Ad Traffic Validation suite

Affiliate Programs

Fraud in Affiliate Programs. What Can Marketers Do?

Affiliate marketing is going to stay in online marketing for a long time. But, along with its popularity in the digital marketing space, it has also been impacted by fraudulent affiliates who are willing to dig out money from advertisers. Fraud in affiliate marketing is evolving with time, and fraudsters are finding different ways to scam the merchants. But before we dive into the types of affiliate fraud, let’s start from the basics and understand all about the affiliate program and how it works. What is an Affiliate Program? In an affiliate program, there is an agreement between a business and an affiliate (business or influencer). An affiliate gets paid by the merchant when a visitor redirected from the affiliate link performs a certain action like visits, purchase, or to fill a form. This is usually done through web content, product integration, or social media. Benefits of an Affiliate Program One of the biggest benefits of the Affiliate Program is that it is a low-risk way to promote products. Apart from this, some other benefits of an affiliate program are: It is performance-based It helps to broaden the audience It boosts the reputation of the brand It is cost-effective It helps to rapidly scale the traffic How does an affiliate program work? In an affiliate program, there are three parties involved in the arrangement: The customer The affiliate site The advertiser site The affiliate program process starts with a contract between the online advertiser website and the affiliate website. According to this, the merchant will pay a commission to the affiliate for sending traffic to their website. Moreover, the agreement also includes the information related to the number of people the affiliate sends to the merchant site or the number of people performing some action like purchasing or filling a form. Affiliate marketing is an easy and effective way to sell products online and helps marketers to spread the word about their business or website. How is it different from an affiliate network? An affiliate network is a well-established platform that has access to a database of members. It enables the marketers and the companies to connect with influencers directly for promoting their products. Whereas an affiliate program is a platform where a marketer has complete control over the entire process. They can set up the rules and the commissions they are willing to pay the affiliates. Things to remember before working with affiliates Ensure to pick affiliates wisely: When choosing your affiliate partner, ensure to inquire and ask for important information. Some of the essential things to focus on are the industry they are part of, traffic estimates, and website URLs. Also, before going forward, ensure to explain the terms and conditions. Set your brand standards right: Ensure to provide the guidelines to the affiliates for representing your brand. Along with this, provide an overview of the brand’s demographics, ideal target audience, and shopping habits. Monitor the affiliate campaigns: Although it seems that the affiliates are trustworthy, it is important to keep a track of the promotions. The marketer must use tech tools to analyse the performance of the affiliate campaigns and promotions run by the affiliates. Keep a context check: Ensure to keep a check on where your ad is appearing. If your ad is appearing on controversial or offending content, it can directly impact the reputation of your brand. Check how you’re promoted: In addition to keeping a check on the placement of the ads, it is also important to check the context of the affiliate’s website content. Appearing on a website with poor and misleading content or a bad design can lead to further damage to the brand’s reputation. Beware of ad fraud: Ad fraud not only drains the advertising budget but also impacts the brand reputation. Due to various techniques of ad fraud, the ads may appear on shady and low-quality websites. It is essential to keep a check on unusual activities and take necessary actions. Fraud on Affiliate Bypassing Strict Checks The fraudsters have various techniques to take out money from the marketers. In affiliate marketing, cybercriminals bypass strict checks provided by the merchant site. One of the common ways to manipulate a marketer is through domain spoofing. The fraudsters replicate a URL of a legitimate publisher and gain the trust of the marketer. Some other methods of ad fraud in affiliates are cookie stuffing and account takeover. In some cases, the fraudsters also plant bots to generate fake clicks, conversions, and transactions. Keyword Bidding Another common way to dig out money from advertisers is by misusing the technique of keyword bidding. In performance marketing, anyone can bid on brand keywords. To flush out money from advertisers, affiliates bid on brand keywords and take back the user to the website. But instead of it being an organic user, it will be an inorganic user and the affiliate partner will be considered as the last attribution source. In addition to this, the advertiser will now pay more to the search engines to bid on their brand keywords as the demand for the keyword increases. In this way, the advertiser eventually has to pay a commission to the affiliate for an organic user that eventually would have reached the website and more money to the search engines for their brand keyword. Fake Social media groups Some fraudsters also use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to trick people into clicking on affiliate links by offering shiny offers and discounts. When the users click on that link, they are taken to a malware-affected website that can hack their system to extract personal information. In another case, the user might purchase from that fraudulent link and never receive the product. In both cases, the advertiser is directly impacted by the fraudsters. In the first case, they are losing potential customers and in the second case, the users lose trust in the brand which further impacts its brand reputation. Incorrect messaging to fool customers There are some cases where we have seen ads promoting

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Gaming Advertisers

Gaming Advertisers vs Fraudsters: Who Will Make It to the Finish Line?

