What is Mobile Ad Fraud?

Mobile ad fraud refers to the practice of using deceptive tactics for financial gain. It’s an issue that affects everyone involved in the mobile advertising industry.

This happens by artificially inflating the number of clicks generated by mobile ads. This deceptive activity is usually carried out by fraudulent actors.

They are the ones who intend to exploit the mobile advertising ecosystem. It falsifies the data or manipulates ad traffic to generate fraudulent ad impressions.

In simple terms, it’s the act to make money by deceiving through fake interactions with ads. Mobile ad fraud can take many forms, such as fake app installs, click fraud, or impression fraud.

These fraudulent activities can happen both on the publisher’s and advertiser’s side. It makes it difficult to detect and prevent these fraudulent actions.

Why does mobile ad fraud happen?

Mobile ad fraud remains a persistent problem that is beneficial for fraudsters. As it allows them to make quick money through illegal means.

With the rise of sophisticated mobile devices and mobile advertisements over time. Fraudsters are inventing new methods to manipulate the software. As mobile technology is evolving, so fraudsters adapt their techniques according to it. 

As a result, it is crucial for advertisers and ad networks to remain vigilant. They should ensure to take proactive measures to prevent this mobile ad fraud.

What are some of the types of mobile ad fraud?

Mobile ad fraud refers to any fraudulent activity that occurs in mobile advertising.

The advertisers get deceived into paying for ads that don’t actually generate conversions. There are several different types of mobile ad fraud that can occur. 

Let’s discuss some of the mobile ad frauds:

1. Click Spam

Click spam or click fraud is one of the most common types of mobile ad fraud. Fraudsters generate fraudulent clicks on mobile ads to inflate impressions or installs. Fraudsters may use bots or scripts to automate the clicking process.

These bots generate revenue without any intention of making genuine conversions. They use various techniques like bots or click farms to generate a large volume of fraud clicks.

This can result in advertisers paying for clicks that are not genuine. This also can lead to inflated ad spend and a lower return on investment (ROI).

2. Install Fraud

Install fraud is a type of mobile ad fraud that involves fraudulent installs of mobile apps. Advertisers pay for installations, and fraudsters create fake app installs to receive commissions.

It doesn’t involve any genuine user engagement and conversions. This is possible through fake installs or incentivized installs. As users get offered rewards if they download an app.

3. Click Injection

Click injection occurs when fraudsters use malware to detect when a user downloads a new app.

They can inject a fake click on an ad to receive credit for the user’s download. This click gets credited to the fraudster, even though the user had no intention of clicking the ad.

4. SDK Spoofing

Software Development Kits (SDKs) are being used by apps to track user engagement. Fraudsters can manipulate these SDKs to create fake user activity.

It could be such as fake clicks, installs, and app usage, to increase their commission. SDK spoofing manipulates and makes it appear as if an ad has been viewed, clicked, or installed.

SDK spoofing is difficult to detect, as it can mimic legitimate app behavior.

5. Device Farms

Fraudsters create device farms, where they use a large number of real mobile devices. The purpose is to generate fake ad views, clicks, installs, and app usage.

This is done to simulate real user engagement, making it difficult to detect fraud.

6. Ad Stacking

In ad stacking, multiple ads are been placed on top of each other, and only the top ad is visible to users.

Advertisers get charged for each ad impression, even if only one ad gets displayed. The fraudsters then claim payment for all the ads that display, even though only one ad was visible.

This technique is usually achieved using a combination of software and device manipulation.

Why is understanding mobile ad fraud important?

1. Wasted Ad Spend

Ad fraud results in wasted ad spending for advertisers. Advertisers pay for ad impressions and installs that are fraudulent.

It means that they do not reach real users or generate real engagement. This results in a waste of the marketing budget and can harm the advertiser’s ROI.

2. Damage to Brand Reputation

Ad fraud can damage the reputation of brands that advertise on fraudulent sites or apps.

When ads get served on fraudulent apps, they are been with malicious content. This inappropriate content can reflect the poor performance of the brand.

3. Decreased Trust

Ad fraud undermines the trust that advertisers and publishers in the advertising ecosystem.

When fraudulent activity is prevalent, it would be challenging for advertisers. As they need to trust that their ads are being served to real users and generating real engagement. This leads to a decrease in ad spending and limits the effectiveness of the campaign.

What are the preventive measures for mobile ad fraud?

1. Use fraud detection tools

Advertisers and ad networks can use fraud detection tools to detect and prevent ad fraud. These tools use machine learning algorithms to detect fraudulent activity. It can detect fake clicks, and identify bots.

It tracks user behavior to identify abnormal traffic patterns to detect suspicious actions. These tools can get integrated into mobile apps, to track ad traffic and prevent fraud.

2. Work with reputable partners

Advertisers should work with reputable ad networks, publishers, and vendors. As they have a track record of following best practices for ad fraud prevention.

Advertisers should always verify the authenticity of their partners. It is best to avoid working with unknown or unverified partners.

3. Use Anti-Fraud Measures

Advertisers can use ad fraud prevention measures, such as implementing click verification.

We can install ad fraud prevention software, and use device ID tracking, to reduce the risk of ad fraud. You can use ad verification tools to ensure the quality of the traffic coming from the publisher

4. Establish clear guidelines

Advertisers should establish clear guidelines and policies for ad fraud prevention. You can communicate these ad fraud prevention guidelines to all stakeholders.

This can include guidelines for selecting partners, monitoring campaigns, and reporting suspicious activity.


Ques 1: What is ad fraud in Google Play?

Ans: Ad fraud in Google Play refers to deceptive practices aimed at fake clicks and installs. It does happen on ad engagement metrics within apps listed on the Google Play Store.

Ques 2: Is ad fraud illegal?  

Ans. Yes, mobile ad fraud is illegal.

Ques 3: Is ad fraud a problem?

Ans. Yes, ad fraud is a significant problem in the digital advertising industry.

Ques 4: How do I report fake ads?

Ans. Report fake ads to the appropriate platform or ad network where the ad was seen or interacted with.

Q5. Is ad fraud easy to detect?

Ans. No, ad fraud can be difficult to detect. As fraudsters use sophisticated techniques to mimic legitimate user behavior and evade detection.

Sunil Gill
Sunil Gill

A digital entrepreneur with over 9 years of experience in digital marketing. Over the years, I have developed a strong passion for app marketing and love to create engaging and informative content around it.