ad fraud


Fraud Exposed Series: Unmasking Device Spoofing and Its Impact on Advertisers!

Your ad campaign data is probably skewed. The platforms you think are driving results may be delivering numbers, but there’s a chance they may be only delivering numbers. The reason? Ad fraud. Ad fraud takes many forms, and device spoofing is one of the most common ones. Spoofing allows fraudsters to hide behind a veil and carry out fraudulent activities. Unfortunately, because of the lack of awareness and ability to detect device spoofing, advertisers lose millions of dollars to ad fraud. This article will solve both of those problems. In the upcoming sections, you will learn what device spoofing is, how it is carried out, how it impacts advertisers, and how you can protect your business from mobile ad fraud that uses device spoofing. Let’s jump right in and start with the basics. What is Device Spoofing? The word “spoof” literally means “hoax” or “trick”. Device spoofing is the act of tricking advertisers by presenting a device as a different device. Let’s understand this with a simple example. If you are running an ad for app downloads, you are only interested in traffic coming from mobile devices. With device spoofing, fraudsters can present a server in their data center as a mobile device visiting the publisher’s website and clicking on your ad. Fraudsters employ a variety of technical processes to achieve this. One such method is known as User Agent (UA) spoofing. The User-Agent string of every device carries many data points that are used to identify the device. These include the device make and model, processor information, location information (based on IP address), and information about the operating system running on the device. UA spoofing allows fraudsters to falsify this information. Most advertisers also use a technique called device fingerprinting to identify the devices clicking on their ad and subsequently accessing their website or landing page. This includes going beyond the UA string and looking at additional information to identify devices. This may include GPS information, caller ID, and other technical device information like unique Android/Apple ID, graphic card information, etc. However, using techniques similar to UA spoofing, fraudsters can fake almost every piece of information associated with a device. Surprisingly, UA spoofing is a useful tool in software development circles. Developers employ it to test their applications on different devices without actually having to access them on other devices. Unfortunately, this means that UA spoofing is a relatively easy undertaking, especially with the right developer tools. Even fraudsters with limited resources can use this technique to commit mobile ad fraud. What’s more alarming is that this exact method can be utilized to get around a large variety of online security protocols. This means that the use of device spoofing can be used to conduct a variety of fraudulent activities including, but not limited to: Advertising click fraud Malware injection Spam attacks Account hijack Card fraud Online advertisers are one of the biggest targets of device spoofing-led fraudulent activities. How does device spoofing impact advertisers? As mentioned earlier, committing ad fraud using device spoofing is relatively easy. There is device spoofing software available on the dark web. One can obtain such software for as little as $130. Combining the abilities of this software with a VPN network, fraudsters can easily commit thousands of dollars worth of fraud in a matter of a few hours. This has made committing ad fraud so easy that many fraudsters use this method as simply a way to make some extra cash. However, this can mean a collective loss of billions of dollars in ad spending for advertisers. Alarmingly, this loss isn’t the only negative impact that advertisers experience because of device spoofing and fraud. Besides the obvious loss, device spoofing also messes with the data advertisers use to make campaign-related decisions. For instance, running an app promotion campaign and seeing a lot of traffic from iPhones may motivate you to push a larger percentage of your budget on App Store advertising. However, if a certain percentage of this traffic is fake, then this decision will not deliver the results you may be anticipating. This, in turn, can lead to more wastage of ad budgets. In other words, device spoofing results in the loss of advertising budgets and leads advertisers to misjudged conclusions that subsequently lead to bad decisions. Why is it essential to take action against device spoofing? Device spoofing, and ad fraud, in general, must be stopped to ensure advertisers continue to place their trust in digital advertising. This is necessary to ensure authentic publishers can thrive online. Online advertising presents a lucrative opportunity for advertisers of all sizes. It’s a technology that supports small and local businesses and enables large businesses to expand quickly. It levels the playing field and enables small advertisers to compete with the giants of their industry. If ad fraud isn’t controlled in time and advertisers lose their trust in online advertising, the future of digital advertising will indeed be bleak. Device spoofing is a useful technique that is being misused to conduct fraud. Since it is relatively easy, it presents a lucrative opportunity for those with questionable ethics and a will to make quick money. We’ve already discussed how device spoofing results in a dual loss for advertisers. However, another party this practice hurts is authentic publishers. Because some publishers with malicious intent, it becomes difficult for advertisers to trust any publisher or advertising network. Practices like device spoofing pose a big threat to the overall reputation of the digital advertising industry. How to protect your app from device spoofing? Putting a stop to device spoofing is necessary for advertisers. Unfortunately, there aren’t many manual ways to track instances of device spoofing and avoid fraud. Advertisers will need to depend on an ad fraud detection. Using such a tool to track and block ad fraud isn’t just more convenient. It ensures that your ads and your app are completely off-limits for fraudulent traffic. For you, this means better use of your ad budget and access to more accurate

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Guard Your Wicket: Why Digital Advertisers Need to Be Vigilant Amidst The Cricket Fever?

