Advertising fraud protection

Learn about advertising fraud and how to protect your business.

Fraud is a constant and well-known threat to any online company. Due to this ever-present risk, most companies have a solution to prevent transaction fraud, reduce chargebacks, or verify customers. However, the threat of advertising fraud is often overlooked. When you crack down on transaction fraud; its effects are immediately recognizable in the form of lost time and revenue. Ad fraud is not as transparent.

Marketing is not an exact science and digital advertising can be hard to understand. Most advertisers expect that some campaigns will produce a small percent of conversions or fail. Ads that end up on the wrong website are written off as occasional errors, and spikes in invalid traffic are considered just another risk of doing business online. Too many companies fail to prevent these occurrences or look at their advertising campaigns to see how much of their ad budget is being siphoned off by missteps and fraud.

The lack of interest or awareness in advertising scams has let this fraudulent industry grow almost entirely unimpeded. In some cases, the perpetrators are so emboldened, they think that they’re invincible. Governments have tried to remedy the solution through legislation. However, bureaucracy is slow. The online world is not. Many forms of software have been created to combat this trend. These solutions tend to be expensive, difficult to integrate, and singularly focuses. We offer a comprehensive approach against advertising fraud that gives you the tools you need to safeguard your business and budget.

How ad fraud works

To help combat advertising fraud, first, understand how it works. Although ad fraud comes in a variety of forms, some are more common than others. Some of the most popular schemes include:

Retargeting fraud

Retargeting fraud occurs when publishers employ cheap bot traffic to inflate their advertising revenue. Bots make up a large percentage of internet traffic. They’re often easy to create or purchase. Scammers will sell you ad space, send their bots to be "tagged", and then return to the publisher's site to be served retargeting ads. Then, you pay the scammer for fake advertising traffic that can never result in a purchase. Retargeting fraud is hard to shut down because the publishers' websites are constantly changing domains to avoid detection.

Domain spoofing

Domain spoofing occurs when publishers mask their domain names to appear as real, desirable websites and then sell ad space to unsuspecting merchants. For example, a scammer owns nyt-1.com and obscures the domain name so it appears as nyt.com in the ad exchange. Someone looking to publish on the actual New York Times website might purchase this advertising space without realizing that it’s not the correct site.

Pixel stuffing

By most advertising standards, at least 50% of an ad must be visible for a minimum of one second to register as being viewed. Then, advertisers pay publishers for the total number of views. However, some publishers might try to cram as many ads as possible into one page to get paid more. To use this strategy, scammers will reduce the full ad to the size of one pixel. This makes it nearly invisible to the naked eye but still classifies it as visible. Pixel stuffing lets fraudulent publishers fit hundreds, or thousands, of ads that aren't viewable into one web page. It increases their profit margin exponentially but prevents these advertisers from getting more traffic.

Background play

Like pixel stuffing, background play scams work by making ads unviewable while still charging the advertiser. Video ads play for a certain length of time before registering as a view. However, most websites start with their video ads on mute. When these videos are muted, publishers can sneakily place them behind other content or on a hidden section of the website where users won’t see them. Yet the video registers as viewable. Even though site visitors don’t know that these videos exist, the advertisers are still being charged for false impressions.

Affiliate fraud

Affiliate fraud is a combination of advertising fraud and transaction fraud. Affiliates, who receive a commission for sending traffic to a site, often only get paid when there’s a purchase. To increase their commission, affiliates direct their friends to make purchases through the affiliate links. The advertiser pays the affiliate their commission. Then, the affiliate’s friends submit a refund or chargeback request to get their money back. These requests cost you time, money, and the cost of the fraudulent commission.

What you can do

NS8 is a flexible, affordable, and complete solution against ad fraud. We focus on more than transaction fraud using scoring payment data. It scores all sessions and grants each user a score. By examining our scores for individual users and the cumulative assessments of campaigns, we can determine the campaigns that get valid traffic and good orders, and which campaigns are falling victim to fraud. We can block invalid users from retargeting lists, screen risky orders, and help protect against general forms of fraud. With multiple capabilities in one product, you can stop worrying about fraud and focus on growing your business.