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Study Finds Significant In-App Theft and Click Fraud in the Mobile Channel

Examining millions of in-app transactions and billions of in-app clicks over the first five months of the year, a recent study from Apsalar estimated an in-app transaction fraud rate of nearly 7.5 for virtual goods and an in-app click fraud rate of more than 2.5 globally, meaning for every legitimate click or transaction there were this many that were fraudulent or unexplained.

Apsalar, an omni-channel data management platform, examined over 200 million in-app transactions for virtual goods and over 10 billion in-app clicks occurring between January and May 2015 for fraud. The study sought to quantify the level of click fraud in the mobile channel by measuring the click-to-install fraud rate and in-app purchase fraud rate across countries and worldwide.

The click-to-install fraud rate looks at the number of fraudulent or abnormal clicks relative to the number of clicks that resulted in the download of an app. Globally this ratio was 2.57, meaning that for every click that resulted in the user installing the advertised app there were more than two-and-a-half fraudulent or unexplained clicks. The United States had a lower click-to-install fraud rate than the global average at 2.12. Hong Kong and India were the countries with the highest in-app click fraud rates, and each of the countries in the top ten were either in the Asia Pacific or Middle East regions.

Apsalar additionally measured the in-app purchase fraud rate, which measures the number of virtual goods downloads that occur without revenue for the transactions changing hands. Globally the in-app purchase fraud rate is alarmingly high at 7.49. However, this was skewed heavily by this type of fraud being rampant in China, where there are over 273 fraudulent virtual goods downloads for every legitimate purchase. By comparison, the country with the next highest in-app purchase fraud rate on digital goods was Taiwan with a rate of 54.1. The U.S. is performing much better than the global average with an in-app purchase fraud rate of 1.5. The United Kingdom and Norway have the lowest in-app purchase fraud rates at just 0.4 and 0.2, respectively.

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