A fake install is a type of mobile ad fraud that occurs when an app install is attributed to a paid source, but no installation has actually taken place on a real device. Fake installs defraud advertisers, publishers, and ad networks, resulting in lost ad spend.
Fake installs can also skew data or introduce fake data, resulting in misleading information about the performance of a marketing campaign. This can cause significant issues for advertisers.
Fraudsters can perform fake installs in several ways, including:
- Device farms: This is the simplest method of faking real install events. Many fraudsters manually program real, individual devices to click tracking links, install, and open an application. Then, the devices delete the app and reset their IDFAs (on iOS) or Advertising IDs (on Android).
- Device emulators: Device emulation software disguises many virtual devices as organic audiences. Device emulators carry out fake installs by automating the manual aspects of a device farm. To evade detection, device emulators typically take place on several cloud-based servers spread out across different locations.
- SDK spoofing: In order to track the performance of their marketing campaigns, marketers typically embed an SDK in their apps. Although an install is reported — using false SDK traffic — the app is never actually installed on the device. This method of performing fake installs is typically used by more experienced fraudsters.
Fraudsters use many techniques to carry out fake app installs. In order to prevent this mobile ad fraud, marketers turn to MMPs like Branch that specialize in this type of fraud prevention.