The World of Online Ad Fraud and Scams


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With the bang of information technology, online marketing has forced its way with so much power and pervasiveness that print and television ads are gradually diminishing in proportion to online media.

And since the Internet world has become a buzzing place for many frauds and scams, it is the advertising sector that has taken the brunt of these unscrupulous activities. According to reports, Google, the uncontested leader of online advertising, blocked more than 1.5 billion ads in 2016, labeling them as ‘bad’. Even with such rigorous purging in place, ad fraud continues to inflict losses on ventures using online medium to market themselves.

According to a report published in Ad Age, a leading magazine for marketing and media, one-third of the funds spent on online advertising end up in the accounts of fraudsters. Spending money to get nothing is literally an anti-thesis of marketing and no business wants to get into such an ordeal. In this article, we will outline important details regarding ad fraud perpetrated on the online medium.

What is Online Ad Fraud?

binary-options-scamThese types of scams entail the activities where fraudsters score their commission for ads, which are never published or by manipulating their impressions The fraud further intensifies when scammers furnish made up performance reports and trick businesses to invest more to expand their “winning” marketing campaigns.

The fraud eventually unravels when businesses don’t get any tangible benefits and their return on investment also shows falling numbers. For many ventures, such as online ad fraud becomes the first and last marketing outing on the digital medium. Businesses they are new to the digital world and don’t understand its intricacies often become the target of online deceptions.

Bots: A Primary Tool of Deception

In initial years of Internet advertising, only bots were used to carry out ad fraud. Bots are software instructions designed to perform certain tasks and they are put to utilization by fraudsters to inflate the numbers of impressions and clicks on online ads. This is essential for fraudsters to accomplish since most online advertising is priced according to the number of impressions and clicks an ad receives.

The earlier bots were only coded to perform certain actions and therefore advertisers began to detect this fraudulent activity. But with the help of more complex coding, these robots have been developed that can play videos and fill out the forms.

Use of User Traffic to Instigate Ad frauds

Bots are still the most popular means to carry out ad fraud, but fraudulent online marketers are starting to get creative with their methods. Therefore, the use of actual user traffic is also becoming more common. Ad fraud executed through human traffic appear more authentic and hence difficult to detect. Actual user traffic can be used in several ways to carry this out.

Click Farms

This is the most popular and least innovative idea used by fraudsters to inflate the numbers on online ad clicks. In click farms, groups of low-paid workers are tasked to repeatedly click on ads to increase their hits. So, in a fraudulent activity where an online ad has been clicked several hundred times, most of the hits come from a bunch of low-paid computer operators endlessly clicking and refreshing the webpage instead of actual potential consumers.

These click farms are mostly based in third world countries where scammers can easily find a considerable workforce willing to establish click farms. One significant red flag is if a majority of the impressions on your post or ad are coming from a few developing countries, then it’s a sign that you might be conned through a click farm.

Ad Stacking

Let’s move on to some more creative methods and ones that are quite difficult to detect. Ad stacking is one such method where advertisements are piled up on each other and only the top ad is seen to users. If a user clicks on any ad stack, all the hidden ones also register a hit.

Pixel stuffing is a refined form of stacking where ads are compressed into a pixel on web pages. Users click on these pixels but they are not aware of the fact that they have clicked several ads simultaneously.

Domain Spoofing

Domain spoofing is another way to cheat advertisers. In this type of online ad fraud, scammers put up ads on low-profile sites by selling them as premium options to the businesses. Businesses don’t get the desired response on their promotions in cases of domain spoofing. Similarly, premium websites also lose their fair share of revenue in this online ad fraud.

Cookie stuffing and ad injections are also some popular methods where marketers reach out to customers through unauthorized web traffic. However, these scams are many times carried out with the corroboration of the advertisers.

Prevention of Ad Fraud

A robust prevention model is needed by advertising businesses to ensure that their marketing budgets are not ending up in the pockets of fraudsters.

Hire Professionals with the Experience of Online Advertising

If you are going to spend a huge promotional budget on any online campaign, then make sure that you have on experienced professionals on your team who can better deal with marketers and can keep an eye on the campaign all through its course.

Block Countries with High Fraud Rates

To get more organic traffic on your ads and promotions, you can use a preventive measure to block the countries notorious for high fraudulent traffic.

Be Creative

Small-scale businesses trying to establish an online presence, but don’t have the budgets to invest in expensive preventive measures for ad frauds. They can prevent online ad frauds by taking up some smart measures in their dealing with marketers.

  • Devise your online marketing campaign on the lines where more human interaction is required. For instance, adding the features of questionnaires, inquiries and conversations can help in reducing the chances of getting conned by online ad frauds.
  • Keep a vigilant eye on your campaign performance and track its progress to detect extraordinary spikes. If a web page is experiencing an exponential increase in its hits during a certain time of the day, then you must bring this anomaly with your online marketer.

Posted On June 14, 2018