The Cricket Fever is Unstoppable!   From IPL to the World Cup, the audience goes all gaga to see their favorite teams playing. The advertising world also goes into a frenzy during this time and wants to capture the attention of the “Cricket Heads”. The pitch might be clear on the ground, but the pitch in the advertising world has hurdles at every step.   While the advertiser spends meticulously, the fraudsters also look forward to stealing their money and having a gala time. Over the years, these scamsters have evolved and adapted more advanced techniques to steal the advertiser’s money.   In this blog, we have covered some of the advanced techniques of ad fraud and brand safety threats happening across the gaming and betting industry which is most impacted during the major sports events. Digital Threats During Sports Events 1. Rise in Fake Accounts The IPL and World Cup season is much awaited in the advertising world as gaming/betting advertisers spend heavily to ensure they are part of the game. However, the advertisers are hardly able to make a sixer during this time as the scamsters are also ready to make them go clean bowled. They are the most active during this time and look for all the best opportunities to steal the ad spends of the advertisers. And one of their easy-to-execute techniques is using disposal email addresses and phone numbers to create fake accounts.   Here is an insight from an analysis done for a leading gaming app: Based on the data extracted, mFilterIt detected sign-ups occurring from similar-looking email addresses in less than a minute interval. This activity was suspicious, and we detected the patterns to identify bot activity which was eventually impacting the performance of the gaming advertiser.   These disposable email addresses and numbers are also used by fraudsters to commit referral or coupon fraud which eventually hurts the brand’s image among loyal consumers. The brands run referral programs to bring in new users and retain loyal users. However, due to fraudsters’ involvement, these programs are often manipulated, and genuine users cannot use these benefits further blaming the brands. 2. Event Spoofing Beyond the misuse of disposable email addresses and phone numbers, the fraudsters have another winning move that can help them win the cup (in this case advertisers’ ad spends). They use advanced fraud techniques like SDK spoofing to commit event spoofing.   In this case, the scamsters often manipulate the events like sign-ups to get their payout. The advertisers are under the impression that their apps are being downloaded by genuine users, but the reality tampers. The publisher receives their payout, but the advertiser neither gets the genuine audience nor the growth. 3. Use of Misleading Ads The last season of IPL saw a massive surge in misleading and manipulated ads run by fraudulent affiliates/influencers to lure innocent users. ASCI flagged 285 real-money gaming ads on social media on the account of violation of the ASCI guidelines of March’22. Furthermore, 14 ads were found as violating ASCI during the IPL on both Television and OTT. This year, the government has become more stringent about the ads run by gaming and betting platforms. There has been a rise in cases where these platforms leverage news content or eCommerce promotions as a disguise for betting-related advertisements.   The game season is the best time for fraudsters to leverage the brand’s name to commit fraud and enjoy the benefits. Whereas the brands have to pay the price in the form of wasted ad budget and tarnished brand image resulting in loss of consumer trust. 4. Brand Reputation at Risk Misleading ads by fraudulent affiliates are a real problem. Another behind-curtain fraudulent practice is where the brand’s ads run on illicit or adult websites.   An ad of a legitimate brand appearing beside obscene content is a brand safety nightmare. In this situation, often the consumers assume that the brands have placed their ad beside illicit content consciously and they are not concerned about their consumer’s safety. This leaves a deep impact on the brand’s reputation as the consumer questions the reliability of the brand. 5. Organic Traffic Stealing Apart from misusing digital brand assets, these Sports events are also the “hattrick season” for fraudulent affiliates/publishers. During this time, usually, the brands put money on search advertisements introducing “exciting offers”. The fraudsters use this moment as an opportunity.   They bid on the brand’s keywords to appear above the “legitimate brand” in the search results and divert their organic traffic to their website resulting in organic traffic stealing. This also increases the bid prices of the brand keywords and the bhas have to pay more for their branded keywords. Don’t Be ‘Clean Bowled’ this Season Sporting events have been the “festival of joy” for fraudsters as advertisers spend heavily during this time. To safeguard the ad budgets and protect the brand reputation, the advertisers need an advanced solution to validate ad traffic and ensure that the ad is placed in a safe environment.   mFilterIt provides advertisers with this transparency to make efficient business decisions. With cutting-edge and innovative media validation solutions, advertisers can validate their ad traffic and eliminate invalid traffic to target only the audience that matters. It also helps the advertisers to ensure their ads are placed in a GARM-compliant environment and are protected from brand safety threats.   Take quick action to make the best out of these sporting events in 2023!

