This piece is third in a series about threat and fraud models targeting marketing professionals’ advertising budgets and campaigns.
In this series, we dug into common causes of marketing fraud within performance and brand marketing. The impact and cost of fraud for both are high, though marketers have often been urged to accept fraud as the cost of doing business.
But it doesn’t have to be.
We’re determined to give marketers the facts and tools to better protect their spend and their businesses. That’s why our next entry in the series addresses marketing threats to mobile, specifically. Given its size and complexity, fraud in mobile is even more significant than on other device types.
Fraud always follows the money, and mobile has plenty of money changing hands. Mobile ad spend is expected to continue growing to more than $117 billion dollars according to eMarketer. Sixty percent of the ten trillion interactions that White Ops verifies each week come from mobile devices. That’s a large pie that is very attractive to fraudsters looking to carve away a piece of it for themselves. Chief among the mobile targets of fraud are marketers’ mobile app install and engagement efforts.
Though the industry’s approach to fraud in mobile—with initiatives such as app-ads.txt—is having an effect, mobile fraud is still a sizable industry. These threats can wreak havoc on a marketer’s spend without them ever knowing.
Fake Installs: Attribution fraud from networks or affiliates using bots to derive false credit for installs they did not drive in order to earn the payouts.
Device Emulators: Bad actors use data centers to create fake devices that look and act like humans while engaging with ads to steal install revenues.
Device Farms: Collection of actual physical devices run by bots to create fake user identities and actions that emulate human traffic. Similar to device emulators, they are compensated for installs.
Device ID Reset: Fraudsters reset mobile device IDs to allow for repeat installs of apps on the same device, each triggering a new device install credit to drive fraudulent install incentives payouts.
Mobile Attribution and Engagement: Bot or device farm-driven installs and engagement sessions designed to fraudulently drive cost-per-engagement (CPE) payouts to malicious networks networks and app install affiliates.
In-App Click Generation: Bots leverage advertisers’ in-app advertisements to deliver credit for app opens and clicks inside the app to bad actors.
In-App Account Takeover and Abuse: Bots that take over user accounts using credential stuffing or credential cracking and perform fraudulent purchases and other fraudulent transactions or abusive interactions
When Installs Attack
We worked with a global performance marketing agency to learn about the impact fraud had on their mobile install campaigns for clients across multiple download partners, known as affiliates. Examining the results, the agency noticed many discrepancies with click rates that they could not wrap their heads around. It didn’t make sense.
Asked to investigate the campaigns, we uncovered that several of the download partners were working with sub-affiliates and publishers to deliver the campaigns. Pulling on those threads unraveled the whole ball of yarn on this fraud. Several of the sub-partners were hijacking the click attribution of the campaigns and skewing the overall metrics. The bad actors were delivering a host of fraudulent clicks that were not tied to actual installs and stealing the payments for installs that never happened. Instead of paying for real downloads, they ended up paying for fraudsters. Contractually obligated traffic goals lead to this spiral. While our research found that less than a third of digital marketers are running campaigns with contractually obligated traffic goals, that’s a lot of room for potential, unknown fraud from third-parties.
There is an old adage that knowing is half the battle. While combating fraud can seem daunting, understanding how it operates, the avenues fraudsters use to enter your marketing efforts, and how they make money on your campaigns can give you a serious leg up to stop it. When marketers seize control of their campaign performance, they can lead all partners to work together to root out bad actors and eliminate their revenue streams.
This battle isn’t won alone. White Ops Marketing integrity provides the most complete end-to-end mobile fraud protection solution in the market. We are here to help you, even within Android and iOS apps. A lightweight Software Development Kit from White Ops delivers heavyweight intelligence and control against fraud. You don’t have to just accept campaign results and hope they’re true. You can have the tools to fight back and win.