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Ad Fraud is damaging your business reputation

Ad Fraud is damaging your business reputation

Ad fraud is a complex and ever evolving issue and it will damage your business reputation if you fall victim to it. 

The fall-out from having your business’ adverts appear on problematic web pages, or from your company being a victim of a cyber-attack, is both financially painful, and damaging, to your business reputation. 

A report from PwC found that 85% of consumers won’t shop at a business if they have concerns about their security practices and a similar study from Verizon found 69% of survey respondents would avoid a company that had suffered a data breach, with 29% of those never visiting that business again. 

On top of the reputational damage, IBM Security’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023 revealed that the global average cost of a data breach in 2023 was $4.45 million, a 15% increase over three years. 

However, the loss of customer trust, while harder to quantify, is probably the more damaging to your business reputation of the expected fallouts from both data breaches and ad fraud. 

Not keeping an eye on where your online advertising is being displayed could mean your brand is inadvertently helping human traffickers, terrorists or being associated with other criminal activity. 

Back in 2020 Brian Krebs warned in his blog, which monitors profit-seeking cyber-criminals, of an email-based extortion scheme targeting website owners serving banner ads through Google’s AdSense program. 

Criminals threatened to flood publisher’s ads with so much bot and junk traffic that Google’s automated anti-fraud systems would suspend the user’s AdSense account for suspicious traffic. 

Google was quick to reassure AdSense users that: “We have built some safeguards in place to prevent sabotage from succeeding.”  

Adding: “For example, we have detection mechanisms in place to proactively detect potential sabotage and take it into account in our enforcement systems.” 

How prevalent is fraud in the UK? 

According to the latest Government figures, fewer than one in seven fraud offences is reported to the police or Action Fraud (the public-facing national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre) so we don’t know the full scale of the issue. 

The figures cover the period between April 2022 and March 2023 and show that overall, police recorded fraud was 1% higher (1.2 million offences) compared with the year ending December 2022.  

This increase in overall fraud was mainly influenced by a rise in offences reported by UK Finance (the trade association for the UK banking and financial services sector), as a result of an increase in reporting from its existing members. 

Action Fraud also reported a 1% increase in fraud (301,166 offences) compared with the year ending December 2022 (298,792 offences). 

However, digital crime – and ad fraud specifically – make up only a small percentage of fraud as a whole. But when they do occur, they often involve high amounts of money or valuable data information being stolen, which is then used to commit more offences.  

In fact, the UK’s National Crime Agency has said ransomware poses the greatest cyber serious and organised crime threat to the UK and its use threatens Critical National Infrastructure and poses a risk to national security. 

Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, has released its 2024 Fraudscape report, detailing the latest fraud data and intelligence recorded by its members during 2023.  

It reveals its members prevented more than £1.8 billion of fraud losses. More than 374,000 cases were reported to the Cifas National Fraud Database (NFD), with members recording an incident of fraud every two minutes, also revealing concerns about the potential growth in AI generated fraud, enabling sophisticated phishing scams and synthetic identities. 

NFD filings remain higher than 2021 by 4% (nearly 14,000 cases), with organisations recording a case to the NFD every two minutes, on average. 

Why would ad fraud damage my business reputation? 

One of the biggest risks to your business reputation is your advertising appearing next to problematic content, or on fake websites which are hacking genuine ones and stealing the ad revenue from fake clicks on those sites. 

Public perception of your company is also something which is vitally important to business reputation and back in 2020 The North Face, Patagonia and Rei pulled all their adverts from Facebook as part of a media blackout organised by The Stop Hate For Profit campaign 

It was launched by advocacy groups including NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL,) Color of Change, Free Press, and Sleeping Giants, in the wake of the death of George Floyd. 

The North Face said at the time it was halting ads: “Until stricter policies are put in place to stop racist, violent or hateful content and misinformation from circulating on the platform.” 

In the end, more than 1,000 companies, including some of the worlds’ best-known multinationals and brands such as Unilever, Adidas, Ford and Volkswagen, joined the campaign. 

This eventually led to Facebook rolling out a system for advertisers in 2023 to determine where marketers’ ads are shown, responding to demands to be able distance their marketing from controversial posts on Facebook and Instagram. 

In the UK, Stop Funding Hate began when a group of people came together online to express concern at the way certain newspapers were using hate and division to drive sales. 

The organisation regularly ‘calls out’ businesses and organisations who advertise alongside articles which it believes help promote hatred and division, targeting advertisers as part of what it refers to as “this business model of hate,” that helps fund the hate that is being printed. 

Ad fraud can damage business reputation in other ways too. 

  • It wastes the advertiser’s money. 
  • It reduces the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, which can lead to lower sales and profits. 
  • It can create negative publicity for the brand if customers learn that the company has been defrauded. 

There are a number of ways your ads can be manipulated, or your business can end up a victim of an ad fraud scam but the two most common are: 

Non-Compliant Ads 

This is where your adverts appear on either fake websites or on websites other than the ones you believe the publisher is supposed to be using. Criminals will also use a redirect method to hijack genuine ads, meaning clicks actually end up on a completely different website, earning the criminals money and removing your customer follow-up potential. 

Click Fraud 

If you run any kind of PPC campaigns, then you should be aware of click fraud. It’s a tactic often used by unscrupulous competitors to try and run down your advertising budget through the use of fake bot driven clicks. 

How can you protect your business’ reputation? 

Be aware of your data baselines. Monitoring your ad campaigns regularly will allow you to spot any suspicious activity or unusual behaviours. Spikes in traffic, traffic coming from ISPs outside of your normal marketspace, engagement rates which fluctuate oddly, can all be signs of ad fraud. 

When running a campaign, choose reliable ad networks with proven fraud protection methods in place like Google’s AdSense or Amazon Publisher Services. 

Use anti-fraud tools and have a proper suite of internet protection in place for your business. Veracity Trust Network’s Ad Fraud Prevention’s patented, AI-powered protection blocks fake traffic, increases conversions, and produces data you can actually trust. 

Our Web Threat Protection is elegantly designed to mitigate everything from data theft attempts to advertising click fraud, our engine solves problems for multiple business functions.  

From security to finance, marketing to data analysis, customer experience and reputation management, its patented, AI-powered bot detection technology fights the rise of malicious bot activity. 

Together they form part of your security stack seamlessly integrating with your DDoS and WAF solutions. This is because it’s an essential, specialised answer to malicious bot activity. Not an add-on. Not an afterthought. 

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