Mobile App Terminology

Fake App Installs

What are fake app installs?

Fake installs are a type of mobile ad fraud in which fraudsters fake the install of advertised apps, either in device farms, device emulators, or via SDK spoofing. The reason that this type of mobile fraud is typically carried out is to steal advertising revenue by claiming the app install is legitimate. When successful, fake installs steal revenue from advertisers, publishers, and ad networks.

Looking for a solution for fake app installs?

Learn how Singular’s fraud prevention suite can help!

What are the uses of fake app installs?

As mentioned, fake app installs are designed to steal marketing budgets from advertisers. In addition to the lost ad spend, fake installs can skew advertising data and result in misleading information about the performance of the marketing funnel. Over time, if these installs are attributed as legitimate and not identified as fraudulent, this can result in marketers allocating their budget to sub-optimal campaigns and ad networks.

There are several ways that fraudsters perform fake installs, including:

  • Device farms: This is the simplest and most low-tech way to carry out fake installs. In this case, you get a number of devices, and have humans manually click tracking links, install apps, and subsequently delete them and reset the devices IDFA (iOS) or Advertising ID (Android) so it can be used again.
  • Device emulators: Device emulators scale up fake installs by automating what in a device farm is manual. This is carried out on a cloud-based server, and often involves multiple servers in multiple locations to avoid detection.
  • SDK spoofing: Another notable technique is called SDK spoofing. Marketers place an SDK provided by their Mobile Measurement Partner (MMP) in their apps to track the performance of their marketing efforts. With SDK spoofing, the app is never actually installed on a device, although an install is reported to the measurement partner by faking the SDK’s traffic. This can be accomplished by more sophisticated fraudsters that know how communication with MMPs and ad networks work and figure out how to emulate that communication, but it can also be foiled by MMPs like Singular that can identify, track, and reject spoofed installs.


As you can see, there are many techniques that fake app installs are carried out. In order to prevent this mobile ad fraud, marketers turn to MMPs like Singular that also specialize in fraud prevention.

Looking for a solution for fake app installs?

Learn how Singular’s fraud prevention suite can help!

How Singular prevents fake app installs?

Singular helps prevent fake app installs with its leading fraud prevention technology. In particular, Singular takes a proactive approach to fraudulent activity and adapts to the ever-changing fraud ecosystem. As highlighted in our blog post on fixing the $13B problem that is app install fraud:

“Singular’s updated Fraud Prevention suite is the most powerful mobile app install fraud prevention I’ve seen,” says Channy Lim, Head of BI Department at Com2uS, maker of the hit mobile game Summoners War. “This will save us literally hundreds of thousands of dollars every month, and lead us to make more effective marketing decisions.”

A few relevant fraud prevention tools for fake app installs provided by Singular include:

  • Android install validation
  • iOS install validation
  • Short time to install (TTI)
  • Geographic outliers
  • Blacklisting
  • Amongst others

This suite of fraud prevention tools also comes at no extra cost to attribution customers, which means that more ad budget is spent on high quality users, thereby increasing ROAS for mobile marketers.

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