Fraudulent CTV impressions are rising, according to DoubleVerify (DV) – an ad verification platform for digital media. Analysing billions of impressions from unprotected programmatic inventory running through its platform over Q4 2021, DV recorded a marked increase in fraudulent traffic over the period compared to the previous year, and a dramatic spike in ad scam activity for some of the largest fraud schemes.
LeoTerra – an SSAI fraud scheme – falsified 20.5 million unique CTV devices per day during the period – over 20x more than the equivalent figure for the previous year and 40x more than the average figure for the three months leading up to October. CelloTerra – a mobile fraud scheme which was uncovered by DV in March 2020 – has also tripled its volume of fraudulent CTV impressions in the quarter. Shockingly, DoubleVerify reports that 18% of unprotected CTV ads traded programmatically during the period were actually invalid traffic or fraud.
DV’s Fraud Lab leverages a team of data scientists, mathematicians and analysts working in cyber-fraud prevention, and has previously uncovered new forms of fraud, pinpointing the sites, apps and devices responsible for fraudulent activity.
Another report published last year by DoubleVerify found a dramatic shift in the tactics deployed by scammers. Analysing over a trillion impressions across 80 markets from May 2020 to April 2021, DoubleVerify noted a 44% drop in bot scams as fraudsters began turning to data center traffic and carrying out “spoofing” scams on a larger scale. These latter fraud schemes work by using server-side ad insertion to create fake CTV inventory across a large number of devices, apps and IP addresses. The ad exchange is unable to differentiate between legitimate users and signals from ad scammers and therefore sells impressions to both, allowing scammers to collect revenues from advertisers. DoubleVerify reports that 36% of all fraud in the above mentioned period was conducted this way.
Mark Zagorski, CEO at DoubleVerify said, “As advertisers shift budgets to CTV inventory and platforms, the need to understand performance and measurability across the channel is now more important than ever. Given the growing complexity of these schemes — with fraudsters continuously employing new techniques, the entities representing or selling fraudulent inventory may not be directly responsible or even understand that fraud is taking place.”
Alongside other ad verification companies Human and Oracle Moat, DoubleVerify previously helped shut down similar multimillion-dollar fraud schemes called ParrotTerra, StreamScam and ICEBUCKET. In April of last year, Human uncovered “Pareto” – a bot scheme infecting a million Android devices which artificially simulated Smart TV ad impressions and impressions on other devices.
A 2020 survey of 230 U.S. industry experts conducted by Integral Ad Science – an ad tech and verification company – found that 26% believe CTV is more vulnerable to ad fraud than other media. 38% of respondents were media agencies, 24% were publishers, and another 8% advertisers.