ConnectAd Chronicles


Common types of ad fraud and how to prevent them easily

Digital advertising is booming. The demand for digital content has been rising for years. Accordingly, the whole thing is getting a lot of attention and that’s great. But the truth is: This is also a lucrative field for fraudsters, who are causing enormous damage with their criminal behavior, which is generally referred to as ad fraud.

Therefore ad fraud is nothing other than the fraudulent representation of traffic, clicks, impressions, conversions or data events with the aim of falsifying these number and incurring costs. Specifically, the fraudsters often use bots to create fake clicks and deceive the advertiser into believing that their ads have been delivered regularly. In reality, however, no one has seen the ads and the advertiser has costs, but will not achieve any real success.

But even if many people mistakenly believe it, ad fraud does not only affect advertisers negatively. Ad fraud also has serious consequences for publishers and the whole digital advertising industry because it decreases inventory, reduces revenue and negatively impacts brand reputation and consequently trust.

From click bots to cookie stuffing – OMG fraudsters are inventive!

Ad fraud isa very complex topic. There is a huge variety of different types that varies significantly in terms of technical sophistication and criminal energy. Here are some short explanations for the most common types:

Click fraud: This is one of the oldest types of ad fraud. Traffic is generated by human assistants in click farms or so-called click bots. Nowadays these bots are often designed to imitate human click behavior very precisely.

Click Bot: A bot is a software program that manages automated, repetitive and predefined tasks. For a click bot this task is to simply access a web page and click on the desired link.

Ad stacking: Here, several ads are sold on one placement on the website. The ads are stacked on top of each other, so that more ads can be placed on one page. Scammers also use this technique to optimize the web pages created for ad fraud via search engines.

Pixel stuffing: Ads with a size of 1 x 1 pixel are placed. This is also often done in combination with the ad stacking described above. In this way, the ads are placed and clicks are counted, although they are actually invisible to potential customers.

Domain spoofing: Fraudsters fake the domain and make it look like a high-profile website to attract advertisers. In another form of domain spoofing fraudsters manage to infiltrate ads into a reputable website and collect commission for it.

Ad injection: All ad injection starts with via malicious software that helps the fraudsters to sneak into a place on a publisher’s website it shouldn’t be. It is a type of impression ad fraud that can insert new ads or replace existing ones during web surfing sessions of a user.

Location fraud: This is a technique used to fake the GPS location of a device. It's primarily used on mobile phones and on some tablets. A fraudster may spoof the location of a device with a GPS spoofing app or by hacking the device directly.

Cookie stuffing: Here, an attempt is made to mark the user with a cookie when viewing a website, without the user being aware of this. Afterwards this cookie is used to calculate a commission for the affiliate in the event of a conversion even though the affiliate is not responsible for this.

User-agent spoofing: This is a form of fraud where the string of data is modified to provide false information or hide details. For example this is the case, when a bot is making multiple automated requests from a single device and then modifies the user agent string to pretend those requests are from multiple devices.    

And as if ad fraud wasn't enough of a problem, there are still many stakeholders in our industry who haven't understood that intrusive advertising can also have a highly negative impact. Those who don't shy away from forced redirects, auto played videos or site takeovers aren’t committing a crime. But: They are creating a very bad user experience and ultimately make users feel more than just annoyed by the ad itself, but also by the brand standing behind the ad and the publisher promoting it.

With ad fraud you better be safe than sorry. So … let’s start preventing!

Ad fraud can affect anyone. It steals revenue by reducing the value of ads and can lead to ad networks or demand partners blocking your website. Therefore publishers need to have robust ad fraud detection in place. Preventing ad fraud enables them to continue generating revenue while ensuring that they protect their reputations.

This to-do list may help:

Monitor your traffic! Sudden traffic peaks, abnormal click through rates, unusual geo regions, eye-catching ad request ratios or fill rates should make you pay attention.

Check conversion rates! Low conversion and high traffic ratio could mean that something is stinking.

Target you audience precisely! Ad fraudsters can be identified best by precise targeting.

Use ads.txt files! And check for your partners to have a valid sellers.json file.

Monitor competitors! Plagiarized content that is republished could be a hint.

Monitor infrastructure costs and performance! Click bots may slow down the speed of your website.

Collect end-user device data! Mobile ad fraud detection and prevention is different from desktop. Things like SDK spoofing can be detected by signals like touch events, typing speed or sensor signals.

Monitor Spoofed Domains! Regularly check for fake versions of your website.

Block risky IP addresses! If you detect a risky IP from reports, block it from accessing your site immediately.

Use a bot management system! AI and ML will differentiate bots much better than human intervention. Use it!

Here’s the deal: ConnectAd filters all the above

At ConnectAd we take care of all the preventive measures listed above. We specifically prevent ad fraud on 3 levels.

1) We have build a propriety technology.

2) While onboarding publishing partners we work with excellent tools and outstanding technologies, while also undertaking regular manual checks.

3) Creatives and ads are checked for fraud by default with our partner GeoEgde. The same goes for the hits on our partner websites. Here we trust Fraudlogix

You wonder why we support you to prevent ad fraud for free? Because our inventory is sacred to us. We want to protect our publishers and aim to provide the best advertising environment for our advertisers. Interested in working with us? Don’t hesitate to hit us up!

PS: Because ad fraud is such a complex topic, we would like to take a closer look at it in the in the near future of the ConnectAd Chronicles. You can look forward to a blog series that will look at the topic from the publisher's, the advertiser's and the user’s point of view as well as from the DSPs as tech-platforms.