06 may 2020 0 comments

Online Ad Fraud in 2020

Fraudulent traffic is something a lot of affiliates have come across at some point in their marketing career (usually when they found out they had inadvertently run it and the network wouldn’t pay them). Ad fraud is impossible to weed out completely, and it can account for a smaller or larger percentage of the overall traffic volumes. The biggest mistake you can make is to think that this kind of traffic is non-existent.

In 2020, almost all traffic sources are witnessing an upsurge in volumes and user activity, and fraudulent traffic is no exception. We decided to find out how ad fraud has changed in the last six months. For that purpose, we reached out to FraudScore experts who filter out fraud and assess traffic quality on a daily basis.

Before discussing the increase in ad fraud after most of the planet’s population was locked down under quarantine, it’s useful to remember the 2019 data.

According to FraudScore statistics, we’ve ended 2019 with 31.5% of fraud in global online ads traffic. In January 2020, FraudScore’s detected 28% of fraud in all processed traffic:  27.9% in mobile and 32% in web. The most fraudulent GEOs were Russia & CIS with 33.4%, APAC with 32%, and India with 24%. China, for example, showed 15.7% of fraud.

Here’s where the juicy part begins. In March 2020, traffic volumes spiked dramatically, which means that ad fraud also saw a considerable increase.

The most fraudulent month was March with 39% of detected ad fraud: 40% in mobile and 35% in web. In February, there were only 33% of fraud. In April, FraudScore platform detected 32% of ad fraud, a decrease from March statistics. The share of fraud in April is almost the same as in February, but the difference is in numbers for web traffic: in February, only 26% of web traffic was fraudulent, but in April — 31%. Mobile fraud stayed the same with 33%. 

It looks like fraudsters moved more powers to web fraud as more people were staying at home.

As has been already mentioned, in general, March 2020 showed a pick in detected ad fraud from 33% in February (28% in January) to 39% of fraud in March. 

  • Web campaigns started February with 26%, but an increase again in March — up to 35%.
  • Mobile traffic has jumped up from having 27.9% of fraud in January to 40% in March.
  • In the mobile space, fraudulent traffic on Android devices has grown from 30% in January up to 46% in March and 37% in April. 
  • In iOS traffic, statistics have shown a constant monthly growth starting from January with 24% of detected ad fraud to 27% in February, 28.8% in March, and 31% in April.

In both OSs, Games and Entertainment apps have shown a noticeable growth in detected ad fraud since 2019 — at least by 18%. There is also an increase in ad fraud in Food (restaurants) and Business apps categories on both OSs.

Nothing happens without a reason, especially in the online advertising space where each and every click costs money.

Any type of traffic is aimed at one task — make money. And fraudulent traffic is no exception. Fraudsters exploit advertising technologies for their malicious benefit. To understand why they pose such a huge threat, one can take a look at the budgets that companies spend on online advertising. Advertisers are predicted to invest up to $600 billion in online digital ads before 2022. The forecasts say that till 2022 fraudsters might steal between $40 billion to $80 billion from the online ads market. Yes, the current international situation might change the predictions, but the numbers still show the level of potential profit that fraudsters intent to get.


The article has been written jointly with the FraudScore team, a third party independent anti-fraud solution provider specializing in preventing and fighting ad fraud. 


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