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Mobile Ad Fraud

What You Need to Know About Mobile Ad Fraud!


Mobile ad fraud. The never-ending problem of the digital marketing age. You thought after all these years of fighting them, some genius would finally figure out how to prevent these fraudsters from harming advertisers, publishers, and ad-tech enterprises alike. 

Sadly, the world of ad fraud is not like in a movie where the solution can be found in less than 2 hours. Mobile ad fraudsters are still thriving to this day. 

With 6 billion smartphone users worldwide, the mobile app industry is forecasted to generate almost $1 trillion in revenue in 2023. And as always, fraudsters go where the money goes. However, it is impossible to track how widespread the activity is. According to the last gathered report from eMarketer, ad fraud was projected to cost around $6.5 million to $19 billion annually. 

Understanding the Basics

Mobile ad fraud refers to any behaviour that tries to take advantage of advertisers, publishers, and supply partners in order to steal advertising budgets through unethical means. 

As it is predicted to be more holistic throughout the years, it is crucial to understand several types of mobile ad fraud. The most common in app marketing are: 

  • Click spamming: It is also known as organic poaching. A fraudster will be sent a  high number of legitimate-looking clicks to an MMP (Mobile Measurement Partner). If an organic install happens to match the same device, then the fraudster will receive the credit. This type of mobile ad fraud is especially common in apps that already have a large number of downloads. 
  • Click injection: A fraudster benefits from malware on a user’s phone to detect if there is a new app installed. It triggers a click before an installation is complete and they will be credited for the installation. 
  • SDK spoofing: The recent hackers’ favourite. It is basically a more advanced version of click spam. Also known as traffic spoofing or replay attacks, fraudsters make fake installations with the device’s real data to consume an advertiser’s budget. 

Ignorance Is Not A Bliss

First of all, ignoring mobile ad fraud has a detrimental impact on your campaign optimization. It can bias your campaign data which will make it unreliable for future judgement. 

For example, your campaign data shows reasonable CTR (Click-Through Rate), but has poor performing conversion rates. Bear in mind that this data is skewed due to ad fraud. As a result, you decide to end the campaign altogether because it does not satisfy your KPIs. However, in reality, there is a possibility that you can have a successful campaign if you remove the fraudulent clicks from the equation.

Moreover, one of the most important metrics in a performance marketing campaign is ROAS. It measures how much money you make for every currency you spend on your campaigns. Basically, you want to get as high ROAS as possible when doing an advertising campaign. 

However, all those unauthorised actions from ad fraud techniques will reduce your ROAS since you end up purchasing bogus interactions for false leads and conversions. In the end, it will only drain your advertising budget and ruin your marketing effort.

Prevention Is Key

The threat of mobile ad fraud is unavoidable and it can literally attack any business. However, it does not mean that these entities shall just sit back and do nothing to prevent ad fraud. 

A good mitigation strategy has to come in handy to minimise the loss in campaigns. Some organisations even take it a step further by forming an ad fraud prevention function. 

Moreover, some marketers swear by carefully reviewing your collected campaign analytics data. Of course, thoroughly analysing your marketing data can be very time consuming. But, it is very useful for detecting and preventing ad fraud. Also, it is the easiest way to recognize the attack. 

Abnormalities in data like very high or very low clickthrough, conversion, or retention rate are the sign of fraud presence. Furthermore, a very low average of CTIT (Click-to-Install Time) may indicate install hijacking. On the other hand, click spam can be indicated by an extremely high CTIT. 


  1. Mobile ad fraud harms advertisers, publishers, and ad-tech enterprises alike. 
  2. According to the last gathered report from eMarketer, mobile ad fraud was projected to cost around $6.5 million to $19 billion annually. 
  3. There are several types of mobile ad fraud. But the most common ones for app marketing are click spam, click injection and SDK proofing.
  4. You should never ignore mobile ad fraud because it will drain your advertising budget, create less optimized campaigns, and ruin your ROAS goal.
  5. Forming an ad fraud prevention function and reviewing your collected campaign data can help you to detect and prevent mobile ad fraud.

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