How to Avoid Mobile Ad Fraud in 2023?

The use of mobile advertising technologies to deceive advertisers, publishers, or supply partners is known as “mobile ad fraud.” Fraudsters’ goal is to steal advertising money. Click fraud, click injection, and SDK spoofing are all types of mobile ad fraud we will discuss today.

Mobile ad fraud can take several forms, also including fraudulent impressions and phony installs. Fraudulent publishers may jam advertisements onto a single-pixel or purposely align an ad out of view – to generate views or impressions that never occurred. 

The rise of mobile ad fraud demonstrates the relevance of mobile devices in our lives. Mobile devices account for nearly three-quarters of all internet sales. That represents a significant opportunity for advertising, eCommerce store owners, and brands to make use of the most personal and often used device in people’s lives.

No one in the online world can afford to ignore the mobile device’s dominance. 

Sadly, this also includes fraudsters.

Mobile ad fraud is similar to online fraud, which we have discussed extensively in earlier articles. It also includes a variety of human and automated activities ranging from small-scale one-man businesses to large-scale click farms.

However, the mobile environment has presented additional and distinct challenges for fraudsters to overcome. This post will go over the most common techniques that distort advertising efforts and how you can shield your affiliate business from them.

But, first, know your enemy – let’s examine what we are dealing with. 

What exactly is mobile ad fraud?

In its most basic form, mobile ad fraud is the act of deceiving businesses, publishers, and affiliate partners by sucking up their advertising dollars through systematic techniques and user data manipulation. 

This can open up a plethora of opportunities for fraudsters to take money from businesses through illicit means.

These fraudulent attempts cost the global mobile sector roughly $5 billion in 2019. The key challenge here is how to lessen and restrict this influence in a world where over 5 billion individuals own a mobile phone, with most of them being smartphones. To examine that, we must first grasp the various methods these fraudsters might use to make you a target.

Ad fraud, in other terms, is any activity aimed towards marketing campaigns that are intended to disrupt the natural flow of traffic. 

Fraudsters may pursue varied goals, operate for multiple parties, and employ various strategies, but the net result is that the campaign funnel built by the marketer does not function as it should.

There are six main types of mobile ad fraud that every mobile marketer should be aware of.

1. Click spam

This type of fraud occurs when a fraudster executes a click for users who are completely unaware (in fact, it is unlikely that the user is even exposed to the ad). 

Click spamming is a method of deceiving businesses by manipulating attribution systems through random clicks on behalf of users who do not even view the ad. It’s sometimes referred to as organic poaching or clicks flooding. According to estimates, click spam accounted for around 16% of global fraudulent ad installs in 2019.

2. Click injection

Click injection is a more sophisticated version of click spam. It is possible to detect when other apps are downloaded on a device by releasing an Android app that listens to “install broadcasts.”

When a fraudster injects a bogus click into a user’s app download, this is known as click injection. This normally happens within a few seconds or minutes of downloading an app to the phone. As soon as the user launches the app, it generates an ‘ad click’ impression that appears genuine, even though it is not.

3. Invalid Ad Traffic

This is defined as all traffic that actual users do not generate. Bots, crawlers, and other automated systems could be used for this type of fraud. Not all bots, however, are not always classified as such. This is more or less a catch-all word for a variety of different types of invalid traffic, which may or may not be fraudulent.

4. Ad Stacking

Another type of mobile ad fraud occurs when random (and many other) adverts are displayed simultaneously. These ads are typically placed one on top of the other with the primary objective of concealing an ad rather than allowing it to be accessible or viewable at the receiver’s end.

The fraudulent publisher might then claim that an ad was displayed legitimately and that they should be paid for impressions, while in reality, there could have been dozens of banners simply displaying on top of each other.

5. SDK Spoofing

SDK spoofing is the process of creating legitimate-looking installs with data from real devices that do not contain any actual installs. 

Fraudsters use an actual device to make installs that appear legitimate to drain advertisers’ money. It’s also referred to as traffic spoofing and replay attacks.

6. Fake installs

This occurs when a fraudster deceives a publisher by displaying an app install that never takes place in reality. Or when the install is fabricated, such as by a device farm. Fake installs are especially dangerous since they can fool an advertiser or marketer into thinking they’ve discovered a great publisher. Instead, they discovered a device farm masquerading as a sub-publisher on an ad network, delivering phony installs.

