Install fraud, also known as app install fraud, refers to deceptive practices aimed at artificially inflating the number of app installations or downloads. It involves fraudulent techniques employed by individuals or automated bots to generate fake installs, leading to inaccurate metrics and misleading data for app developers, advertisers, and app stores. 

Types of install fraud 

There are several common types of install fraud that app developers and advertisers should be aware of: 

  1. Click Injection: In click injection fraud, malicious apps or malware installed on a user’s device detect when a legitimate app is being installed. They then generate fake ad clicks just before the installation completes, taking credit for the install and falsely attributing it to the fraudulent source. 
  2. Click Spamming: Click spamming involves flooding ad networks or attribution platforms with an excessive number of clicks in a short period. This overwhelms the tracking systems and makes it difficult to accurately attribute the installs to the correct sources. 
  3. Device Farms: Fraudsters set up device farms, which are large groups of devices or emulators, to simulate real users and generate fake installs. They may use automated scripts or bots to download and install apps on these devices, giving the appearance of genuine user activity. 
  4. Install Hijacking: In install hijacking, fraudsters intercept the app installation process and redirect it to their own fraudulent app. This way, they can claim credit for the install and deceive advertisers or app developers. 
  5. SDK Spoofing: SDK spoofing involves manipulating the software development kit (SDK) integration within an app to generate fake installs. Fraudsters mimic the behaviors and signals sent by legitimate apps to attribution platforms, tricking them into falsely attributing the installs to the fraudulent source. 

Impact of install fraud 

Install fraud can have significant consequences for app developers, advertisers, and the overall app ecosystem: 

  1. Financial Loss: Advertisers and app developers may spend significant advertising budgets on fraudulent installs that do not result in genuine user engagement or revenue. This leads to financial losses and inefficient resource allocation. 
  2. Distorted Metrics: Install fraud skews app analytics and marketing performance metrics, making it challenging to accurately measure user acquisition, retention, and return on investment (ROI). It can mislead decision-making and hinder effective app optimization. 
  3. Reputation Damage: Apps associated with install fraud may suffer reputational damage if discovered. Users and industry stakeholders may lose trust in the app, impacting user acquisition and long-term growth. 
  4. Wasted Resources: Dealing with install fraud consumes valuable time and resources for app developers and advertisers. It requires implementing fraud detection and prevention measures, investigating suspicious activities, and taking legal action if necessary. 

Preventing and combating install fraud 

To mitigate the risk of install fraud, app developers and advertisers can employ various prevention and detection methods: 

  1. Fraud Detection Tools: Utilize fraud detection tools and services that employ machine learning algorithms and behavior analysis to identify suspicious patterns and anomalies associated with install fraud. 
  2. Attribution Platforms: Work with reputable attribution platforms that employ fraud prevention mechanisms, such as anti-fraud algorithms, to filter out fraudulent installs and ensure accurate attribution. 
  3. Fraud Monitoring: Regularly monitor app analytics, user acquisition data, and conversion rates to identify any unusual patterns or discrepancies that may indicate install fraud. Implement alerts or notifications for suspicious activity. 
  4. Traffic Source Evaluation: Evaluate the quality and legitimacy of advertising networks, publishers, and traffic sources before running ad campaigns. Research and choose trusted partners with robust fraud prevention measures in place. 
  5. Data Analysis: Analyze user behavior patterns, engagement metrics, and conversion rates to identify any inconsistencies or irregularities that may indicate fraudulent activity. 
  6. Industry Collaboration: Collaborate with industry organizations, ad networks, and attribution platforms to share insights and best practices for combating install fraud. Stay informed about emerging fraud techniques and industry-wide fraud prevention initiatives. 
  7. User Education: Educate users about app security and encourage them to download apps only from official app stores or trusted sources. Prompt users to report suspicious activities or unusual app behaviors. 


Install fraud poses significant challenges to app developers, advertisers, and the app ecosystem as a whole. By implementing fraud prevention measures, leveraging fraud detection tools, and staying vigilant, app developers can minimize the impact of install fraud, protect their advertising investments, and maintain the integrity of their app analytics and performance metrics.