Mobile Ad Fraud – Don’t Get Scammed!
In 2018, the mobile ad use is continuing it’s growth for another 20% this year to over $75 billion. With such large growth in this industry, another “industry” is blooming, as mobile ad fraud continues to grow simultaneously.
Losses from mobile ad fraud can’t be exactly calculated, but they’re estimated in billions of dollar in this year alone. The predictions are made solely on the number of rejection advertisers made using fraud prevention tools.
In this article, we’ll explain the most common types of fraud and how to avoid being scammed.
Types of mobile ad fraud
Since mobile advertising is present for quite some time now, there are various types of fraud on the web. The funnel from impression to post-install can be “attacked” anywhere. In order to defeat your enemy and save your money, you have to get to know him. Here, we’ve prepared a list.
CPM (Cost Per Mile) Fraud
Ad Stacking: Multiple display ads are stacked on top of one another in a single ad placement. The user gets to view only the top ad but all the advertisers (of ads in layers) are charged for fake ad impressions.
Unstoppable Ads: Apps are manipulated to load ads continuously, even when the user is not using the app.
Invisible Pixels: Ads are stuffed as a single pixel on the screen, which is invisible to the user and the advertiser is charged for the impression.
Post-Install Mobile Ad Fraud
This type of fraud usually indicates the use of bot or human farms to achieve some sort of a goal.
Value of User: After an install, bots act like legitimate users and trick advertiser into believing it. Later, advertiser thinks these are more valuable users since they’re spending time on the game/app, so he is motivated to run more campaigns.
URL and APK Fraud: Hackers manipulate installation postback URL and fake bulk installs on a single click or bulk clicks on the ads. That’s why it’s hard to say was your campaign a success or if the users were fake.
Geographical fraud: This type of mobile ad fraud happens when your campaign is targeting users from a certain geographic location, but the ads are shown to some other irrelevant networks.
Thereafter, marketers are served with bad info since their ads didn’t reach the desired audience. When the location of clicks/registrations has been changed the campaigns are considered a waste of money.
VPN (Virtual private network) Fraud: It usually occurs when somebody wants it to appear he’s living elsewhere. This method makes it possible to attain an IP address from any location the VPN service provides.
For example, you may live in India, but with a VPN, you can appear to live in New York. You can spot a VPN connection when there’s a suspicious distance between click and install location.
The research suggests that 1% VPN rates are acceptable and have legitimate reasons. Any traffic from Proxies or VPN’s beyond 5% is considered as fraud.
Ad exchanges give publishers an ad tag that contains a code to identify which domain the user is on. Fraudsters can get access to that code, then delete it and replace it with a static domain identifier, thus allowing them to impersonate anyone.
Marketers may think that they’re buying top ad space, but the ads will actually show up on substandard properties, such as a leaderboard on an obscure forum.
How To Protect Yourself?
Since fraudsters are getting smarter and smarter every day, there isn’t an exact recipe on how to avoid mobile ad fraud. However, there are measures you can take to protect yourself and your interest.
Relevant Metrics Monitoring
TTI (time to install): Even though it depends on the internet speed and the app size, installing the app after the click takes more than 30 seconds generally. However, the common pattern of ad fraud shows that there are many installs completed within 10 seconds.
CTI (clicks to install): It shows the number of installs you have in a certain timeframe. This ratio makes the TTI ratio more meaningful. You can combine TTI and CTR ratios and spot the fraudsters.
IP address and User Agent. There could be a high number of app installs from the same IP on the same day. You can deduce it by analyzing IP addresses. However, people tend to hide their IP addresses.
In such cases, the device’s User Agent gives you a better insight. If a fraudster uses a Proxy, you need to focus on database work. Thanks to this analysis, you can explore IP mismatch, IP quality, and duplicated IPs.
Creating a Blacklist
Speaking of advertising coincidences, anything that looks to be out of the ordinary is usually a fraud. You can add specific IPs and publishers to your blacklist for future reference. That way, you’ll avoid running across same scammers again.
Using Ad Fraud Prevention Tools
Using tools that have machine-learning algorithms to help you detect, prevent, and fight against mobile ad fraud more systematically. One of these tools is TUNE. It helps you automate your fraud strategy and easily identifies and deals with click spamming/click injection.
Advertisers need to be able to see clearly how well their mobile ad dollars are being spent, which requires complete transparency of data. Only after seeing the complete picture can marketers truly understand how to effectively protect their ROI.