Appodeal fraud revealed. My investigation

Beware mobile devs!

Heres my report of digging inside the Appodeal’s internals. states to be an ad revenue optimization tool.
I used tcpdump/tcpflow/wireshark combined with some mitm assistance (see fiddler) and app behaviour observation to prove the fraud.
(literally by filming actual app’s screen and counting banners on the device and comparing my real numbers to the backend statistics)
I uncovered that this so called “revenue optimizer” network is a total fraud and scam!

Please take no offense. Its just some info I have to share with you. Everything is up to you. Make your own decisions!
Please verify everything by yourself. I’m not going to participate in any debates.

So the Appodeal scam is HUGE. And it is ongoing. Right now.

  • They use some botnet like methods to manipulate App Store and Google Play rankings
  • They shave off their partners
    I uncovered botnet-like network activity originating from the Appodeal SDK
    This behavior is concealed by default and activated only by their command server under certain conditions.

How does it work?
Appodeal promises us to get more money / fillrate / eCPM. However its just the smokescreen for the original criminal scheme!
By integrating the SDK, developers voluntarily (yet unwillingly!) participate in their distributed botnet-like ranking manipulation system!
As all of their app’s users do.

Ok cool but really how it works??
Appodeal partners sign up and install Appodeal SDK into their apps.
Appodeal binary code gets executed each time the user launches an app on his device.
The code runs with game and starts to exploit traffic from all participating devices of this distributed network.
Of course devs are not aware of this activity.
They expect SDK to make a good job of honest banner mediation.
However, I studied the traffic from some devices comparing to the factual banners appearance on the real device’s screen. As well as with the appodeal’s backend stats. And got some hard facts. They shave up to 30% of traffic!

So what does the so called “botnet” do?

By the packet from Appodeal server, SDK switches away from “fair mode” of ad mediation. To rotation of Appodeal’s private interstitial.
This create very intense and very focused promotion of specific products affiliated with Appodeal.
They just select the target and voila all the devices start to promote apps and manipulate the Appstore and Google Play, all at once!

Please note, that this activity originates from the vast distributed network of many many devices.
Of course it influences Google Play and Apple’s App Store rankings.
A developer wouldn’t even get a penny from it! The interstitials are not added to backend stats at all!

Conclusion: Appodeal just steal from the developers and use their userbase to promote their own affiliates.
By their concealed botlike network!

  1. Appodeal uses their own accounts for all 3rd party Ad Networks.
    Ads are tracked by the system directly, putting the developer out of the loop.
    There is no way to to link my own accounts to the system! So I couldn’t even get the real stats!
    This opens vast area for for ripping off clients.
    Thanks Appodeal for being so kind to the users helping them to create all accounts by yourself!

You can compare appodeal stats with actual banners impressions.
Just count your actual impressions within the app.
Compare it with the backend stats. And see the difference.

They just STEAL your money. Check it for yourself before they didn’t hide it for a moment.

Of course their system conceals this activity very well.
If you really want to catch them by your own, just playtest for a while to catch this behavior on a device!
It took me more than 20-25 hours to capture it.
Looks like the network is still in beta. And they promote only limited set of their own apps for test purposes. But this could change.
I had to record and review many hours of video from my device until caught them up!

So to summarize:

  • Appodeal steal from their partners
  • They use their system to promote own products and manipulate App Store and Google Play rankings.

I repeat please don’t trust my words and check it for yourself.
Do whatever you have to do. I’ll encourage you to follow my way and explore it by yourself.
Just trust your gut!

Assuming what you say is true (which I have no idea), does it effect just income or is it something against Google Play policies and can result in a Ban?

Appodealgives me x3 earnings compared to other similar network so I don’t care even if they steal some money from me as long as I don’t get banned… :slight_smile:

With all respect to your efforts, BUT they are the best paying ad network now. If they steal devs and pay them more than other networks, so it is OK :). And also I did not hear about any developer got banned for using Appodeal.
I wonder, how did you know that they don’t show real statistics? and I couldn’t understand how this will influence Google Play and Apple’s App Store rankings…!!!

