Mobile App Terminology

Ad Fraud

What is Ad Fraud?

Ad fraud is an attempt to deceive advertising platforms into thinking that fake activity on the network is real user behavior for the purpose of financial gain. Malicious actors typically use bots in order to implement ad fraud, although there are a variety of other methods used to get advertisers and ad networks to pay them for fake activity including some that involve real humans.

In short, ad fraud refers to any attempt to disrupt the proper delivery of ads to real users and the intended audience.

With a predicted $44 billion lost to ad fraud in 2022, online advertising fraud remains a major issue for ad networks and advertisers alike. In order to ensure advertising campaigns are successful, marketers need to know that their ad spend is reaching real users. To solve this challenge, many marketers rely on third-party ad fraud prevention tools like those Singular offers.

What are some common types of Ad Fraud?

There are many different types of ad fraud, ranging from bots pretending to be humans, spamming ads with fake engagement, click farms, and more. Below are several of the most common types of ad fraud that marketers should be aware of.

Click Fraud

One of the most common types of ad fraud is click fraud, which is usually carried out by bots. Click fraud refers to bots targeting pay-per-click (PPC) ads in order to either waste the advertisers budget or to artificially boost the organic ranking of a webpage or social media post. The goal of these bots is to trick the ad platform into believing the activity is from real users, which in turn signals that the post or webpage is more popular than it really is.

As Cloudflare writes:

Click fraud usually occurs on a large scale – each link is clicked many times, not just once, and usually multiple links are targeted. To automate this process, click fraudsters often use bots that “click” over and over.

Click Injection

As discussed in our ad fraud tutorial series, the traffic flow of an app install is more complicated than simply clicking on a link or engaging with a post. Click injection works by having a user install a simple free app, such as a flashlight or to-do list. The app may provide its simple function as advertised, although its real purpose is click injection fraud.

These apps then listen for “install broadcasts” on the Android app store, which is a signal the app has been launched for the first time. As soon as the broadcast signal is sent, the app informs the attribution provider that they registered the ad click for the campaign, even if no click has occurred: As our click injection article describes:

By timing the fraudulent click to the moment of install, the fraudster ensures that it is the “last click” — it will get credit for the install when the app is actually launched for the first time.

To solve this Android fraud phenomenon, fraud prevention providers such as Singular examine the timing of the reported click with the time the app was first launched. 

Fake App Installs

Since ads are often shown within other mobile apps, teams of people (referred to as click farms), will go in and manually install apps many times and interact with them by clicking links and performing simple actions. In many cases, this is automated as well in server farms where fraudsters run simulated mobile devices in software and “install” apps repeatedly.

The more sophisticated ad fraud perpetrators may even make it look like there’s post-install activity in the app.

These are just a few of the ad fraud techniques carried out, which are solved using fraud prevention tools like Singuar.

How Singular prevents Ad Fraud?

Singular’s ad fraud prevention solution is equipped with the latest detection and prevention tools that ensure ad budgets are spent on attracting quality users to the app. It is continually updated and includes more and more data-driven signals that reveal the source and quality of app installs.

In today’s online landscape, fraud prevention has become a necessity as opposed to a nice-to-have. In the Singular platform, our cybersecurity specialists take a proactive approach to preventing ad fraud and report on metrics such as:

  • Rejected installs
  • Suspicions installs
  • Protected installs
  • Estimated cost savings

This means marketers are able to automatically apply deterministic rules in real-time to block fake installs before they’re attributed. Ultimately, by combining mobile attribution and fraud prevention, this gives marketers peace of mind that their marketing spend is going to real users.

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