How Do You Combat Fraud in the Mobile App Industry?
The app economy hasn’t fully matured; much like the internet fifteen years back, everyone wants a slice of the mobile pie, and get rich quickly in the process. Unfortunately this has led to many shady practices employed by sinister characters who are out to cheat the system by profiting through illegitimate channels.
Just imagine: you’re an aspiring, hard working developer trying to break into the market and out of the blue you come to know of a network offering installs at 30 cents a piece. “Really? For real?” is most likely your initial response; whereas the actual market price is floating somewhere between a dollar and two. Is this really a killer deal or is someone trying to make a patsy out of you? The latter, likely.
Nearly, 40% of app clicks are either accidents or fraudulent. This has evolved into performance-based ads, sporting either a cost-per-action or cost-per-install payment system.
Mobile businesses are also vulnerable to being attacked by hackers, particularly mobile game developers. For now, we’re focusing on what advertising and in-app fraud actually is and how you can fight back.
Sinister individuals who have spent the past fifteen years circulating false traffic on the internet have moved their efforts on to the mobile web space. You might have come across the term “click and install fraud”, which has become quite common today.
This kind of fraud comes from bots, false banner ads and jailbroken devices. CPA (cost per action) clicks aren’t any more complicated than having a bot programming actions in order to qualify.
One of the things ad networks do is checking if a source is reliable and how the ‘clicks to installs’ conversion is looking. If that conversion rate starts to edge closer to 100%, you can be sure all that traffic is coming from bots. Fraudsters have learned to mix up bot traffic in order to sell it to established networks, make sizable profits while demonstrating desired attributes.
Fraudulent In-app Purchases
One disturbing problem mobile game developers should be concerned about is theft of in-app currency. Monetary loss by no means is the biggest loss developers must deal with as a result, but the impact it has on the game, not to mention how it can muddy up their understanding of how users are experiencing or playing that game.
For example, if there’s a contest going on in the game, players will definitely notice how some hackers have ridiculously high scores. This will inevitably ruin the experience for them. As you can imagine, this kind of fraud has a highly undesirable impact on mobile analytics. How is a developer to differentiate between stolen currency and actual in-app purchases?
Because of this unnecessary nuisance, game developer may not be able to clearly understand game economics, user lifetime value (LTV) or how users are engaging with their product. You do the math – this could lead to untimely and ill-informed business decisions.
To counter this, you could have your user data tucked away on a server and managed from the same end.
One of the things you can do to beat hackers and fraudsters to the punch is make use of a complex and cutting-edge app tracker service.
An open-source tracker SDK that is capable of running a more complex code within the app makes it much harder to fake installs. It also requires fraudsters to simulate the entire app instead of just manipulating the HTTP API.
Alternatively, you could also monitor inconsistencies and report them – installs for instance, that are coming from US devices having Middle Eastern timezone settings. Also, check your user retention: for the third and seventh day, fraudulent installs would indicate zero usage.
I think it’s fair to say, for the average app developer, Twitter, Facebook or AdMob are reliable sources to acquire users, though sometimes they do not quite cut it as far as acquisition targets are concerned. So you see, quite a lot of ad sources serve this purpose. When dealing with several ad sources, chances are you’re going to encounter fraud at some stage; what you should do is work only with tested and reliable ad networks.
Simply put, work only with mobile marketing vets who understand what works.
Another approach you could employ is to rely on advanced app analytics through which ad buyers can group users into segments or groups to analyze engagement and revenue for individual channels. Unfortunately, manually evaluating how effective ad sources are, requires painstaking labor. Instead use AppInTop to automatically select the most favorable ad sources, which provide the best user LTV, while cleaning out the less than satisfactory revenue and retention metrics.
To keep clear of mobile ad fraud, use sophisticated app tracking software to see which sources reel in actual paying users instead of dead installs. When you’re buying advertising, check for recommendations and references. You can also depend on programmatic ad purchasing.
All of this should make it much harder to sinister individuals to bypass the system.
Talk to our dev team; learn how safe and secure a mobile app should be. And as always, leave us a comment or two below.