App install fraud has plagued the mobile performance marketing world since its inception – fraudsters follow the money so it’s no surprise that when marketing dollars began to pour into the mobile app ecosystem, fraud quickly followed. And like other digital channels, the fraud was less sophisticated in the beginning. An app install, for instance, could easily be faked by a bot and a commission paid out. But when the industry began to fight back fraudsters, and their techniques, became more sophisticated.
Fast forward to 2019 where in many cases key KPIs go beyond the number of times an app was installed to how much engagement and revenue that app install is generating. This shift in focus and measurement has caused fraud to shift its focus as well. Fraudsters are increasingly trying to replicate in-app activity in order to cash in on the lucrative mobile market. Here’s five signs that bots are active in your app and you’re the one being played:
- After installing a gaming app, a large portion of users stop playing or uninstall the app at the same level or after the same amount of time. This is classic bot activity designed to trick those marketers that are only looking at installs and some sort of engagement right after the install to verify that a user is real. By interacting with the app on a limited basis, a bot can avoid detection in these instances.
- You have a disproportionate amount of users with outdated phones and operating systems. Not everyone runs out and buys the latest Samsung or iPhone, but if 20% percent of your users are coming from an old or obscure Android device, you probably have a problem. Fraudsters often utilize outdated devices and operating systems because they’re easier to target – they have known security vulnerabilities and aren’t updated with the latest patches. Additionally, if they’ve set up an install farm, old devices are a lot cheaper to use.
- Your users are outside your target market. If you’ve been targeting the US market, for example, but a large portion of your users are coming from overseas you could have a fraud problem.
- Users fail to register or you’re getting a large amount of invalid registrations. The good news is that you’ve blocked an invalid user from entering into your user base by asking for registration information, but you also need to be sure the affiliate campaign KPIs and commission structures are based on valid registrations and not just app installs. This leads to point number 5:
- Valid registrations but invalid transactions. This could indicate that user information entered into a registration form was real but it wasn’t entered by the user. Bots have the ability to enter real user information that may have been stolen (e.g., names, emails, phone numbers) and put up for sale by fraudsters. Any transactions made within the app were probably not authorized and eventually flagged as fraudulent.