Gaming apps reduce install fraud, but in-app fraud remains a big problem


Gaming apps get better to beat install fraud.

According to a study released Tuesday by AppsFlyer, only 3.8% of paid installs are fraudulent among gaming apps, compared to 32% of non-organic installs for apps in other categories.

Financial apps have the highest app install fraud rate at 48%, for example, followed by travel apps at 45%.

The good news

Non-gaming apps are more appealing to bad players, in large part because the potential payoffs are greater. These apps have larger marketing budgets and offer an above average cost per install rate for newly acquired users.

But there’s a lot non-gaming apps can learn from their more battle-worn gaming counterparts.

“Game developers are more familiar with the intricacies of online advertising, having used it since its inception,” said Michel Hayet, product marketing manager and fraud expert at AppsFlyer.

Over the years, gaming apps, tired of being cheated, have taken “a holistic approach of measuring all that is possible and adjusting their apps to suit the behavior of their users,” said Hayet.

And their efforts are paying off. According to AppsFlyer, application installation fraud is globally down 30% year-over-year.

Still, AppsFlyer found that global financial exposure to app installation fraud was $ 1.6 billion in the first half of 2020. And scammers are getting more sophisticated.

Protected Media recently identified an in-app bot fraud network dubbed Hydra, which Protected CEO Asaf Greiner called “the most disciplined operation” he has ever seen, and the week last, White Ops blew the lid off a scheme that may have developed. 3.5 million downloads for 29 fake Android apps.

And the bad news

While gaming apps have done a good job of reducing their exposure to install fraud, they are vulnerable to other forms of fraud.

Over the years, for example, game developers have moved from cost-per-install campaigns to a cost-per-action (CPA) model, which links payments to more in-depth actions in the app, such as when users ‘register, reach a certain level in an application or make a purchase.

CPA campaigns are seen as a shield against ad fraud based on the idea that it’s harder to mimic user behavior in the app than it is to fake an install.

But that, said Hayet, is not.

The app fraud rate among gaming apps is actually double that of non-gaming apps due to their focus on CPA.

“Many believe that just working with CPA campaigns automatically protects them from fraud and filters out bad actors,” [but] that couldn’t be further from the truth, ”said Hayet. “[And] the more apps depend on in-app event measurement and CPA campaign templates, the bigger the problem. “

Since CPA campaigns often generate higher user value – someone who takes deeper action in the app is considered more likely to keep, or at least they do, payouts are usually much higher for the advertising networks that broadcast these campaigns. And the bad actors can’t resist.

Scammers will deploy bots to generate in-app events or steal credit from real users, both organic and paid, who are more likely to perform desired actions in an app, Hayet said.

“If this fraud goes undetected, these scammers could even be falsely viewed as ‘quality’ media sources by advertisers for delivering these stocks, which,” he said, “presents even more motivation for fraudsters to target CPA events. “

And so the moral of the story is that developers need to be as vigilant as scammers are motivated.

“Scammers identify market trends better than anyone in the ecosystem,” said Hayet. “With fraud, the rule of thumb is that wherever the money is, the fraud is sure to be there.”


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