If they steal 30% of your traffic and still provide 3x better revenue than other networks, then how much of traffic are stealing other networks? )))

In the other thread pavel disclosed already that appodealdon’t charge any commission from devs but they are selling part of our traffic with a higher rate directly from their advertisers /clients… So I’m not surprised here.

It’s what romel_emperado says. They’re selling directly part of their traffic and keeping this revenue as their business model. This ads can affect app stores rankings just like any other ad network affects with their ads. Knowing all that since they never hided it (read the threads), where’s the catch exactly?

I still didn’t implemented their sdk but more and more devs on this forum talks very well about appodeal because their revenue. If you want to discourage people from using them you should do better than this.

ok guyz its up to you Im not pushing anything
but really really doubt appodeal motives. If youre ok with it go and throw away 20-30% of your traffic.
need good mediation and nice fillrate? why dont just plugin mediation through admob? at least you’ll get honest stats, direct access to your accounts in 50+ ad networks and 99% fillrate

tried it but got 3x lower of what I am getting with appodeal.

romel_emperado ok its your experience

But I REALLY doubg this “3x profit” stuff

Lets do simple math

Billy rents billboards out to local businesses.
They pay Billy to display an advertisement for their business so they’ll acquire additional customers.
Every other day, billy secretly changes his billboards to display an advertisement for the business he owns.
This effectively cheats those who rent billboards from him out of 50% of their purchased advertising.

The actual scenario involves another layer but the concept is the same.
The developer is renting out ads as his source of revenue but he’s “shutting ads off” for a few hours every day without knowing it,
because the offender is rerouting ads to his own properties without paying the developer.

In this scenario it’s highly likely that the developer will earn much less money than he would by simply using one of the major ad networks on its own.

So the developer just could use any honest mediation tool say from admob. By creating & inking his own accounts to google & keeping control over all ad networks.
Accessing their original statistics.
By contrast, appodeal doesn’t even provide this option! It just create accounts by itself under the hood. So the developer is not able to verify the % of stolen traffic (that to my experience is around %20-30)
Simple math.
I couldn’t imagine any real scenario to get 300% profit with actual 30% loss.
(Hey, also you have tracking url in your profile so I can assume that you affiliated with the system)


haha check the history of this forum and the existence of appodealand my profile and then you will know if I’m appodeal man… :stuck_out_tongue:

about your concern, appodealdon’t just get part of the traffic but they optimize the ads and display high paying ads for you… the optimization algorithm is free to use for us but they sell some portion of our traffic to their clients in return and that is why we get more revenue because appodeal always display high paying ads. period. no need simple math because it’s just very simple…

even if I don’t calculate I can easily know that I’m getting more with appodeal… You know why? because before when I was with admob and Airpush I only get 6$ to 10$ a day but after I switched to appodealI got 38$… it simple I just know that $38 is bigger than 6$…

Lets not be combative here, every business is out to make a profit. These guys just have a different revenue model, that admittedly is a little mysterious but as long as you are making more money with them than another ad network then it really shouldn’t matter. I use them for a couple reasons, the first is because it gives me a pretty decent banner mediation. The 2nd is because of immediate payment. If someone else can offer the same thing with higher ecpms then I will switch to them. This is your business and you better believe that if the ad networks could find a way to increase their profits and keep customers happy they would do it, this is the cornerstone of any good business. So you need to constantly analyze what will make YOU the greatest profits and gives you easy access to your money. So please stop wasting your time trying to figure out who is trying underhanded tactics and steal your money.

My name is Pavel Golubev, I started Appodeal.

Indeed, Appodeal is an ad revenue optimizer, that pulls higher numbers from ad networks. I started Appodeal because I got sick of ad networks built in favor of advertisers and decided to create something for publishers.

