A new report suggests advertising online is becoming more dangerous and less reliable, and could make you a target for fraud.
The Advertising Standards Authority of Canada has released its annual report, which is based on information gathered in the 2015-16 ad market.
It said advertising in Canada has become a lot more expensive over the past decade, and advertisers have become less trusting and more cautious.
“A recent report found that the advertising market in Canada is increasingly susceptible to fraudulent practices, which are increasingly likely to occur with the emergence of online advertising,” the report said.
The agency noted that a 2015 study found that 40 per cent of consumers surveyed had experienced an ad fraud attempt in the last 12 months, and 40 per of those were using a digital ad agency.
In 2017, an ad agency reported fraud targeting more than 1,000 people across Canada.
“As the use of advertising online increases, the risk of fraud continues to increase,” the agency said.
“The prevalence of online fraud and the volume of fraudulent activity, however, are growing.”
A recent report by the ad agency PricewaterhouseCoopers found that more than 80 per cent percent of online advertisements were not in line with the standards of a legitimate ad agency, with just 15 per cent showing an ad as genuine.
It’s unclear whether the increase in fraud is linked to the increased costs of the digital advertising market.
“While advertising on mobile platforms has increased in volume and quality, the increase of fraudulent advertising on these platforms has been slower to peak,” the organization said.
In a statement, PricewaterhillCoopers said that the report shows that the digital ad industry is still at a “very early stage” and that the agency continues to monitor the issue.
The report found, for instance, that the number of ads that failed to comply with advertising guidelines increased by 5.8 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016.
However, the agency noted the number was lower than the increase recorded for 2016, when fraud targeting an estimated 1,400 Canadians, including 500 individuals in Ottawa, was reported.
“These data suggest that while digital advertising is becoming increasingly popular, the level of fraud and scams is still relatively low,” it said.
For the most part, advertising in 2017 was performed by a single firm, Advertising Analytics.
But the agency is increasingly relying on social media to help identify potential fraudsters.
According to the report, it is now estimated that up to 90 per cent, or more than 40 per a survey conducted by the advertising firm, use social media in the past year.
That is the most recent data the agency has collected.
“Social media has enabled advertisers to engage with consumers in a variety of ways, including sharing relevant content and engaging with their followers and friends,” it says.
“Online platforms have also facilitated an increase in the amount of content targeted and the sophistication of these campaigns.”
For advertisers, the report says that the rise in online advertising is making it easier for fraudsters to target them.
“We are seeing the increasing popularity of ad fraud,” it noted.
“Fraudsters have a number of tools and techniques to exploit the weaknesses in the ad industry.”
It said the number and scope of online ad fraud is rising, and it is difficult to track them all.
The problem is not limited to Canada.
According a 2016 study by The University of Waterloo, advertising on Facebook is the second-most popular ad network in the world, with more than 100 million ads viewed daily.
Facebook has also emerged as the largest online marketplace for illegal goods.
In 2018, Facebook admitted that it had paid more than $2 billion to settle criminal charges stemming from its handling of the sale of drugs.
Facebook said it had been “inactive” on the issue for some time, and that it was now working on a plan to address the issue in a “sustainable way.”
The agency said it will be releasing a new report on ad fraud this fall, as well as a report on the market in 2020.
The advertising industry has not always been safe, but it has been improving.
“Advertising fraud remains a significant problem in the online advertising market, with the average volume of online ads rising by about 20 per cent each year, and the number reported to us in the year to March 2019 reaching an all-time high,” it stated.