You developed a game and now you’re willing to go to the next level. To bring new visitors, you decide to invest a huge amount in advertising your game. You get new users and finally, all efforts make sense. However, something doesn’t feel right. Your installs are high, but the conversions are low. Shady users are interacting with your game and your genuine users are leaving. The question is, “Why did this happen?” Your digital ads are under attack by fraudsters. You are unaware of their intentions, and they are just hiding behind the screen to counter your next move. The above scenario is one of the basic cases that a game advertiser has to face. In the pandemic era when the whole world was inside their home, mobile games gave them a chance to escape. In the past 2 years, the number of gamers has increased to 420 million online gamers and approximately 400 gaming companies have come into existence during this phase. One of the reasons for this growth is high disposable income and an increase in the number of smartphones and tablets. With this sudden spike in gamers, advertisement spending in the gaming industry has also increased. In 2021, the advertising spending was estimated at $46.7 billion and is expected to increase up to $130.9 million by 2025 worldwide. It is said that “wherever the money flows, the fraudster’s radar follows it”. And seeing the rapid increase in the gaming industry, the fraudsters are going to sit ideal. In this blog, we are giving an insight into the various ways fraudsters attack digital ads and steal digital ad spend in the gaming industry. Games that Fraudsters Love to Play 1. Steal The Credentials (Account Take Over) Account takeover attacks leave a deep impact on the brand and the consumer’s trust. In this type of fraud attack, the fraudsters obtain personal information like the username, password, or email address to illegally log in to a victim’s account. As the gaming industry continues to grow and every day a new user is joining, ATO attacks have become quite common in this arena. Once the fraudster gets access to the user’s account, they can attempt multiple malicious activities for their profit. Posing as a real customer, the fraudster can get easy access to the account details, withdraw the coins or unique loyalty benefits, make an online purchase, or leverage the stolen account data to hack other accounts of the user on different platforms. 2. Guess who I am? (Fake Accounts) In the gaming industry, it is expensive to acquire new customers and even costlier to convince a customer to make their first in-app purchase. Thus, the gaming brand needs to ensure that the purchases are legitimate. If not, the brand will bear huge losses from the chargebacks. The most vulnerable mobile apps are the ones that allow the player to play for free but have features like in-app purchases. In the case of these apps, the fraudster creates a new account and uses stolen credit cards to purchase digital items, go to the next level, or load the account with gaming currency. Once they have made the account a golden asset, they sell it on a trading site. When the credit card owner calls the bank on account of fraudulent charges, the gaming brand ends up paying for the chargebacks. Not only does the gaming brand lose its money, but its brand reputation is also at stake. 3. Win, Win, or Lose? (Referral & Promo Abuse) Referrals and promotions are run by gaming marketers to engage new customers and retain the existing ones. However, when the fraudsters seep into the sales funnel, they use different fraudulent techniques to abuse the referrals and promos. The Cybercriminals either misuse the promo codes or abuse referral programs by becoming both the referrer and referee. When the cybercriminals abuse the referral programs and the end customer becomes the victim, they lose trust in the brand. They feel that they have been cheated by the gaming brand. And in this chaos, the fraudster wins, and the advertiser loses both money and consumer trust. 4. Tippity Tippity Tap (Click Fraud) Beyond hacking the user accounts and stealing the referral benefits, the easiest way for fraudsters to extract money is through click fraud. Gaming advertisers invest huge budgets to bring new gamers to their platforms. However, these digital ads are under the constant radar of fraudsters, and they find different ways to steal the advertiser’s money. When a user installs a malicious app on their phone, the fraudsters get access to the user’s device and can track their activity. Furthermore, when a user downloads the advertiser’s gaming app, the fraudster fires a fake click in the background. This fake click is attributed as the last click source by the MMPs and the fraudsters get the credit for an organic install. Due to this, the advertisers end up wasting their ad spending on installs generated by fraudsters. What do you need to protect your gaming app? The smarter the advertisers get; the fraudsters ensure to stay one step ahead. They use advanced and sophisticated methods to hide their tracks and keep the advertisers in the dark. To tackle these attacks, advertisers need a solution that can detect the anomalies in an ad campaign and take real-time action to prevent the consequences. mFilterIt’s ad fraud solution ensures to elimination of fraudulent traffic with the capabilities of AI, ML, and Data Science. To reduce the impact of fake users and click spamming, we run various algorithms checks and blacklist the fraudulent IPs and traffic coming from bots or concentrated devices. Kill The Fraudsters, Reach Your Target It’s time that you have the right weapon to attack the fraudsters. To ensure it is not a game over for you, keep a real-time check on the fraudster’s movement. This will help you to prevent the consequences of fraudulent activities and save your ad spending from wastage. And the biggest outcome will be that you will be able to reach

