Some mobile advertisers have been be tucking away autoplay video adverts behind normal banner ads, causing the batteries on smartphones to be drained.
Anti-fraud firm Protected Media has uncovered an ongoing scheme by some advertising companies that hijacks legitimate apps to secretly run profitable video ads on victims' smartphones. Since many of these hidden clips are data-hungry, they often end up draining the devices' batteries.
Fraudulent Video Adverts
In article by BuzzFeed, an app developer shared how he and his team discovered the fraudulent scheme. They have been receiving emails from their customers reporting that their app has been draining the power from the smartphones and even using up too much data.
With the help of Protected Media, the app maker found out that several video ads were running alongside their app on customers' Android devices without their knowledge.
BuzzFeed traced the scheme victimizing the ad developer to an Israeli company known as Aniview. However, the advertising firm denies having any involvement in the fraudulent scheme, claiming that their ad platform had been taken over by an unidentified third party.
"BuzzFeed brought to our attention that there is an abuse activity, as an immediate action, we stopped this activity and started and continue an internal incident review," said Alon Carmel, CEO of Aniview.
"We notified and emphasized our clients that the use of our platform must be according to our policy and the IAB and TAG guidelines."
How Does The Scam Work?
The technique is known as ad stacking, according to mobile analytics company Kochava. Scammers would place multiple adverts on top of each other in a single ad placement. Users would only see the top ad, but if they click on it would register as a click for all ads in the stack.
In this instance, the scammers hid autoplaying video ads behind banner ads sold by the app developer. This allowed the clips to accumulate views over time, even though users did not necessarily see any of them.
App makers would be paid for the banner ads that users were able to see. However, the money that they would be able to make would not be as much as what scammers would get through their scheme.
Protected Media CEO Asaf Greiner warned that some fraudsters are buying cheap in-app display inventories as part of their scams. They would fill the inventories with multiple video players hidden behind fake branded display adverts.
Greiner said they have identified tens of millions of dollars' worth of video ads that defraud unsuspecting consumers every month.
A similar scheme was also discovered last year involving fake McDonald's display ads.
A Reddit user shared that their company had several adverts for the fast-food chain on their publisher's inventory without them knowing. They said they have also seen ads for Sony and Amazon run on their account.
The poster pointed to a company known as Streamlyn as the source of the ads. The Singapore-based firm described itself as a "publisher programmatic media agency."
Streamlyn had allegedly run as many as 5 million adverts on the properties of the Reddit user's company. Most of these ads were served in the United Kingdom, though they had followed pricing in the United States.