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We propose a characterization method for the overall detection efficiency, afterpulse and dark count probabilities of single-photon counting modules in real-time with simple instrumentation. This method can be applied when the module is running in its intended application, and is based on monitoring the statistics of the times between consecutive detections. A mathematical model is derived and fit to the data statistical distribution to simultaneously extract the characterization parameters. The feasibility of our scheme is demonstrated by performing measurements on three commercial devices based on cooled InGaAs avalanche photodiodes operating in gated mode. Different statistical ensemble lengths were analyzed and results assess the scheme for real-time application.