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Your Search Ads Are Under Attack. Know Why?

Akash is excited to plan his trip to Bali and starts searching for the best deals on the internet. He searches and finds an exciting deal of “Get INR 1000 instant cashback on your first hotel booking”. The deal sounded like a golden opportunity, and he instantly clicked on the ad. It was a renowned travel booking site which made him book his hotel in a hurry without any suspicion. However, he neither received the cashback nor the booking confirmation from the website even after 48 hours. In the end, he ends up being frustrated and is under the impression that he has been fooled by the brand. But in reality, the brand is clueless about this incident. In this case, Akash has been a victim of the search-ad phishing scam. This is one of the few instances which has recently been in the news in terms of cybercrime. Most of these instances often go overlooked due to a lack of awareness and prevention methods. The search ad scams not only result in the wastage of ad spends but also impact the reputation of the brand. Before knowing the impact, know in detail about search-ad phishing. What is Search-Ad Phishing? Also known as Google ad phishing, this is a type of cyberthreat in which the fraudsters hide the malicious links within the sponsored search engine results to fool people into clicking it. It is like phishing emails impersonating your brand just in the case of a search ad. When a person clicks on a search ad link, it redirects either to a fake website impersonating your brand, a spoofed social media account, or a fake phone number. Generally, the fraudsters trick the customers into searching for a website or customer care numbers of retail stores, financial institutions, insurance companies, cloud services, or utility companies. Ways Cybercriminals commit Search-ad Phishing Hacking Devices: The fraudster uses these techniques to trick users into sharing their personal information. Otherwise, they direct the users to an app or website to drop malware and hack their system to steal money or harvest personal information. Creating Fake Offers: The fraudsters also create fake company websites that claim to offer products at low prices for your brand’s products or services. When the customers fall for this bait, the fraudsters can use their personal information or sell counterfeit products using the name of the brand. Impact of Search-Ad Phishing on Brand Consumer Lose Trust: When the user interacts with a spoofed search ad, they are either taken to an impersonated website of a legitimate brand. The user is unaware of this and when they lose their money due to fraudulent practices, they think they have been defrauded by the brand. This eventually leads to consumers losing trust in the brand. Compromised Data: Due to the spoofed search ads, the data from the ad campaigns are highly compromised. This results in the wastage of ad spends and the advertiser unknowingly continues to invest in these tampered ad campaigns without any improvement in ROI. Conclusion Marketers often overlook the impact on brand safety when taking prevention measures from cybercriminals. Along with detecting fraud in ad campaigns, it is essential to act against brand infringement attacks by fraudsters. When the fraudsters attack your brand image, the consumers are impacted first and eventually lose trust in the brand. To protect your brand’s ad spends and brand safety altogether, it is important to partner with advanced ad protection and brand safety solution provider. mFilterIt’s ad traffic validation suite and brand safety suite ensure that your search ad campaigns are protected from invalid traffic and brand infringement attacks. With the right set of capabilities and expert help, protect your brand from the trap of fraudsters.

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