Common Forms of Digital Display Ad Fraud: Faking Traffic, Sites, Attribution and More - eMarketer

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Common Forms of Digital Display Ad Fraud: Faking Traffic, Sites, Attribution and More

eMarketer Report

By: eMarketer

Published: May 24, 2017

Jump to: Executive Summary | Table of Contents | List of Charts

Executive Summary

It’s difficult to know just how much money US advertisers and publishers lose to ad fraud annually, but estimates based on select samples of impressions would suggest digital display ad fraud is a multibillion-dollar problem worldwide.

  • URL or domain spoofing, also known as “referrer spoofing,” “URL masking” or “domain hijacking,” involves a fraudulent party or a low-quality publisher disguising its URL or domain as another in programmatic environments. A fraudulent site, for example, might pose in an open exchange as a high-traffic or top-tier publisher like The New York Times to entice buyers to bid on the impression. However, the winner of that impression doesn’t appear on The Times—it appears on the fraudulent or high-risk site that is perpetrating the false domain.
  • Ad injection occurs when a fraudulent party infiltrates the ad serving process through the use of malware or other browser-based hijacking techniques. Either way, an ad ends up being falsely inserted onto a legitimate publisher page without the publisher’s knowledge or consent. Using the same example above, an advertiser bids on an ad coming from and sees in its reporting that the ad has been served on, but The Times never sold or served the ad. Because the user’s browser was hijacked, the fraudster can make it seem like the ad was sold and served on, all while pocketing the money, without The New York Times’s knowledge.

"Innovations and advancements in fraud detection tools and practices have helped to curtail levels of general invalid traffic in the ecosystem, but it has also given rise to more sophisticated forms of deception."

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