Mobile Ad Fraud Update

Arm Yourself with Knowledge about Mobile Ad Fraud and Mobile App Install Fraud

Estimates put the damage caused by mobile ad fraud near $50 billion by 2025, making it a problem that requires our undivided attention. Mobile app installation fraud is equally troubling, with an estimated 5 to 7 percent of installs from non-premium ad networks potentially fraudulent. The conundrum for marketers is, where do we start? There are so many types of fraud, it’s hard to know where to look first. The risk is there for all mobile marketers, so it’s important to know what you’re up against and stay vigilant.

Here’s a quick overview of what we’re facing in the market today with respect to mobile advertising. This list is by no means complete, but it’s a jumping-off point:

  • Ad Stacking: In this type of mobile ad fraud, multiple ads are programmed for a single ad placement. The ads are literally placed on top of each other. Even though only the top ad is viewable, all the ads get credit for the click.
  • Click Injection: In this type of fraud, fake clicks are “injected” just as a user installs an app. The clicks are timed to happen within seconds of installation. Click injection leverages “install broadcasts” to time those clicks and can only occur on Android devices.
  • Click Spamming: This is a broader bucket term that encompasses a number of tactics, all of which harm advertisers. Adjust includes these activities in their definition click spamming:
  • The mobile web page could be executing clicks in the background without visible ads, or ads which can be interacted with.
  • The spammer could begin clicking in the background while the user engages with their app, making it look as though they have interacted with an advert
  • The fraudster app can generate clicks at any time if they run an app that is running in the background 24/7 (e.g. launchers, memory cleaners, battery savers etc.)
  • The fraudster could send impressions-as-clicks to make it look as if a view has converted into an engagement.
  • The spammer could blatantly send clicks from made up device IDs to tracking vendors.
  • Mobile location data spoofing: This is another type of fraud that can be proliferated in a number of ways. Proxies can be used, lat/long numbers can be appended, and data provided by centroids can be disguised as something more accurate. All of this can drive up data costs, causing advertisers more budget for less targeted ads.

App install fraud is a whole different kettle of fish, and equally worthy of sleep loss. Again, this is only a short list, intended to get you thinking about what’s out there:

  • Device ID Reset Fraud: The newest flavor of fraud was recently studied by AppsFlyer. Device ID Reset Fraud is responsible for over half of all app install fraud. It’s defined as “bad actors using device farms to reset their DeviceIDs in between app installs on a massive scale, generating a colossal amount of fraudulent traffic that bypasses all pre-existing anti-fraud technologies.” It cost app marketers over $1billion in 2017 alone.
  • Malicious Apps: These look-alike apps are meant to look like their more popular (and safer) doppelgängers in order to trick users into installing them. Once on a device, they set to work downloading and installing even more nefarious apps – killing the phone’s performance in the process.
  • Install Farms: Exactly what they sound like, these shops employ humans to download, install and uninstall apps en masse. These shops can be leveraged to drive apps to top listings in the app stores.
  • Emulators: Using device emulators, fraudsters can mimic the existence of a huge number of distinct mobile devices that install and use different apps.

Again, I have to reiterate that these are just a few tactics that fraudsters may use. There are so many more, with new ones added every day. Marketers cannot be vigilant enough in protecting their users and their budgets from bad actors.

A solid start to protecting your apps and campaigns is finding a good partner.

At Cross Audience, we work with some of the smartest companies in the business to ensure your campaigns with us are safe from both ad and app install fraud.

We take the necessary precautions upfront, but we also work with you to keep an eye on analytics. Numbers that look “out of whack” require questioning and investigation.

Mobile ad fraud and app install fraud are not victimless crimes after all. End users can end up with malware that drains batteries and surfaces relentless push notifications or home screen overlays. A user experience like that can not only kill a phone, it can drive users to install ad blockers – and limit the additional apps they install. Both of those behaviors hurt advertisers and app marketers. Adding insult to injury, advertisers and developers obviously suffer a big hit to their budget when their campaigns and apps are attacked.

The best offensive is a good defense. Make sure you’ve got one in place before you become one of those disheartening statistics.