4 Ways to Monitor & Manage Mobile Ad Fraud

Aug 01, 2016
By: Mimi Torrington

Download the entire 8-page guide here.

Continual monitoring and proactive management is key to ensuring ongoing performance and mitigating the risk of fraudulent installs and clicks.

1. Keep Your Eyes on the Data

Fraud can take many forms, but keeping a close eye on your data will help minimize its effects.  Whether you handle this yourself or through a partner, ensure that someone is diving into raw data reports to monitor for anomalies. Here are some common data trends that may indicate fraud:

  • A large number of installs or clicks that all originate from the same device model
  • A large number of installs or clicks from the same IP address
  • Discrepancy between the IP location of the ad click vs. the install
  • Click or install patterns, such as a new install every 30 seconds
  • Patterns in post-install data, such as new users always dropping out at the same moment
  • Different device IDs for the same device
  • Spikes in performance data, such as unexpected increases in install or click volume
  • Patterns in device ID numbers
  • Installs and clicks from geos or devices not in your target criteria
  • Installs with missing data, such as geo, device, or device ID

2. Partner with a Fraud Monitoring Service

Catching fraud in real-time comes down to the intelligent use of large data sets.  While this work can be accomplished internally, most app advertisers find that third-party services are the most cost-effective.  Tracking providers stand in a particularly unbiased point between the advertiser and ad network or publisher, giving them a unique opportunity to act as a regulator and diminish the effects of fraud.

While there is no fail safe method, a partnership with a third-party tracking provider will uncover inconsistencies and unwanted behavior from advertising platforms and their publisher networks.  For instance, a tracking service would recognize that installs from Chinese devices with Moroccan timezone settings are likely fraud, and send you a notification.

3. Look Beyond the Install

Many advertisers end their data investigations at the install, which leaves some of the most insightful data on the table.  While it is possible for fraudulent publishers to fake an install, it is very difficult if not impossible to fake in-app activity or purchases.  Looking at days 3 and 7 after an install can identify fraud sources, as fraudulent installs will show zero app usage or will display recognizable usage patterns.

Downstream metrics after the install are also one of the best ways advertisers can optimize their campaigns, as data become more reliable after the download.  Post-Install events (PIE) can be passed to ad networks and tracking providers for external fraud management and campaign optimization as well.

4. Avoid Incentivized Installs

While some app advertisers have found a place in their strategy for incentivized ads, most have come to find the technique problematic. Incentivized installs typically result in low quality users that do not ultimately convert down an app’s payment funnel.   For this reason, many advertisers try to stay away from it altogether.  Regardless, incentivized traffic finds its way into many marketer’s campaigns by means of underhanded publisher and network behavior that takes away from their user acquisition efforts.

The easiest way to identify unwanted incent traffic is by looking at the conversion rate from click to install. You know your product, so you should know the average conversion rates to expect. For example, if you generally convert 2.5% of clicks to installs, the likelihood of getting a 25% conversion rate with similar traffic is a big red flag.


Developing partnerships, following the data, continual monitoring, and proactive management are key tactics to ensuring ongoing performance and mitigating the risk of fraudulent installs and clicks.

For more information on fraud management, download our entire 8-page guide here: Fighting & Avoiding Mobile Ad Fraud.

By Mimi Torrington
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