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8 Things to Stop Believing In 2023: A Marketer’s Checklist

2023 is coming with a storm of changes in the digital advertising world. Meanwhile, the bots are also ready to upgrade themselves to steal the advertiser’s money. According to the Statista report, the global cost of loss in ad budgets is going to reach $100 bn. in 2023. To ensure the advertisers are also ready with their armor to protect their ad campaigns next year, it is important to let go of a few beliefs that might have led to some mistakes in 2022. We are here with an exclusive marketer’s checklist to help digital advertising to stop believing in things that are pulling back their digital growth. By letting go of these thoughts’ advertisers can be prepared to “Advertise Fearlessly” in 2023. 1. Stop Believing That Programmatic Publisher’s Reports Are 100% One of the biggest disadvantages of programmatic ad is the lack of transparency. In this case, to give a clear picture the publishers provide a report including the ad placements and where the brand’s budget was spent. However, in most cases, the fraudulent publishers provide a skewed report to receive their payments. It is important to not trust the publisher’s report because they don’t know if the placement, they are claiming is true or not. For example, they claim that the ads are running on BBC. But there is still a glimmer of doubt about whether it actually running on BBC or not. Therefore, it is essential for advertisers to resort to validating their ad traffic and not trusting the publisher’s report. By understanding the amount of invalid traffic coming they can make payments based on the clean traffic and partner with confidence. 2. Stop Believing OEM Platforms Are Fraud Free OEM app stores are believed to provide high-quality users and significantly increase the visibility of an app. It also results in being an optimum platform to attract high installs. Due to fewer restrictions, these platforms can also be used by apps removed from Google Play Store to increase their market growth. The OEM app stores receive a security certification and clearance from the mobile manufacturer. However, it doesn’t have the required safety provided by Google Play store apps against potentially harmful apps. The publishers claim OEM traffic is fraud-free, however in reality they provide mixed traffic. When a person purchases a device, the OEM apps are pre-installed in them. In the pre-installed/pre-burned app case, the digital advertiser is paying the handset for those pre-burns. So they have incurred a cost here, and then when the affiliate/OEM partners get those apps opened, the advertiser again pays for the same install. This way, the digital advertising is under the impression that they are getting unique traffic. But the reality is that they are actually paying the customer acquisition cost for the same person twice. Therefore, it is essential for app advertisers to deploy third-party ad traffic validation solutions to safeguard their apps on third-party app stores. With an ad traffic validation suite, the digital advertising can verify the quality of installs and the devices from which it has been installed to ensure the traffic is genuine. 3. Stop Believing That Performance campaigns are fraud free One of the many misconceptions that digital advertising and agencies have is that no fraud happens on performance campaigns as they are targeted campaigns. It is believed that even though media campaigns are prone to ad fraud, performance campaigns cannot be skewed by publishers with invalid traffic. This is because they are paying for performance, and they are getting performance However, over time the bots have become sophisticated and can easily imitate human behavior. The advancement of the bots has reached a level where the events like filling a lead form, making a purchase and other events can also be spoofed. According to our findings, performance campaigns (CPC/CPV/CPL/CPS) attract up to 30-35% of invalid traffic across the industry. Therefore, it is important to do a full-funnel check of the performance campaigns to ensure they are not hampered by invalid traffic. 4. Stop Believing MMP Fraud Protection Is Enough There are a number of MMPs or attribution platforms that claim to detect invalid traffic on ad campaigns. However, this is a conflict of interest. MMPs revenue is generated from the number of attributions. And when the more numbers of fraud they detect on attributed sources, their revenue decreases. This causes a conflict of interest and therefore the real fraud is left undetected. According to mFilterIt findings, we have detected 50-60% fraud on the same ad traffic in which MMP has detected 20% fraud. In this case, the digital advertising is in the shadow that the fraud on their ad campaigns has been detected and prevented. But the reality is that they are still paying for the ad traffic coming from bots. On top of that, the MMPs have limitations in detecting invalid traffic at the impression level and have minimal checks that often miss out on sophisticated fraud patterns. Therefore, it is essential for marketers to partner with an ad traffic validation suite to ensure their ad campaigns are getting clean traffic. Moreover, the marketers must also ensure that their traffic verification partner’s solution is not limited to just detecting invalid sources at the impression level but also at the click stage, re-engagement and referral. 5. Stop Believing keyword blacklisting is enough for brand safety Brand safety is no more a choice, rather it has become a necessity for brands to stay protected in the digital landscape. One of the key reasons brands need a brand safety suite is to ensure their ads are not placed beside violence, hate speech, morbidity, and other derogatory content. Blacklisting certain keywords to ensure the ads are not displayed next to illicit content is one of the common ways to deal with such issues. However, it is not enough to ensure the safety of ads. One of the loopholes of keyword blacklisting is that it assumes that the platform knows the context of the content. It can be relevant for English-focused content,

