.

Video, mobile, and website ads are channels and formats that are breeding grounds for fraudulent activities. The rise of programmatic purchasing and the blind inventory available via real-time bidding (RTB) exchanges has led to an enormous volume of fake traffic.

Common Types of Advertising Fraud

Advertising fraud can take many forms, but the most common types are crawlers, bots, and automated clicking. Click spamming is one type of bot-driven ad fraud that simulates a high number of clicks, which apparently come from real devices. Click injection is another method that generates fake clicks during the installation of apps.

Bots or Botnets

Bots are software apps or programs hosted in unsuspecting computers, which perform a wide range of activities online. Botnets are groups of bots that are hosted on different computers that can do human-like activities. For instance, scammers use these programs to artificially increase website traffic and click on links.

Scammers use bots to attack specific sites by overloading its servers, specifically to the point of failure. In general, this is known as a Denial of Service (DOS) attack. They can even be used for conversations in chat rooms. Bots and Botnets are sophisticated software programs that can be used for click automation to generate income for fraudsters.

Domain Spoofing

Domain spoofing is a technique commonly used in ad fraud. This is where a company’s domain is closely imitated with the intention of selling low-quality advertising inventory as premium inventory. Advertisers pay for, and believe, that their ads are appearing on a premium website, but in reality, this is not the case.

Ad Stacking

Ad stacking is another fraudulent activity used by scammers to generate ad revenue. It involves fraudsters stacking multiple ads on top of one another. The viewer only sees the top ad, and the impression counts for the served ad and hidden ads in the stack. Ad stacking is another network trick used to deceive advertisers.

Ghost Websites

Ill-intentioned ghost sites are prevalent in advertising fraud. Usually, these are real sites with real content stolen from legitimate websites. The purpose of the site is to defraud advertising companies.

Site owners create and make them available through advertising networks and exchanges, which participate in RTB environments. Website owners hire botnets to visit their sites to generate a large volume of ad impressions. Advertisers then bid on and buy this “inventory” from the auction environment.

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Mobile In-app Ads

Advertising companies using in-app ads also come across the difficulty of quantifying the real value of impressions and conversions. It is an advertising fraud to defraud publishers and advertisers by exploiting mobile technology, such as SDK spoofing, click injection, and click spam. Mobile ad fraud comes in different forms, from fake impression to fake installs to click spams.

Ways to Prevent Advertising Fraud

Advertising fraud is significantly impacting the digital world, costing billions of dollars to the industry every year. With scammers continuously sabotaging the digital advertising ecosystem, efforts have been made by security companies to develop programs that can prevent ad fraud. Some of the best ways are:

Anti-Click-Fraud Software

Anti-Click-Fraud software or tools are sophisticated programs that detect, migrate, and report on digital frauds before they hit a company’s advertising budget. Sitting within the ad journey, anti-click software analyses and reviews impressions, clicks, and conversions to mitigate advertising fraud in its earliest detection.

Today, we find a wide range of anti-click-fraud software that keeps performance data clean and helps businesses optimize their ads confidently. Some of the most popular anti-click tool providers are Adjust, FraudScore, Perform[cb], Singular, and Interceptd.

Work with Trusted Demand-Side Platforms

A Demand-Side Platform or DSP is an advanced system that allows advertisers to manage different ad exchange accounts from a single user interface. A DSP adds an additional layer of security and verification to prevent ad fraud, and may also provide refund programs if ads are served to invalid traffic.

For instance, Google offers media-back credits and refunds to customers when the company’s DSP buys fraudulent media from exchanges. Google currently works with over 100 ad exchanges and offers refunds to advertisers in the event of ad-fraud.

AdTech Platforms Can Limit Ad Fraud with DeviceAtlas

Primarily a source of real-time, rich and actionable device insights, DeviceAtlas bot detection also allows for the identification of known bot traffic, enabling these clicks and visits to be treated differently to that of a human user.

Having an up-to-date, accurate and real-time bot identification capability, provided by DeviceAtlas bot detection, gives AdTech platforms a technical and competitive advantage.

DeviceAtlas is used by major players in the AdTech space, such as Adjust and SpotX. Learn more about DeviceAtlas’ bot detection, here, and mobile advertising and targeting solution, here.