Apsalar, a mobile data management platform, created the Apsalar Fraud Index (AFI) after examining a 2015 sample of more than 10bn click events and more than 200m in-app virtual goods transactions to identify the level of fraud in these two key performance indicators of app publishers.
It found that globally, for every click that resulted in a legitimate install there were 2.57 fraudulent or unexplained clicks; the US was below average in this regard, returning 2.12 fraudulent or unexplained clicks for every legitimate one.
Click fraud, Apsalar explained, occurs in large part where media vendors charge on a cost per click (CPC) basis, so driving more clicks increases revenue: "there are clearly some bad actors in the space," it noted.
Examples of tactics that can increase a click-to-download ratio include bot-based impressions, invisible redirect scripts, deceptive offers, and UI/UX deliberately designed to get people to make clicks in error.
Topping the click fraud index was Hong Kong, with an index score of 318, followed by India (282) and Indonesia (225). Malaysia (153), Vietnam (144) and Singapore (141) also featured in the top ten.
The Middle East also had high click fraud rates, with the remaining four in the top ten coming from there: Bahrain (222), Turkey (185), Kuwait (162) and Saudi Arabia (144).
Turning to the second KPI, Apsalar's research found that, globally, 7.49 fraudulent virtual goods transactions – where virtual goods are downloaded without revenue changing hands – were made for every legitimate purchase. In the US, the figure was just 1.5, putting it near the bottom of the list.
In China, by contrast, there were an extraordinary 273.2 fraudulent purchases for every legitimate one.
The second worst offender was Taiwan, with a relatively small figure of 54.1. Hong Kong (18.1), Singapore (5.5) and India (3.8) were other Asian countries appearing among the ten nations with the highest rate of fraudulence.
The Middle East featured again, with Saudi Arabia (24.6), Israel (18.3) and the United Arab Emirates (8.1) appearing above Russia (7.3) and Mexico (5.2).
Apsalar advised the use of robust measurement solutions and against relying on surrogate metrics such as CPC.
Data sourced from Apsalar; additional content by Warc staff