Programmatic Lunch

Five proven methods to fight mobile app fraud

Mobile Marketing

As Facebook cracks down on fraud, James Haslam, senior content manager at Adjust,  offers advice on successfully combating mobile app fraud.

Mobile fraud is a growing global phenomenon. Emboldened fraudsters are continually evolving and developing increasingly sophisticated ways to exploit cracks in digital advertising. Only this week, Facebook sued two developers who had installed malware on users’ phone in order to create fake clicks on mobile ads.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case, as traffic, downloads, and clicks are constantly faked by non-human traffic. Invisible ads run in the background of users’ devices, draining ad budgets and distorting marketing data analytics. This fraudulent activity costs unsuspecting companies a whopping estimated $6-$23bn (£5 - £19bn) a year globally. While this figure continues to rise, money poured down fraudsters’ rabbit holes stunts business growth and fails to organically capture the target audience. It’s important that marketers are aware of what’s at stake and have an arsenal of fraud prevention tools and strategies to combat mobile fraud.

Here are five proven strategies for successfully fighting mobile fraud:

Take a unified approach to fraud and security
The first step to protecting your mobile business is having an anti-fraud policy and prevention system rigorously implemented across all company frontiers. This policy should clearly state rules and methods for tackling mobile fraud. The highest ad fraud rates are reported in brand campaigns, so this is an area where you need to be hypervigilant when implementing anti-fraud strategies. If you don’t know your enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. A good prevention system not only blocks fraudulent traffic, but also records and files information about the nature of the attack and signals used to detect the fraud.

Only work with trusted ad networks
Fraud in the marketing industry is mostly built around offenders running automated ad fraud schemes with malware. So once you’ve shored up your own company’s ranks, you’ll need to apply the same security scrutiny to any partners in an ad network. Look for high standards and find partners with teams which have long-term experience and a reputation for stringent housekeeping. Trusted ad networks will likely partner closely with an attribution provider and have constant fraud prevention tools in place. Ask ad networks if they run tests to evaluate traffic, analyze data, and keep controls in place. If there aren’t significant controls, it’s a network you won’t be able to work with without losing money to fraudsters.

Avoid misaligned incentives in your app install advertising
Misaligned incentives in the fraud and attribution space exacerbate the rate of fraud. For example, paying per click or per install is problematic, as it rewards fraudsters for outcomes that can easily be faked. Paying a flat rate for your attribution systems helps remove these false incentives. Measure your mobile app advert campaign with a cross-section of marketing metrics tied to business outcomes, instead of judging success with a surface level look at the numbers of installs.

Fight click spamming with click validation
Mobile marketing is plagued by software designed to repeat actions without being visible. Click spamming manipulates the attribution in organic traffic: malicious software generates clicks for real-time users who are unaware of the fact that their activity is being manipulated. Some fraudsters have gone so far as to create human click farms where people are paid to click on ads and subvert marketing campaigns. With this in mind, it’s never been more important to use advanced tools in click fraud prevention. These tools can combat click fraud by ensuring every click is recorded along with a matching impression that validates the click.

Combat bot ad fraud with dedicated tools and industry accreditation
Click bots are another malicious bug that can badly skew statistics for brands’ marketing campaigns. Bots imitate human users, performing actions to trick advertisers into thinking ads have been accessed by many more people than is accurate. Bots can manipulate traffic in multiple ways; they’re especially damaging when riding on the back of a fraudulent app downloaded by a user. Marketers would do well to adopt a proactive approach of vigilance against this type of ad fraud. Implement dedicated bot fraud prevention tools, and get accreditation and advice from groups like the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) and the Bot Fraud Prevention Council. Studies have shown that accredited firms’ ad fraud rates sink way down to just 0.53 per cent, from the industry average of about 9 per cent.

Marketing campaigns are the forerunners of the booming mobile app industry and can make or break the success of your company. But they’re more at risk of subversion than ever before; fraud is set to cost the marketing industry over $50bn by 2025, according to the World Federation of Advertisers.

In this fast-evolving landscape, keeping your advertising ecosystem fraud-free is a challenge that can only be tackled head-on. With this in mind, implementing vigilant anti-fraud policies and tools, working with trusted partners, and getting industry-specific accreditation, will position your next marketing campaign for success. With the right strategies, you can rest assured your ad dollars will attract real customers and not fake clicks.