What Ad Fraud Looks Like – SIM Card Click Farms

After a police raid on Sunday, three Chinese citizens were arrested in Thailand for partaking in a massive click-fraud operation using about 500 smartphones.

According to Gizmodo reporter @sidneyfussell, an estimated 350,000 SIM cards were being used to inflate the number of clicks on ads in WeChat, a Chinese messaging app boasting 800 million users.

A 2015 study estimated US publishers lost $6 billion in revenue to bots inflating clickthrough rates, going to great lengths to look legitimate.

“Less than 1% of American households are burglarized every year, but in the digital ad industry, 30-40% of all campaigns are burglarized,” said C3 Metrics advertising attribution measurement CEO Mark Hughes. “That’s more than 30x the rate of house robberies, but it’s a topic nobody wants to discuss in digital advertising. In advanced measurement, a platform has to purify all that fraud before it’s measured and modeled. Imagine getting on the scale and taking out 30 pounds worth of stuff in your pockets, that’s one of the necessities that smart platforms must perform in order to get to real measurement.”

This click farm was just one that was caught, many are not. Today, there’s a higher chance of getting a hole-in-one in golf, than clicking on a display ad…which makes viewability in display the key to advanced attribution and measurement because it makes up 95% of all data collected for a typical ad campaign.

@JoshChasin and @BillHarvey at the #2017ARFAS indicated that cleaning of big data would be a foundational requirement for any analysis. Cleaning = platform level fraud purification, platform level false positive purification, and built-in platform viewability.