Facebook Advertising Fraud – The Next Big Problem?
As Facebook continues to grow, so does its potential for problems, one of which is the emergence of ad fraud. In fact, Facebook has even hired outside companies to monitor and fight fraud on its platform due to the growing issue. The problem of fraud not only means the content of the ads but extends to the source of the ad, as well.
If you’re advertising on Facebook at the moment, then this is something you need to consider when planning your budgets and campaigns. To make sure you understand the potential problems caused by this growing issue of Facebook ad fraud, we’re taking a look at why people do, and what you can do to protect yourself. By the end of this post, you’ll have everything you need to fight back against these fraudsters and reclaim your lost ad spend.
Fraud Is Nothing New To Facebook
Since its inception, Facebook has had many problems with fraud. First of all, individual users have more than one account. When a person gets blocked from accessing an account, they simply open another one under a different name.
If one person can open multiple accounts and access pages unnoticed and anonymously, then why couldn’t a company do the same? Fraudulently or not, it’s almost impossible to know what is genuine on the platform any longer.
Due to its size and the amount of traffic it sees, it is an endless chase for those trying to prevent fraud. One gets shut down, another one starts up. The sheer volume of users means that the fraud team is busy playing cat and mouse on a daily basis.
Share and Share Alike
In order for a fraudulent ad maker to get some headway, they set up an ad that looks real. Thanks to algorithms that track where you click, the false ads can find these users and target them.
Once you share something to your own page or to a friend’s wall, then they can track you and your movements. Sometimes, these are in the form of memes similar kinds of information that simply isn’t true.
Once you show interest in one, you will start to see the same type of thing in your newsfeed.
It can be very difficult for the average user to define what is real and what isn’t. Considering the very essence of Facebook is for us to let our ‘friends’ see the various details of our lives, new purchases, holidays, new cars, etc.
If we aren’t being our true selves on the platform, can we be completely surprised or even offended if others are doing the same? If we are sceptical of our friend’s posts, then we most certainly should be leery of ads that look too good to be true.
The Fraud Bot
Our party pictures aside, the biggest offender is the bot. These false ads are very sophisticated and encourage people to click on them. Worse, still, is the bot that causes click injection fraud.
Facebook launched a lawsuit against app developers for its site, claiming the apps contain malware that clicks likes on an ad without the user’s knowledge or permission. These bot click injection apps are hidden in an app that is easy to make and popular.
The bot app is hidden in the actual app and it does the invisible clicking while the user has no idea. Often, the apps are just a simple, fun app that people download, share and don’t think twice about. Of course, advertisers pay for every single one of these fake clicks, racking up tens of thousands of dollars in wasted ad spend.
Big Money in Facebook Fraud
For ads that generate revenue by the clicks they receive, that adds up to a lot of money. For the makers of these fraudulent apps, that means big money. The money generated by the click injected traffic can potentially be in the billions.
Considering there are over 200 billion apps of this type downloaded, that means a lot of money. A lot of money going to the developers, not a company, retailer or charity that it may be representing.
These apps are mainly on users’ phones and were made available on Google Play’s store. Not only are the earnings that the developers made fraudulent, but the money that advertisers lost was stolen from them.
Legitimate advertisers paid out millions of dollars to Facebook for ads that were either hijacked or simply missed. Money that should have been generated by their ads instead went to the developers of bots for ads that didn’t actually exist.
Stopping Ad Fraud on Facebook
Facebook is certainly no stranger to controversy, lawsuits and close scrutiny about the platform. With thousands of new accounts, ads and pages being added to the Facebook platform every day, you can see how daunting it can be for a fraud department.
Avoiding fraud as an advertiser or a user needs a little knowledge and common sense. There are certain steps you should take to be aware of the potential for fraud.
Protect Your Investment From Ad Fraud
Become familiar with Facebook’s policies. If you are planning to advertise on the platform, make sure you understand what the expectations are. Learn what you can about what they will do to prevent fraud, what you can do to help and how to spot fraud and report it.
If you are developing an app or having one made for your business, make sure you investigate the developer first. There are dozens of apps that can be utilized, so make sure you get one that works well with your brand.
Being aware of the type of app is important, as some require the users to be more involved and provide information. You should understand where this information is going to be used, if not by you and whether people will be less likely to use your app if they are required to provide sensitive data.
If people are willing to provide their personal information or agree to let the app have access to it, is the information for your purpose or is it being farmed off to somewhere else? There is big money in people’s personal information for any number of reasons, most of them illegal.
Don’t Be Part Of The Ad Fraud Problem
Be aware that not all apps or ads are as innocent as they seem. If you are downloading yet another app that allows you to add some silly comic face or makes funny noises, just avoid it.
Don’t give out your personal information. Address, credit card, phone number, passwords, banking information. Anything that can be used to access your whole life. Unless you are dealing with a reputable retailer or business that you know or have researched, then keep this information private.
Keep your information on your Facebook profile private. Far from posting your holiday schedule, putting your phone number up thinking it’s going to one person, even for a few minutes can start the ball rolling for all kinds of problems, like getting hacked, or identity theft.
Be wary if the app wants you to go to another page. This may seem like a legitimate Facebook site but it also may not be. Don’t sign in again, providing your password. This can lead to all sorts of problems.
Also, be leery of pop-ups that want you to download another app or follow links to sister sites. These are often scams intended to get you there and get information. Downloading something else that seems similar may be a virus or scam app and very difficult to get rid of.
Protect Your Facebook Investment
Protection is always the best prevention. Facebook is a great platform for advertisers, but that opens up the potential for scammers, as well. Staying ahead of the scammers is a full-time job and launching lawsuits against fraudsters is a positive step for Facebook.
While it certainly won’t stop it, they will simply need to get more creative. While they get creative, you need to get keep a close eye on your ad performance. Promises of transparency and cracking down on fraud are fine but you, as an advertiser, need to take your investment seriously.
Unfortunately, no Facebook ad fraud protection platforms or services are available at the moment due to the fact that Facebook’s API is extremely limited in fraud-combating capabilities. However, keeping a close eye on your ad metrics and monitoring lead quality will help you to determine if you are a victim of Facebook ad fraud or not – with the next step being asking Facebook to open an investigation into those fraudulent clicks.
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