The Current Scope of Digital Ad Fraud

Digital ad fraud is an emerging threat to business and challenges advertisers who seek legitimate ways to boost a company’s revenue. Digital ad fraud comes in many forms and is undetectable by most web users.

Invisible Ads

The simplest and most common method for digital ad fraud is the placement of invisible, or nearly invisible ads throughout a web page. In some cases the ads are reduced to only one pixel in size, making them invisible to the viewer of the site. Still, the company paying for the ad believes that they are getting the ad placement they paid for. In other cases, ads are stacked one on top of another, with only the top layer being visible. All of the ads are playing simultaneously, and again, the companies who paid for the ads show impressions without ever seeing a single return.


Another common tactic of fraudsters is the use of bots to generate traffic. Bots can move between pages, simulating consumer actions, and make it appear as though your ads are earning engagements. In reality, they are just sifting through thousands of ads an hour and costing you money for each false click. Other bots can be used to build web pages just for advertising with no content and no connection to existing content on the web.

Other Types of Fraud

In addition to these two most common methods of digital ad fraud, other methods include increasing the price of keywords, redirecting consumers to spoof sites, and injecting ads into competitor sites. There are currently nine categories of digital ad fraud, each of which is broken down into several different methodologies.

Protecting Ads

Ad fraud costs companies billions of dollars a year in marketing money without creating any additional revenue. Ad fraud is inherently difficult to detect, even for the company paying the fraudulent ad agency. The best way to ensure ads are getting authentic impressions and clicks is to work with a trusted marketing firm. Businesses should consult a cyber security professional if there is any suspicion that ads were tampered with or are performing differently than expected.