Mobile Ad Fraud Tutorial Series: What is Deceptive App Advertising Fraud?

By John Koetsier January 5, 2016

Mobile ad fraud is on the mind of virtually every app marketer. While estimates vary, few dispute the assertion that app fraud costs our industry hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

To help app marketers better understand and respond to app fraud, Singular has launched a series of app fraud tutorial posts.

This post continues that series, providing information on mobile app fraud types, how they can harm your business, and how to protect yourself from specific types of app fraud. Here we also provide a topline summary of how Singular protects its clients from various forms of app fraud, and how you can learn more about the Singular fraud protection difference. Today’s post is about deceptive advertising app fraud. Deceptive app advertising refers to situations where a bad actor media partner creates and delivers a false advertising message to drive up campaign performance metrics and capture the maximum amount of brand marketing investment spending.

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 ad fraud data collected from multiple ad 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 digital advertising fraud.

Get your free copy here.

Savvy marketers know that the ads for their install and remarketing campaigns need to showcase the utility of their offerings, but be truthful. Deceptive app ad fraud usually occurs when a marketing team contracts with an ad network that makes its own ads in support of the marketer’s objective. Sometimes that forewarn clients that they want to make special ads for their properties that they believe will perform better than client supplied creative. Other times, they don’t provide notification to the client at all.

Deceptive App Ads and Fraud

Deceptive app ads are designed to drive higher response rates that will improve campaign metrics for a network. Some examples of deceptive app install ads include:

  • Ads that are deliberatively designed to mimic app UI
  • Messages designed to look like alerts or warnings from the user’s device
  • Creative executions that appear to be government warnings or messages
  • Advertising benefits that are not actually delivered by the app
  • Ads that use trickery or adult images to drive extra clicks and installs
  • Ads that offer rewards for installs that are never actually delivered

As you can see, many of these tactics represent both a consumer fraud and a fraud scam against the business.

While deceptive app ads can result in more of the desired consumer action, like installs, they are usually developed and fielded without a review by the client. For example, the publisher of an anti-virus app might contract with a network to drive quality installs, only to learn later that they created their own ads for the app that erroneously implied that the user’s device was already infected and that the only way to solve the problem is to download the client’s app immediately.

The Quality Problem

Deceptive app ad practices drive lower quality installs — individuals that rarely or never use them, or who never make in-app purchases. Thus, deceptive advertising fraud significantly limits a brand’s efforts at attracting and retaining profitable users. In this way, every install or user action driven by deceptive advertising represents theft to your iOS or Android app business.

Protecting Your App Business From Deceptive App Advertising Fraud

Almost every fraud strategy, including deceptive ap advertising, results in a data anomaly, like seeing far more installs from one ad network than average.Because fraudsters are greedy, they often max out their use of a fraud strategy like deceptive advertising — their actions can thus be relatively easy to stop.

That said, you have to be looking for fraud to spot it. Because most app marketing teams struggle with the amount of data that pours into their organizations each day, it can sometimes be difficult to detect fraud before it has cost your business signifciantly.

In addition to data signals, it can also be useful to monitor your customer service feedback loop and any communities where your suers congregate. You will be amazed at how quickly people will report fraudulent mobile advertising and inform your team of problems. But again, you have to be listing to hear the messages.

Some app publishers are naturally concerned that deceptive ads might put their businesses at risk of consumer backlash, ANA fines, FTC actions, lawsuits and other legal claims, or other punitive actions. Frequent violations of deceptive ad practice policies can also get brands blacklisted — something no advertiser wants to see happen to their business. One step some brands take here is to require that any media source planning to make its own ads for your app submit the messages for approval before they are released. That won’t stop fraudsters intent of perpetrating bad trade practice– but can help you mitigate the risks of a well intentioned but overzealous ad network.

Singular and Mobile Ad Fraud Fraud

Deceptive app advertising is just one of the forms of fraud that Singular monitors and works to prevent for its clients. 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.


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.

As mentioned above, the greed of would-be fraudsters is often the best tool we have to thwart them. The more they leverage a specific tactic to steal your money, the more visible will be the patterns and performance anomalies. Since Singular collects, cleans, enhances, and associates ad performance, cost and revenue data in a single place, our platform offers enormous power as a fraud detection and prevention emchanism.

With Singular, app publishers have visibility into ad performance, media investment, and revenue data. That provides 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 monitors the flow of data into our platform, looking for signs of fraudulent activity and fraud schemes. W constantly scrutimize client data for peculiar performance and data patterns from ad 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.

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