The Impact of Mobile Ad Fraud on Advertisers

Fraudsters usually have two goals in mind:

  • To intentionally inflate visits or click figures to make it appear more appealing to an advertiser.
  • Obtaining erroneous credit for mobile conversions such as app installs.

Although this may not appear to be much, these alterations have two immediate consequences for marketers.

  1. The first and most evident is that fraudulently rewarding non-genuine conversions deplete the marketing budget. The figures vary greatly, but it’s safe to conclude that a considerable amount of funds are squandered and go straight to fraudsters.
  2. The second consequence is that the numbers are skewed. The data you have serves as the foundation for making crucial decisions. For example, assigning a budget to a supposedly successful placement, site, or publisher and reducing placements with legitimate but less stunning traffic numbers in favor of those polluted by bots.

Data that has been altered is wasteful data. You understand and accept that some of your traffic is not of human origin, but you don’t know which part or how large it is.

How to Prevent Ad Fraud and Partner Discredibility?

Before allowing your partners and publishers access to your product or service, be sure they have a strong reputation in their niche. The ad verification tools will assist you in distinguishing between a trustworthy third-party publisher or supplier and the rest of the scams out there.

1. Use Social Media Platforms to Reach a Specific Audience

If you’re familiar with Facebook Ads Manager, you’ll understand what this means. Limiting your target audience on numerous social media platforms lowers the potential for future mobile ad fraud incidents. When you choose your target audience type on Facebook from the three options provided – ‘Custom,’ ‘Look-Alike,’ and ‘Saved,’ you are picking the mechanism to only display ads that fit into one of these three categories. Hence minimizing the amount of phony or fake traffic on your advertisement.

Specific IPs and sub-publishers should be monitored and banned.

Keep an eye out for specific IP addresses that are making illegal attempts to make you a victim of fraudulent behavior. Many businesses employ static IP addresses, which aids in the generation of accurate reports. 

If you see any bad IP addresses in these reports, try to get rid of them as soon as possible. Nevertheless, it is crucial to highlight that many publishers are victims of ad fraud themselves, and many legitimate ad networks are actually soliciting the help of ad fraud security systems to clean up their network.

2. If It Doesn’t Look Right, It Probably Isn’t

Be wary of inventory marketing that offers information that appears to be too good to be true. If you notice an ad for a well-known company selling their merchandise at incredibly low costs, it’s most likely a fraudster attempting to fake the domain. A little skepticism can go a long way.

Only use reputable networks.

3. Use Anti-Fraud Tools

Last but not least, we would always advise outsourcing this immensely complicated task to professionals who can do it best, and most importantly, do it easily and painlessly. As a result, your valuable human resources will be free to focus on their vital work. There is a common notion that ad fraud tools require more effort and money than they are worth; nevertheless, all of our customers have seen a return on investment within the first few months of using our service. Our Anti-Fraud Logic allows our customers to track their ROI without taking fraud traffic into account.

While some ad fraud may be prevented in-house, it is impossible to prevent them all, particularly more advanced forms of ad fraud such as SDK spoofing.

How can Scaleo help avoid mobile ad fraud?

Scaleo’s Anti Fraud Logic targets user acquisition fraud directly. This tool prevents false traffic from ascribing to your paid channels, ensuring that ad spending is directed to the appropriate channels and increasing user engagement. The Anti Fraud Logic examines each install event in real-time, looking for anomalies and potentially fraudulent behavior. Scaleo assures that no false positives are presented by focusing on single occurrences.

Scaleo’s Anti Fraud Logic also keeps your dataset clean, allowing planning and campaign assessments to be based on completely legitimate data.


Whether you’re an advertiser, an app developer, or a customer, each role comes with its own set of duties.

Marketers should consider campaign security early in the planning process. Developers should create and include numerous anti-fraud solutions into their programs, while users should simply protect themselves against all types of fraud.

Sign up with Scaleo, a top-notch affiliate marketing software, and consolidate all of your marketing channels into a single, easy-to-understand dashboard that protects your business against fraud in real time.

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Elizabeth Sramek
Elizabeth is a Senior Content Manager at Scaleo. Currently enjoying the life in Prague and sharing professional affiliate marketing tips. She's been in the online marketing business since 2006 and gladly shares all her insights and ideas on this blog.
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