Ad Fraud Tutorial Series: What is Ad Fraud?

By John Koetsier December 29, 2015

Definition: Ad fraud is the practice of deliberately attempting to drive ad impressions that have no potential of being seen by a real person. Digital ad fraud is a crime – it is deliberate, premeditated, and designed to rob advertisers of value for their advertising spend.

Digital Ad Fraud v. Bot Impressions

Much ad fraud is driven by bots – software designed to automate repetitive tasks online. Google, for example, uses bots to examine millions of pages and apps every day to understand what content they offer. They use this data so they can deliver the best possible results with their search engines.

Google bots are obviously not malicious. They are not designed to defraud advertisers, though it is possible that a Google bot can trigger an ad impression while doing its job.

Bot-driven ad fraud is different. These bots are deliberately developed to load ad views so that the criminal entity earns advertising dollars. So, impressions delivered to bots are not necessarily ad fraud. It is the malicious intent that makes some of them fraudulent.

How Digital Ad Fraud is Perpetrated

There are a multitude of ad fraud tactics, which include:

  • Bots that secretly take over consumer PCs and spawn pageviews unseen by the user.
  • Networks of hijacked computers (“botnets”) that fake consumer traffic.
  • Virtual machines that mimic consumer-used PCs and rapidly spawn thousands of pageviews.
  • Videos that automatically play but which are extremely small or even invisible on the page.
  • Software that emulates multiple clicks occurring every time a consumer makes a real click.

These are just a few of the methods used. Ad fraud, and fraud detection, is a continuing arms race, with each protection breakthrough spawning an innovative approach to perpetrating fraud.

How Prevalent is Ad Fraud?

All researchers who have studied ad fraud identify it as a significant amount of total web traffic. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and online fraud detection firm, White Ops, conducted one of the largest industry studies, in which data showed that 11% of display and 23% of video impressions were caused by bots and botnets. Another leading industry association, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), stated that almost 36% of web traffic was fake.


Download the Singular Fraud Index

SIngular has just released its 2017 Singular Fraud Index, which reveals the mobile industry’s Most Secure Ad Networks. The Index is the first study of its kind to examine fraud data collected from multiple fraud prevention solutions, each with its own set of proprietary detection methods. Drawing on this unique dataset, the study exposes the effectiveness of today’s most common anti-fraud mechanisms as well as the 25 ad networks driving the lowest rates of fraud.

Get your free copy here.


Protecting Yourself

It is important to be vigilant as regards monitoring for signs of fraud. Here are a few strategies to help you do just that:

  • Anti-Fraud Tools: Some attribution and analytics suites offer tools to help advertisers identify and prevent fraud. SIngular, for example, automatically offers many protections. Such tools may use signals like IP addresses, click and install pattern detection, and fraudulent activity monitoring to pinpoint campaigns, partners and buying models that are driving fraudulent app installs.
  • Common Sense: A deal that sounds too good to be true is likely to result in low-quality app installs.
  • Focusing Resources on Trusted Partners: Large or niche vertical media companies are more likely to have the scale and resources to detect and prevent fraud. Further, properties like social networks can leverage user account information to help ensure that installs come from legitimate people.
  • Leveraging Retention and Uninstall Data: By comparing the set of user traffic attracted by different media companies, brands can learn a lot about user quality. Low user retention or high uninstall rates increasingly are seen as signals of possible fraudulent activity.
  • Use ROI Analytics as a Primary KPI:.  Arguably, the best KPI to monitor and prevent fraud is ROI, or revenue divided by cost, as it is particularly difficult for fraudsters to simulate a sale, especially because most marketing analytics platforms — including Singular — verify in-app purchases with App Stores.

Singular and Ad Fraud

Singular offers an industry-leading fraud solutions that you can learn more about right here. For a capsule summary of some of the steps we take to detect and prevent fraud for our clients, read on.

At Singular, our unprecedented visibility into BOTH the ad performance and spend sides of the install category gives us unique advantages in detecting and protecting clients from fraud. Our fraud detection and fraud prevention technologies are a mix of the best known techniques today as well unique proprietary techniques only we can offer.


Singular’s New Anti-Fraud Improvements

Learn about Singular’s new Enhanced Fraud Protections. See how working with Singular can help protect and defend your business. Click for details.


Singular monitors the flow of data into our platform, looking for signs of fraudulent activity such as illegitimate networks, IP addresses, devices, mismatches in targeting, and more. Further, Singular verifies every in-app purchase (IAP) with the appropriate app store to ensure that you recognize revenue from every reported purchase. With full uninstall insights right in the platform, Singular helps you identify sources and campaigns with suspiciously high uninstall rates. These are just a few of the ways that Singular helps protect our clients from fraud.

Singular enables data-oriented advertisers to connect, measure, and optimize siloed marketing data, giving them the most vital insights they need to drive ROI. The unified analytics platform tracks over $7 billion in digital marketing spend to revenue and lifetime value across industries including commerce, travel, gaming, entertainment and on-demand services.

Stay up to date on the latest happenings in digital marketing

Simply send us your email and you’re in! We promise not to spam you.