Most likely, person, who started this thread is someone, who got banned by Appodeal for artificial activity.
The whole story is made up and has no real evidence.
Anyway, I feel obliged to respond:

  1. Appodeal, Inc. is an open and transparent company, registered in Delaware. It has recently raised a $3.1M funding round ( It has successfully passed due diligence. I was born overseas and came to the U.S. to build a great company, to meet and work with great people here in Silicon Valley, to improve the mobile advertisement industry and take it to the next step. I invested all my money in Appodeal, I sold my car, I moved to a smaller apartment. Now you are saying that I did all this just to start some pathetic fraud? Your accusations are pointless. The reason I reveal my Facebook and my Skype (and my other personal information) everywhere is because I’m not afraid to share anything about myself — I have nothing to hide.

  2. When we started Appodeal, my goal was to optimize earnings coming from our own apps. My previous company published over 3000 apps on Google Play & iOS since 2011. We made Appodeal available for everyone, when we managed to improve our inventory earnings up to 270%.

  3. There is a lot of background activity initiated by Appodeal SDK. The purpose of such activity is to run an auction among ad networks and pick the winner — ad network that offers better rate for your traffic. Auctions are running constantly.

  4. Appodeal is not taking any of your traffic, it does not charge any commissions and does not cut anything from you.
    We make money by selling a part of your traffic at a higher rate to direct advertisers, but only when they can offer a better rate than ad networks.

Sample 1:

  • Admob offers $0.003 per impression.
  • Chartboost offers $0.002 per impressions.

Impression is sold to Admob and $0.003 is paid to publisher.

Sample 2:

  • Admob offers $0.002 per impression.
  • Chartboost offers $0.003 per impressions.
  • Direct advertiser offers $0.004 per impression.

Impression is sold to direct advertiser, $0.003 is paid to publisher, $0.001 is retained by Appodeal (because it managed to sell your impressions at a higher rate than any other ad network).

  1. If topic starter had a single fact, he/she would post it.
    There are several referrals to tcpdump/wireshark/fiddler etc in the post, but not a single traffic dump is attached.

If you want to continue this discussion, please submit some real evidence, traffic dump with your explanations would be great.

Appodeal is a unique, great and innovative company that protects publishers interests on mobile ads marketplace, rather than advertisers.
Appodeal signed up over 2000 app developers in less than 6 months.
Most of them confirmed earnings improvement.

/* While I wrote this post, Pavel published his. I say this because you could find repeated info in both posts. */

Appodeal sells part of your traffic to the Appodeal Network only if the Appodeal network can pay you better than any other ad network they implement. Appodeal automatises the process of mediating and learning. Indeed they are saving a lot work for developers. If I would implement an automated mediation system by myself, I might implement something similar to Appodeal, but Appodeal, besides mediation, provides its own market, which only shows ads if there is no other better bid from any other network. Furthermore, they give instant payouts. They give you what any developer would like to have. I think their idea is to attract developers with this model and construct a huge network with the traffic of thousands of developers/publishers, and part of the traffic will be sold to their own Appodeal market only in the case that the Appodeal market can offer a better price for the traffic than any other of the implemented network.

Their business model makes sense and I think they will very successful if the keep the terms, transparency and honesty they show for now.

Anyway, it does not mean that it might be impossible they have some bug in their SDK/System that might create some report errors.

No offense to appodeal but John Paul needs to be put in his place, the fact he took airpush’s publisher list is messed up and probably boarderline illegal to be honest, then the guy says he found my “corporation ID” Not my corporation NAME, but my corporations business # online…Yeah…Ok…I looked for 10+ hours, you don’t find it online, you find it in airpush’s payment details page.

Then he goes on and says “Hey send me your apps, I’ll reskin, throw in appodeal and give you 60%” – No thanks…

I wish Appodeal nothing but the best, but theres some serious questionable tactics going on thats for sure. You guys signed up 2,000 developers because you took airpush’s publisher list,

You want proof? I have Phil and Bill who know john paul because he worked for airpush based on comission and how many developers he gets signed up.

