Domain Spoofing Not Just Impact Advertisers, But Also Publishers. Know-How?

Imagine someone impersonating you and stealing all your money. In the digital advertising ecosystem, fraudsters are sitting behind the cloak to do the same with your ad spending with domain spoofing. It is one of the common forms of scams committed by fraudsters.

However, it not only manipulates your digital ad campaign data and drains an advertiser’s ad budget. It also leaves a deep impact on the reputation and revenue of a publisher. If you don’t want to be in this stage, learn how domain spoofing may impact your brand and what the are possibilities to curb it.

What is Domain Spoofing?

This is a type of phishing scam where a fraud publisher disguises itself as a premium publisher in a programmatic marketplace. By spoofing a premium publisher, the ad impressions generated are more valuable and the demand is also high.

On one hand, the advertiser is under the impression that their ads are shown on premium websites. However, the advertiser’s ads are shown on low-quality websites for the bots.

Usually, the fraudsters create a domain that closely resembles the URL of a genuine publisher. They not only create fake domains but also make a duplicate copy of a website’s content.

Impact of Domain Spoofing

Domain spoofing heavily impacts both advertisers and publishers. Not just monetarily, but it also has many other long-term consequences.

On Advertisers

  1. Invalid Traffic: When the advertiser’s ad is shown on illegitimate and spoofed websites, they attract invalid traffic coming to these websites. This not only leads to wastage of ad spending but also impacts the campaign’s SEO.
  2. Damaged Reputation: Brand reputation is one of the most valuable assets for any company. In the case of domain spoofing, the customers are often unaware of the counterfeit products being sold by fraudulent websites. And when the quality deters which happens quite often in the case of fake products, the customers often blame the original brand. They lose their trust in the brand and often write bad reviews online which directly impacts the brand’s reputation.

Not just this, counterfeit products can also impact the health and safety of the end consumers. This can be especially dangerous in the case of FMCG and Beauty products. As the product and packaging are identical, the consumer may not be able to differentiate. And if in any case, the products can cause any skin infection or other health problems it can be havoc and can cause serious repercussions on the brand’s reputation.

On Publishers

  • Loss of Revenue: Due to domain spoofing, the publishers lose the revenue coming from ads as the website running on the programmatic platforms is not theirs.
  • Stolen Identity: Not just the revenue, domain spoofing also impacts the brand reputation of the publisher. Like identity fraud, the spoofed domain of a publisher must face the consequences of brand safety and unexpected abysmal conversion rates of the fraudulent sites that are using its name.
  • High chances of getting blacklisted/blocked: As the buyers are not able to analyze the RTB data, they inadvertently block the high-quality publishers seeing their domains flagged due to brand safety or illegal content. Due to domain masking, the reputation of the publisher and their credit score is impacted which further impacts the revenue.

How does Ads.txt help to reduce Domain Spoofing by up to 10%?

In 2017, IAB introduced ads.txt to bring a certain level of transparency to the programmatic advertising ecosystem. It is a simple text file that publishers insert into their root domains. With Ads.txt, the publishers can inform the companies that they are authorized to sell their ad inventory. Every publisher’s ads.txt file works like a public ledger that buyers can use to cross-reference and ensure that the inventory they are investing will redirect to the claimed domain.

Though the websites with Ads.txt have a low rate of IVT (Invalid traffic), they are not 100% fraud-free.

How Fraudsters Manipulate the Ads.txt?

  1. Blank Ads.txt Files: When the ad exchanges declared that they would not allow any websites without Ads.txt files to continue selling, the fraudsters found a different route. To crack this, they started adding fake or blank ads.txt files to their domains to continue making money. They were able to do this because the exchanges only focused on checking the existence of ads.txt files on the domains and not the actual content of the ads.txt file.
  2. Ads.txt Files with Errors: It is not possible to make errors in the Ads.txt file unintentionally. These are deliberate acts committed by fraudsters. For instance, publisher “A” works with deceitful “supply-side platforms” (SSP) to sell ad inventory using the same seller ID that is used by other mainstream sites to sell from the same SSP. This very easily launders the impressions because the ad exchange cannot see “Publisher A” making any payment to the SSP.
  3. Ads.txt Syndication: This one is the latest in the list where fraudsters rent an ads.txt file from an established seller. In this case, the fraudulent sites make a deal with the owner of the vetted ads.txt. file to run inventory through them. These sellers even take payment from the ad exchanges. And on the other hand, they make under-the-table payments to the sub-sites that don’t have their seller IDs.

This way, the sub-sites never show up as paid for the ad exchange because they have never paid to these Seller IDs of strange sites. The only thing the ad exchanges see is the increase in volume which comes through the suppliers who have been in business with them for years.

How Does mFilterIt Protect Your Brand from Domain Spoofing?

Our Ad Traffic Validation suite can ensure that your digital ad campaigns don’t have to become a victim of domain spoofing in the future. We at mFilterIt use the capabilities of AI, ML, and Data Science to detect spoofed domains by reviewing your webpage. Once detected, for prevention, we ensure to blacklist these domains to avoid further ad spending on irrelevant traffic and protect your digital ad campaigns.


Along with the rise of digital advertising, fraudsters are also becoming smart to find loopholes in the digital ecosystem and excrete money from advertisers. To date, Ads.txt has been a reliable solution to curb domain spoofing, but it’s not 100% effective. With the help of an ad fraud detection and prevention solution provider like mFilterIt, you can protect your campaigns from getting manipulated and save your ad spending from going to waste on irrelevant traffic in the future.

Get in Touch to learn more about Domain Spoofing.


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