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How To Combat Bot Traffic with Google Analytics?

The word ‘Bot’ can be both good and bad in the digital marketing ecosystem. There are good bots like the search engine crawlers which help to improve your website performance. On the other hand, there are bad bots that are used by cybercriminals to commit unethical activities like ad fraud and stealing advertisers’ ad spends. Half of the internet’s traffic consists of bots, of which 65% are bad bots. In recent events, bad bots have costed brands more than just money. The latest news of Elon Musk dropping out of a $44 bn deal with Twitter due to fake accounts is a sign of how deep-rooted the issue is. As a marketer, you need to be aware of who is visiting your website. When analyzing data, it is important to ensure that your data doesn’t consist of bot traffic. With the help of Google Analytics, you can detect and filter the bot traffic to see cleaner data points. Thinking about how to detect bot traffic on Google Analytics? We have included the most common tell-tale signs to detect bot traffic on your Google Analytics. 4 Signs to detect Bot Traffic on Google Analytics 1. Unusual Traffic If your website visit increases from an average number of 1,000 to 20,000 or you see a similar spike in a short interval of time without any marketing efforts or unknown reasons, it is not good news. Your website traffic is polluted with bots if you see a sudden spike in your website traffic, and there are certain things you might notice: Page views less than 1 second on single pages No location or location set of a botnet Keyword searched or domain name with the word “Bot” 2. Unknown Referral Traffic Referral traffic refers to the traffic that comes to the site by clicking on a link in another domain or platform. It is also used as a medium for bot traffic. These sources can be detected manually on Google Analytics. Some of the common signs of bot-generated referral traffic are: Sites with spammy-looking domains Referral sites with unusually high visits 3. Unusually Low Page-Time Unlike the human way of browsing, the bots are programmed in a way that they behave in the same pattern. When looking at the Google analytics data, check for sources that have a page visit time of less than a minute. Bots are programmed to just add a visit to the page which is usually 1 or 2 seconds maximum. It is obvious that a human will not come and stay on a page for less than 1 second, and hence you can detect the traffic generated by bots. 4. Strange Metrics The classic sign of bot activity on your site is if you see something at an extreme or unusually low. For instance, if you see bounce rates of sources at 0% or 100% then there is a high chance this visit is from a fraudulent source. Is detecting bot traffic on Google Analytics enough? Google Analytics allows you to exclude bot traffic to see a clear picture of your data without fraud traffic. With the help of Google Analytics, you can get a better insight into how much website traffic is genuine to make a better business decision. This can help you exclude the bot traffic showing on your analytics data, but the real impact of bot traffic will still exist. Thus, just the bot traffic detection on Google Analytics is not enough. To protect your websites and ad campaigns from the impact of bot traffic, you need an advanced ad traffic validation suite. This can prevent bots from draining your ad budget on invalid traffic and skewing your data. Advanced Problems Need Advanced Solutions The general bots are easy to detect by analyzing the unusual bot patterns. However, the sophisticated bots are programmed in a way that they can easily replicate human behavior. And thus, an advanced ad fraud detection tool becomes necessary to combat this problem. mFilterIt’s ad traffic validation suite detects bot traffic in real-time and eliminates them to prevent further wastage of ad spends. With the capabilities of AI, ML, and data science, the solution detects and analyses the bot patterns based on various parameters and blacklists them. Takeaways There is no one way to fight ad fraud and win against the fraudsters. With the help of analytics, you can take better business decisions by excluding the bot traffic sources from your data points. With the right mix of both analytics and ad fraud detection, you can combat ad fraud attacks and ensure that only real humans are viewing and clicking your ads and visiting your website.

