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Detecting and preventing ad fraud in marketing


Companies and brands invest millions of dollars in their marketing campaigns every year. This investment is critical to gaining recognition and expanding the customer base to generate more revenue and profit for the company. Thus, today’s advancements and technology have allowed the advertising industry to grow exponentially to meet this increasing demand.

However, this growth has also led to the emergence of ad fraud, which is becoming more menacing by the day.

Ad fraud or ad fraud is the unethical practice of providing fraudulent website traffic, impressions, clicks, or other engagement activities in order to generate more revenue. Although it is a relatively recent phenomenon, the rate of ad fraud has grown significantly. Statistics show that in 2020, total losses due to ad fraud amounted to 35 billion dollars.

The first step to preventing ad fraud is to recognize it. To help you spot ad fraud, here are seven of the most common tactics and ways to protect yourself from them.

1. Domain spoofing

Fraudulent publishers use this approach to disguise dangerous or malicious sites, hiding them in plain sight. They do this by mismatching or manipulating the domain from which the traffic originates. Although these fake domains may look legitimate and reputable, they keep the actual URL hidden from users and pretend to be premium advertisers. To protect yourself from this malware, measure its frequency across all your campaigns and gain a better understanding. Enrolling in courses similar to the ones it offers Effective Learning Wiley can provide information on monitoring performance and identifying potential flaws in your approach.

2. Introduction of advertising

Ad injection is a technique where ads are displayed on publishers’ websites without their permission. Existing ad spots can be replaced with fraudulent ones by redirecting traffic to another domain. If there are no ads in the empty spaces, they can also be used to display deceptive content. Impostors do this by using previously compromised browser extensions, plug-ins, or other forms of malware. When a fake ad is monetized, the profit is pocketed despite having no legitimate stock.

To mitigate ad injection attacks, implement permissions for inbound and outbound requests. This acts as a shield and prevents the website from displaying content from unauthorized networks.

3. Pixel stuffing

Pixel padding compresses ads into tiny sizes like 1×1 pixels. These ads become invisible to the eye at such small sizes, which makes it possible to place multiple ads on the same web page. A user’s view is marked as an interaction, even if the user never sees it. Publishers use this strategy to trigger multiple ad impressions while earning significant cash.

Consider investing in apps or software that detect these scam tactics or any suspicious activity on your website. Monitor any sudden increase in interactions regularly and keep checking for possible viruses.

4. Stacking of ads

Ad stacking mostly infects pay-per-click and cost-per-mile companies. This method involves placing multiple ads on top of each other to force the user to click only on the top ad. However, clicking on just one of these ads means clicking on all the others in the stack. Therefore, advertisers have to pay for all false impressions created from them. As a result, marketing budgets are quickly depleted, with no discernible benefit. Some publishers may even use bad bots to increase views or clicks on ads, further draining already depleted budgets.

Using legitimate anti-fraud tools is the most effective solution to prevent all ad stack scams. It also helps a lot in monitoring the conversion rate of your campaign. If your website is getting high engagement numbers, but conversion rates remain low, you’re probably a victim of ad warehousing.

5. Geomasking

When you’re running an advertising campaign, certain geographic regions have higher ad spend and more profitable conversions than others. Thanks to this, geomaskers hide or manipulate their actual location and make the advertiser appear to be the real source of the traffic. So, for example, let’s say your ad campaign is targeting college students in the United States. Someone in Brazil can impersonate a normal US user and spoof your data by providing false web page impressions. Since these interactions won’t convert, you’ll be losing a lot of advertising money and getting little to nothing in return.

Geo-blocking filters block emails or messages from regions where phishing campaigns or malicious IP addresses are often reported. While not a foolproof tool, it can reduce the frequency of geo-masking attacks that a company may encounter.

6. Click spam

Click forwarding is usually done through a mobile phone applications but can also happen through web pages. When an unsuspecting user installs an infected app or visits an infected website, it allows embedded code to generate ad clicks in the background, without your knowledge. While the program continues to function normally, the tiny code wreaks havoc. When a high number of clicks are reported, these scammers try to get money from advertisers and take credit before conversion rates increase.

The easiest way to protect yourself from click spam is to install apps only from the Play Store or App Store. You can also install apps that detect and prevent malware, ensuring it’s legal and safe.

7. Filling for cookies

Cookie stuffing is an ad fraud technique where users get third party cookies when they visit the site without knowing it. And if the user later makes a sale on the target website, the cookie distributor can claim a commission on each purchase made. While not helpful in any way, this third party will take the cut, which will ultimately hurt legitimate publishers.

Preventing stuffed cookies can be quite difficult, but not impossible. Careful vigilance and verification go a long way in reducing such cases and preventing third-party installation.


Ad fraud can easily cost you and your organization millions over the course of a year. Even though your marketing budget will be exhausted by the end of the financial year, you won’t have any profitable results to show for it. Fortunately, however, all hope is not lost. With proper education, training, and monitoring, you can examine your company’s patterns and spot potential fraud before it can cause real damage.

Photo: pexels

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