How to Identify The Most Common Types of Ad Fraud

Ad fraud is a growing problem in the digital ad landscape as fraudsters continue to develop new ways to go undetected.

According to a study by Invesp, 2018 saw an estimated $1 of every $3 spent on digital advertising consumed by fraudsters. That made up a loss of approximately $51 million every day to fraud, which is expected to double by 2022.

Not only that, but the World Federation of Advertisers has suggested that ad fraud will become the second largest income source for organized crime groups.

Understanding the different methods used by fraudsters is the first step to ensuring your brand does not experience them. We have compiled the most common types of ad fraud in three categories and outlined some key ways to help identify them.


There are a few different types of bots, mostly non-human. General Invalid Traffic (GIVT) refers to bots that have a static IP address, user agent, and cookie ID. These create fraudulent views and clicks, and are a little bit easier to identify than other types.

Sophisticated Invalid Traffic (SIVT) on the other hand is a bit trickier to detect because it mimics normal human activity. These bots can do things like watch videos to completion, fill out forms, generate cookies from visiting multiple sites, and even place items in shopping carts.

Contrary to their title, Botnets are actually human. This term refers to a large number of personal (non-business) computers being used by people who sit and mindlessly click on ads all day. Doing this may lead advertisers to spend more on ad campaigns while not getting any revenue in return.

A couple of things to keep in mind: according to research, bots prefer sites related to family, food, finance, and news, and bot traffic usually escalates between 11 pm and 5 am. Take these facts into consideration when adjusting your campaign marketing strategy.

If there is a sudden spike in visitors and an unusually high bounce rate for no discernable reason, that may be worth investigating. If you see a regular and high number of visits from a single domain without any further actions, it may be a bot.

The best thing you can do to detect bot fraud is to make sure your media vendors are using tools to identify invalid traffic.

The Unviewable

Just as the name implies, unviewable ads are ads that were technically served to a user but were not at all in view. Ad Stacking refers to running many ads in the same slot behind one another so that the publisher generates multiple views while only the top ad truly gets viewed.

Invisible iFrames are similarly tricky, loading ads in unviewable frames such as tiny page slots taking up a single square pixel. As a result, one or more impressions are recorded without any chance of the ad being seen. To detect these types of fraud, look into third-party ad safety partners.

To detect these types of fraud, you’ll want to look into partnering with a third-party ad safety partner.

Site Scams

Site scams are by far the largest category of fraud techniques. Firstly, Domain Spoofing is where publishers gain traffic on what appear to be legitimate sites, but in fact, the ads are running on unknown sites. This could involve fraudsters building a fake site in order to mislead users and gain their trust by assuming the identity of a credible organization.

Cookie Stuffing is a tactic wherein multiple cookies from third-party websites are placed on users’ browsers without notice. As a result, the browser registers as multiple impressions when the user visits sites.

Ad-Injection is a particularly insidious type of fraud because it is the act of subtly injecting unwanted ads that hide in malware-infected browser extensions. That means ads can show up on a publisher’s site without their permission or even knowledge, including forbidden advertising spaces such as government sites.

In order to prevent these types of fraud, it is best to keep an up-to-date blacklist, or even better, create your own whitelist.

An estimated 10% of traffic on every website is fraudulent, so working to abolish ad fraud concerns all of us. It is essential that every facet of the industry educates themselves on the latest fraudster techniques. In doing so, it gives all of us the best chance to stay protected.

At BriefBid, we thoroughly vet vendors to ensure they have the tools to detect invalid traffic and ad fraud. Contact us to get your RFP started today!

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