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You Asked, We Answered: Most Searched Questions About Ad Fraud

Whether you’re an advertiser, publisher, or user, it is natural to have questions about the growing threats of ad fraud. As the digital marketing world is moving ahead, the fraudsters are also becoming smart and coming up with new techniques to defraud marketers. Just like taking preventative measures against ad fraud is important, it is also essential to stay updated with the terms and techniques fraudsters are using. To ensure this, we have covered the most searched questions about ad fraud to help you understand the nitty-gritty of the techniques and tools used by fraudsters. Get ready to binge-read! What is ad fraud? Ad fraud is an attempt to defraud advertisers to steal money and manipulate their data with invalid traffic. The fraudsters usually use bots to perform ad fraud and trick the advertisers into thinking they are getting genuine users. As a result, the advertisers lose their ad revenue on invalid traffic. Furthermore, seeing the inflated traffic the advertisers think their ad campaigns are working and continue to invest in bot-impacted ad campaigns. According to a Juniper Research report, ad fraud is estimated to cost up to $81 billion by the end of 2022. What is bot traffic? Bot traffic consists of automated traffic coming from bots instead of humans. Every traffic generated from bots is not always fraudulent. Sometimes the search engines send bots to crawl the websites for ranking purposes. However, bot traffic is a concern when it is used as a carrier of ad fraud. Often called SIVT or sophisticated invalid traffic. The bad bots manipulate the data of an ad campaign and commit types of ad fraud like SDK spoofing, fake clicks, and fake installs. How to detect bot traffic? Some of the common ways to detect bot traffic that can be identified on websites, apps, and APIs are: Abnormally high pageviews Abnormally high bounce rate Inflated traffic from unknown locations Abnormal session durations High number of junk conversions What is Impression Ad Fraud? Impression means the total number of times an ad was displayed regardless of whether the ad was viewed or not. Impression fraud happens when the fraudsters create a fake website and list themselves on an ad exchange. When an advertiser buys an ad inventory on these websites, they generate impressions with the help of bots. The inflated impression numbers make the advertisers believe that their ad campaign is getting traffic. Wherein, the reality is that the ads are attracting bot traffic, and the fraudsters are getting money for invalid traffic. What is Ad Stacking? This is a type of mobile ad fraud where the fraudsters ‘layer’ or ‘stack’ multiple ads above one another in single ad placement. While just the top ad is visible to the user, the impression or click is registered for all the ads stacked beneath each other. This further lead to advertisers paying for a fake impression or click. What is VPN Proxy Click Fraud? A VPN is used to create a new IP address and mask the original location of a person. This is a strong tool for fraudsters to hide their tracks of ad fraud practices. With the help of a VPN proxy, they create a new IP address which helps them to keep themselves hidden from the ad fraud detection solutions. The fraudsters use this technique to mask their device location and commit fraud. What is Fake Attribution? A fake attribution is a practice followed by fraudsters to steal the credit of an organic install by reporting a fake click as the last engagement. Being the “last-click attribution”, the attribution platforms consider a fake click as an organic click. Usually, a fake attribution is triggered with a help of malware that comes along when a user installs an app from an unknown source. The malware helps to track the user’s activity and notifies the fraudster when the app install starts. The malware search for the relevant information and populates into a fake click report to register as the last click engagement and gets the attribution for an organic install or one generated by a media partner. What is cookie stuffing? This is a technique used in affiliate marketing fraud where a fraudulent affiliate fools the advertiser into thinking that they have sent traffic to their website. But in reality, they haven’t sent any traffic. This practice is also known as cookie dropping and is one of the commonly used techniques in affiliate marketing. By fooling the advertiser, they get the commission for sending a user to their website. Furthermore, the advertiser is wasting money and getting no users in return from their affiliate campaigns What is Ad Pixel stuffing? The technique of pixel stuffing happens when fraudsters place an ad or an entire website inside a frame of 1×1 pixel using an iframe. This makes it invisible to the human eye. When a normal ad runs, the impressions are tracked for the legitimate ad, as well as the ads that are stacked under the invisible pixel. In this way, the fraudsters receive compensation for those fake impressions. Furthermore, they also use bots to generate fake impressions with the pixel-stuffed ads and drain the advertiser’s budget on invalid traffic. What is Incent Fraud? This is a type of fraud where the fraudulent affiliates run non-incent campaigns on incent platforms. Due to this, they attract low-quality users that install only for incentives and have no interest in the actual app. This technique is usually used to increase the install volumes, fix low CR ratios, moderate the quality of user acquisition, or simply increase the margins. What is Click Injection? This is a sophisticated form of click-spamming which is majorly prevalent in android devices. When a user downloads a malicious app, they allow the fraudsters to detect when any other app is downloaded on a device. Once they know that, fraudsters trigger a click before an install is completed. As a result, the fraudster receives a credit for the install that appears legitimate and results in a CPI payout from the advertiser. What

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