What is Click Spam Fraud in Mobile Ads With Example

click spam

Click spam, Also known as “Click Flooding”, “Click Fraud” or “Fake Clicks”, this term describes any fraud scheme that executes clicks on behalf of the device’s user without the user’s knowledge, consent or intent.

There are two types – high-frequency and low-frequency click spam.

High-Frequency Click Spam

Fraudsters with little reach (meaning a small active user base for an app or mobile web content) improve their chances to cash-in on random installs by spamming their users at high frequency, hoping to take the last click inside the attribution window.

The very low conversion rate originates from up to hundreds of clicks a day for the same advertisement (tracker) on the same device (fingerprint/device ID).

Low-Frequency Click Spam

Fraudsters here have a large active user base for their app or mobile web content, and receive many unique visitors. Because of this, they can execute forced clicks less often, but still successfully create revenue on the random chance that users will convert for the apps the fraudsters are “running campaigns” on.

Conversion rates for this kind of exploit are exceptionally low because a high amount of devices (fingerprint/device ID) are tagged per advertisement (tracker).

Example One: “Click Caching” or “pre-clicks”

In this instance of click spam, perpetrators would go ahead and let their app generate a click and cache the redirect link in order to be able to redirect to user – in case the user actually clicks an advertisement – to the pre-cached redirect URL. The problem for the advertiser (and the lucky happenstance for the traffic source) here is that MMPs will already have tracked a click for every time this caching is executed, meaning that end users with the perpetrating app installed will have clicks generated in their name for dozens of ads that they will never have seen.

As a result, any actions that a user takes installing any of the apps that an advertisement and redirect were cached for will be attributed as if the user saw advertising and clicked it with the intent of finding out more about the advertised app.

Note: This method is sometimes justified as a user experience enhancement, with publishers claiming that redirects take too long when a click on ad media needs to be redirected through multiple networks to reach the App Store.
But, actually, it is completely unnecessary to build this kind of workaround since Adjust (and the other major tracking providers) offer proper solutions to this, such as parallel click execution or server-to-server clicks.

Example Two: Clicks on impression or view

In this example, any instance in which the publisher or network generates a click when the advertisement was rendered, or during or at the end of a video view without the user actually clicking. In many cases this is seen as a necessity to stay competitive with other supply side vendors, who are using the same tactic to stay ahead.

Regardless of the situation in the market, the IAB/MRC measurement guidelines are clear about when a click is to be measured and what makes it valid.

A click without intentful user interaction is not a valid click.

Awad Abdelgayoum
Solving digital marketing challenges by using technology and science.