Not that hard to pay a guy comission to mass spam developers. So please, save the whole “We signed up 2000 developers in 6 months” because I could do the same thing if I waved 100grand infront of a salesmens face.

How do you track the data of each seperate developer when some networks have no postback or API? If you’re running it all through “Appodeals” publisher account then thats sketchy…I’d hope every developer create their own account and they put in their own key’s etc …if not then it’s no different then ads2apk really

To be fair not only for apps, in other sales related industry, a lot of leads are generated legal or illegally. You even have black market selling potential leads to sales personnel.
So if you could put yourself in the sales personnel shoes, you might just forgive for the tactics they employed.
If you feel uncomfortable, just kindly reject their proposition.

But in your case, taking the information from some other competitors list and then try to lure them to your own seems to be a bit too much for me personally.
Perhaps just raise this to the original information provider source and let them follow through. For us app developers, we just keep ourselves distant as this can get messy.

I’m not just an app developer, I’m a network owner also, So for another network to employ these tactics is very questionable, because I’d never do that myself. Business is business, keep it legal because theres a few government agencies called the FTC and FCC who will gladly wipe you off the sidewalk and chuck you in the trash.

I get the whole “grind to the top” I have the exact same story as appodeal, I uploaded 5,000+ apps etc was sick and tired of ad networks so I created my own, but you don’t see me hitting up my skype contact who can inbox the 800k+ android developers do you? Because I can, It’s not hard to go pay a indian to mass spam hundreds of thousands of e-mails and inbox, but is it right? Hell no, I ain’t that desperate. Quality over quanity.

Indeed, Johnpaul has been working at Airpush before he joined Appodeal.

The reason he joined Appodeal is because he (as well as other sales) noticed a huge potential in Appodeal.
It’s a product that brings true value to publishers and therefore easy to sell.

Using competitor’s list is strictly against our rules, we play fair game here.

The primary source of potential leads that we use is It provides detailed information about every app developer out there on Google Play and App Store.
In addition to Mixrank there is plenty of other closed sources of information that can be used to pull data about you.

The majority of app developers that we signed up either came from this forum as well as publications in mass media (in Russia):


All the google developer accounts ive used as bought from a source, I never once have used a developer account using a personal CC, the data john paul sent me was clearly data from airpush’s payment page, You can find my company name online easily, but my business registration #? No, you can’t find that anywhere other then airpush thats the only place I’ve ever placed it in the 10+ years I’ve been doing online, I’m not trying to get anyone in trouble or harp on you, but John paul knows exactly what he did,

I’m not saying you or appodeal is bad, but he never got my email from anywhere online, otherwise he’d be sending to the vietnam e-mail on the dev accounts, not my personal g-mail that i use to login to airpush with and no other network.

Every network under the sun sends out emails, I get it…it’s fine, but it’s kind of crazy when some guy sends you a e-mail starting “Hi xxxxxxxxxx” and it’s your business ID # you give to the government for tax purposes, if he hit me up “Hey xxxx media” …fine, people do that all the time.

I’m not trying to flame or anything you Pavel…i think what you’re doing is great, and i get every network will have its struggles and hiccups along the way, atleast you’re willing to address them

> They’re selling directly part of their traffic and keeping this revenue as their business model.

So you believe that Appodeal managed to make direct deals with google? lmao. or chartboost?
And google is willing to pay more for a click? lol. Why would google want to do this? Why pay more to appodeal rather than work with the developer calculating price by well known auction system?

> This ads can affect app stores rankings just like any other ad network affects with their ads. Knowing all that since they never hided it (read the threads), where’s the catch exactly?

That one is easy. By command they create simultaneous spike in activity on all affected devices.
Don’t forget that the traffic is stolen from the developers.