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Mobile Ad Fraud – How to Stay Protected?

There’s nothing more satisfying than looking at your app’s ad performance reports and seeing a lovely number followed by lots of zeros, letting you know that many people viewed your app, downloaded apps and convert into paying users. You feel that the only thing left for you to do is choose the color of your Ferrari.

But wait! How do you know these numbers are real? Are these users Actually downloads your app through mobile advertising or is this the result of ad fraud that tries to overcharge you for unreal downloads and users?

First things first

The advertising world is slowly moving from billboards to TVs, computer screens and now mobile devices, to the point that the global mobile advertising market share is close to 71% and will soon surpass it. Mobile advertisers pay mobile advertising and marketing agencies to market their apps, and one of the ways to do so is through Media Purchase, i.e. run mobile ads through ad networks, RTBs, exchanges, and direct publishers. While some advertising venues like Facebook and Google are better at preventing fraud, many others are not able or even willing to try and prevent this.

According to a report by App Annie, app downloads and revenue hit a new record in the third quarter of 2017. Downloads on the two major app stores, Apple’s App Store and Google Play, have nearly reached 26 billion won worldwide – one 8% up year-over-year in 2016. That number doesn’t include app re-installs or updates, only new downloads. Additionally, app revenue hit a record of nearly $17 billion, App Annie said.

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In other words, it paints a picture of the real growth of the app economy with new users. Scammers are naturally fascinated by the opportunities this lucrative market can offer them, and sadly their activity is also growing.

DataVisor’s report claims that around 15% of app installs are false, done by scammers. If you want to convert it to money, that equates to about $300,000,000 wasted annually. Furthermore, over time, we’ve found that these scammers are getting smarter and using new methods, making it harder to find and stop them.

What do advertisers say?

Until recently not much. However, in 2017, P&G set new rules for paid agencies and advertising technologies, and raised standards for the industry as a whole. As the mobile marketing industry evolves, we’re seeing more and more advertisers getting smarter and using more sophisticated tools to track, detect and prevent ad fraud across the board. mobile device.

An ongoing campaign is never “complete”. Once it goes live, it requires constant nurturing, monitoring, updating, and monitoring. To avoid fraud, one needs to constantly check one’s advertising channels, while also scanning for new ones.

Let’s take a deeper look at it…

While there are several types of fraud, we will focus on install fraud as it is the most common type between Advertisers and the Advertising network.

  1. Device-based fraud: Use the same device to reinstall the app multiple times. The method is pretty simple – download the app, then reset the device ID and repeat the process as many times as you want. This fraud will be identified with lots of activity from new devices that are not known to the tracking provider (we recommend AppsFlyer’s DeviceRank).
  2. Click Flood: These scammers generate loads of clicks and try to link them to an organic source. In fact, such clicks are deceptive and are stealing real organic traffic and misrepresenting a quality user image.
  3. Hijacking settings: Hiding behind harmless apps, ads, websites, etc., installation intruders deploy malware in innocent (mostly Android) phones, to track app downloads use and tag them as low quality and unnatural. The way to detect these scams is Click Time to Install (CTIT), as it usually takes 30 seconds to install as an app, however, installing hijacking takes around 10 seconds.
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When talking about these types of fraud, it is worth mentioning that Android devices are used to cheat 5 times more than iOS phones. New versions of both phones are generally less vulnerable as both Apple and Google are constantly updating their Operating Systems and App stores to combat fraud.

An example of a campaign to tackle such fraud can be found in our media campaign for get the app, which provides quick and easy taxi service in prime locations around the world. Using Moburst’s advanced tools and knowledge, we have reduced fraud rates from 20% (!!) in some countries to as much as less than 3% in just 6 months.

From the very beginning of the campaign, we detected fraud; most of them are clicks and many more are settings hijacking, with the majority of scams being done on Android devices. We carefully vetted each publisher, weeding out problematic ones while always looking for new publishing channels to achieve our common ROAS goals – which we did, of course. get that.

How to avoid fraud and be confident with your publisher?

As we live in an imperfect world, scammers will never survive and find new and crooked ways to monetize your success. So while you can’t eliminate cheating completely, here are some steps you can take to try to keep things going:

  1. The first key is awareness. If you know it’s a threat – you should be able to face it and hopefully win!
  2. Track your campaigns. NEVER let it rest without you monitoring it, and for the slightest hint of suspicious activity – you must strike back.
  3. For high volume campaigns, use anti-fraud software and platforms to reduce your chances of encountering such defects.
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Before starting a campaign, both the advertiser and the agency/partner need to set clear and reasonable thresholds for each category – clicks, CTIT, % new devices, etc. These thresholds should be both parties agree from the start because there is no clear industry benchmark, especially when metrics vary across applications and across verticals. Therefore, fraud thresholds should be determined based on an analysis of the past user behavior of “real users”, e.g. high-quality and/or organic media sources such as search ads. search of Facebook, Google and Apple.

We wish you a cheat-free year!



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