The Fight Against Mobile Ad Fraud: How to Combat It

Richard Kahn - April 17, 2018

50 to 60% of money lost to ad fraud is on mobile devices. While businesses are busy working to improve customer experience for mobile, their focus on security and fraud prevention is falling to the wayside. Their distraction is leaving the door wide open for fraudsters.

For fraudsters, mobile ad fraud is a low risk with a high payout. So, how do advertisers and publishers combat mobile ad fraud? By being informed and proactive. Here are three things you you can do to mitigate your risk.    

1. Know Your Risk Level  

All mobile platforms are at risk for mobile ad fraud, but it seems mobile gaming apps are currently the most appealing to fraudsters. In 2016, 39% of mobile ad fraud traffic was from gaming apps. Compared to other entertainment apps, gaming apps are twice as likely to be targeted.

Why? Mobile gaming’s high engagement means users have more time to be exposed to ads. Also hot on fraudsters’ lists: live wallpaper apps.  

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Source: Mobile Marketing Magazine

Earlier this summer, Anura discovered mobile app fraud in the form of live wallpaper apps occurring in the Google Play Store. While Android phones were sleeping, the zombie apps were engaging in ads. At first glance, what appears to be a minute problem adds up to a potential $3 billion problem.  

Related Post: The Zombie Apps Rise Again: Live Fraud Paper Threat 2.0

If your bread and butter is gaming apps (or live wallpaper apps), you need to be extra vigilant, especially since zombie apps have a tendency to rise again.

2. Know What to Look For

Mobile ad fraud is the triggering of fake ad impressions on mobile websites and apps. This can be caused by fraudulent traffic, clicks, impressions, in-app activity, and installs.    

Related Post: Ad Fraud: The Most Deadly Types You Need to Know

In order to know if you’re experiencing any of these, you need to first develop a pattern of recognition. Knowing what’s your “normal” will help you better detect patterns that look unusual prior to impression.

For instance, you may find a sudden spike in clicks but low conversions. Even more troubling, they’re coming from a strange IP address. Which leads us into our next recommendation: think like a fraudster.

3. Know How Fraudsters Think

Once you know the signs of ad fraud, take it a step further and learn how to think like a fraudster. Remember fraudsters want to slip under the radar, so they’re going to be discreet. To effectively fight them, you need to be able to anticipate their every move.

Related Post: Marketers Admit They’re Clueless About Ad Fraud

Let’s say you’re an ecommerce company concerned about mobile ad fraud. Create a persona of an ecommerce fraudster, jotting down characteristics and how they operate. For instance, you know they’ll initiate transactions mostly after midnight or the early morning hours to evade merchants who rely on manual reviews. They’ll also lean toward five items or less, to avoid raising suspicion. And to further negate raising eyebrows, they’ll save big ticket items like TVs and electronics for desktop transactions, instead going after gift cards on mobile.  

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Source: Trulioo

Now take that persona and boil it down into a signs of mobile ad fraud checklist. Based on your checklist, you and your team can keep an eye out for suspicious timing, number of items in the cart, and type of purchase.

These are just a few of the ways you can stave off mobile ad fraud. While you can’t stop all of it, you can improve your odds by implementing protection protocol and staying informed.

Richard Kahn

Rich Kahn is the Founder and CEO of eZanga.com, a digital advertising firm and purveyor of the ad fraud traffic management platform Anura. He has more than 23 years of global experience in internet technology, digital advertising, and ad fraud management, and is often revered for his implementation of fraud elimination techniques and client growth. Previously, Rich founded his own internet service provider, First Street Corporation and co-founded Paid for Surf, an advertising software company, before joining the pay per click advertising network AdOrigin as its COO. Rich has held management roles at Verizon Wireless and Bloomberg.