click fraud


Decode the Fraud Series: Cracking Down on Click Spamming?

While online fraud perhaps started with email spamming, it has come a long way. Today, ad fraud takes many forms, and it costs digital advertisers several billion dollars. The lure of making quick money has motivated modern fraudsters to employ sophisticated techniques to commit fraud. Ad fraud techniques such as domain spoofing, cookie stuffing, ad stacking, ad injection, geo masking, and many others are just a few of the many techniques employed by modern fraudsters. Ad fraud is a serious problem that drains budgets and can cause long-term damage by skewing campaign performance data. Awareness is the first step for any advertiser looking to protect their ad campaigns and the budgets associated with them. This article will help you build this awareness. In the subsequent sections of this article, you will gain an in-depth understanding of one of the most prevalent click fraud techniques- click spamming. Let’s dive right in: What Is Click Spamming? Click spamming is a click fraud technique that involves the generation of fake clicks on ads or app download links. With click spamming, the clicks generated often come from genuine devices with authentic devices and user IDs. Click spamming can take many forms. Some of the most common ones are: Click Flooding- Fraudsters generate several fake clicks on ads within an app. Generating Fake Impressions- Fraudsters use a mobile app to generate fake views on videos in the background. The user is often unaware of this activity. In some cases, the app may place multiple ‘hidden’ ads within the ad interface and get credit for authentic impressions when a user views them. Organic Poaching- Fraudsters use malware-laced apps to claim credit for authentic app downloads. How Does Click Spamming Happen? Click spamming activity usually happens in one of the following two ways: 1. Click Flooding and Generating Fake Impressions: To execute this type of click fraud, the fraudster first places a utility app on the app download store. Examples of such apps may include a torch app or a calculator. However, this activity is not limited to utility apps and has been observed in games and other types of apps. Once a user has downloaded the app, it continues to run in the background. Without the knowledge of the user, the app’s in-built features generate automated clicks on ads. Similar techniques are used to generate impressions and views. 2. Organic Poaching: With organic poaching, the app downloaded by the user generates a number of clicks within the app. In some cases, it may be designed to enable an external device to click within the app. This goes on until the user downloads a promoted app or makes an in-app purchase. When they do, the credit is stolen by the fraudsters using organic poaching. While the obvious impact of such click fraud activities is the lost ad budget, there is a deeper, more serious problem. Click fraud can distort advertisers’ analytics, compromising their ability to make informed decisions. Access to data, the ability to test different ads and audiences, and the ability to optimize campaigns are perhaps the most pressing reasons to use digital advertising. Click fraud prevents advertisers from enjoying the full benefits of this access to data and associated benefits. Difference Between Click Spamming and Botnet Activity Click spamming and botnet activity have a few similarities and are often confused with each other. Both involve generating a large number of clicks on mobile apps, mobile landing pages, and web pages. However, the key difference lies in the source of the clicks. How To Identify Click Spamming in Your Ad Campaigns? Click spamming can be difficult to detect. This is because the origin of the clicks is an authentic device with a genuine device ID. That said, detecting click spamming isn’t impossible. If your ads are receiving a lot of traffic from a source, but the conversion rate is unusually low, it may be a sign of click spamming. To be sure, you can: Look into the publisher app. If the app does not have a lot of downloads but is generating a disproportionate number of clicks, consider it a red flag. It is also worth watching out for apps that haven’t been validated by Google’s Play Store. However, do you remember that there may be some genuine apps that have chosen to forego the validation process to protect their code? If you suspect a conversion, check the time between a click and a conversion. In most cases of organic poaching, fraudsters claim a conversion sometime after the click has been generated. How To Stop Click Spamming? Once you have identified sources of fake clicks, you can simply block them. However, doing this at scale every day is often not practical or effective. Manually tracking click spamming activity can be time-consuming. Moreover, the process is prone to human errors that may lead you to overlook important sources of clicks. Similarly, in some cases, wrong judgment may lead advertisers to block genuine sources of authentic conversions. The most reliable way to fight click spamming is to use an ad fraud solution like mFilterIt. mFilterIt uses its AI and ML capabilities to pinpoint verified instances of click spamming and also identify human-like traffic sources. This paints a transparent picture of your campaign performance and allows you to block sources of fraudulent traffic. Conclusion Click spamming is a serious fraud issue, but the unfortunate reality is that it is not the only one. Click fraud and other forms of online ad fraud are plaguing ad budgets and campaign reports. While this means that some advertisers will continue to struggle, for smart advertisers, this presents an opportunity to get ahead. Think about it, simply by using an ad fraud tool, you can improve campaign performance and the accuracy of your attribution sources. Get in Touch to learn more about click spamming. 

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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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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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