Fight against Online Affiliate Scam
The emergence and rise of the Internet has brought new opportunities for businesses, allowing them to reach new market segments and niches that would have been intangible otherwise. To a certain extent, the power of online businesses comes from affiliate marketing.
Affiliate Marketing has been around for the last 10 or so years, but merchants are nowadays confronted with one of the newest types of scams, namely known as affiliate scam. As affiliate scam happens mostly because there is money involved, it’s a sure sign it will never stop.
While Affiliate Networks have the technology and know-how to fight affiliate scam, individual merchants might not be aware of the phenomenon. Here are my 2 cents.
What is Affiliate Scam?
Affiliate scam is any type of illegal activity designed with the intention of cheating merchants, other affiliates or buyers. The merchants are at a loss by scam affiliates that mislead them into paying commissions that they shouldn’t be paying.
The extent of such practices ranges from repeated clicks on income-generating links of CPC (cost-per-click) programs to using sophisticated software that will simulate human activity.
Affiliates take loses due to black hat affiliates that redirect the sale to a parasite site and cash the commission that this way never gets to the rightful, hard working affiliate. There are more parasite techniques described in the next chapter.
Buyers are affected by spam, deceiving marketing techniques or by being miss-informed about the product/service they need. The negative effects are obvious for both individual merchants and Affiliate Networks. Affiliate marketing networks face the much dreaded peril of losing their members (i.e. merchants), who will no longer want to become involved in affiliate programs for fear of having to face affiliate scam, which also translates into merchants losing their customers.
How to Recognize Affiliate Scam and How to Scam Checker Affiliates
If you already have an affiliate program set up and working, and you notice that things are not going the way you hoped they would, maybe it’s time to do your homework and make some research. Here are some symptoms specific to affiliate scam. They may actually help you with the detection of online scam. Check your activity logs (together with your specialized personnel) and look for anything that looks suspicious, any unusual pattern.
On the other hand, if you outsource your affiliate marketing to an affiliate network, they do most of the work to fight and eliminate scam, meaning you are safe. Affiliate scam takes several forms, among which the best known are:
Use Spamming techniques to promote products
Spam mail is something that we all hate. There are affiliates that will send tons and tons of bulk spam e-mails to customers, hoping that this will increase their income. Of course, those e-mails will end up being erased, but bear in mind that not only will your advertised products not become known, but there’s also a great chance to have your name (and your products) associated with such practices, thus leading to a loss of credibility and, ultimately, of conversions. Affiliate Networks strictly forbid spam and take drastic measures against spamming affiliates, including having their account banned and commission blocked.
Using (typo) variation of the vendor’s domain
This is a technique that refers to the act or registering multiple (typo) variations of the vendor successful domain name, and then signing up all those variations for one (or more) particular merchant’s affiliate program. Scamsters place their bets on un-aware buyers that will not make a difference between the original vendor site and the black hat affiliate site, because usually the difference is a wrong or missing letter in the domain name.
As this technique is not based on creating added value but on taking advantage of un-aware buyers, they steal visitors and sales that should have actually been the merchant own traffic, thus resulting in losses for the said merchants. Affiliate networks have a set of quality requirements when accepting new affiliates. Chances are that such affiliate sites will not pass the filters.
Fake clicks or referrals
There are many computer savvy scamsters that are able to create scripts or software that imitate human behavior, and generate false clicks or transactions. The less complicated version of this type of scam is actually clicking repeatedly on CPC links. Affiliate networks fight back by investing lots of money and technology into identifying automated behavior patterns and eliminating fake clicks and referrals.
Forcing affiliates to do a specific action
I’m constantly amazed about the ways black hat affiliates are trying to trick and force visitors into doing something that will bring those commissions. Here is a nice story of “Click on the banner to get your access to my server” scam discovered by Affiliate Marketing Veteran Shawn Collins (scroll down to the No More Teachers, No More Books section).
Illegal transactions with stolen cards
Some people will go as far as making purchases using stolen credit cards or register using fake identification information. The purchases turn later in refunds and chargeback, but the merchants have already paid the affiliate commission. Usually of the transactions are screened by affiliate networks. They check the card numbers, IP’s and everything else,. They also have huge databases of scam transactions that they built over the years
Parasite sites and traffic diverting
This term refers to any technique that diverts the traffic from the legitimate affiliate to the scamster’s site. The most notable negative result is that the real hard working affiliates don’t receive their commissions, and they quit the affiliate program. Thus, merchants lose their coverage of particular niches and, consequently, many prospects.
Just to give an example, black hat affiliates replace buy links in the products PAD files with their own links then they submit the modified PADs to download portals. The visitor will be redirected to the black hat affiliate site to make the purchase instead of the real vendor site. Affiliate Networks have complex tracking mechanism to verify un-usual buying patterns and have a special attention to eliminate parasite sites as they affect the real affiliates by stealing their commissions.
Copying legitimate affiliate’s sites and content
Here we’re talking about scamsters that copy (you can even read “clone”) the style and content of popular sites and thus mislead honest prospects, confusing them and directing traffic towards the wrong site, where conversions finally take place. The merchant thus loses relevant traffic and income.
Tips on Preventing Affiliate Scam
If you don’t outsource your affiliate marketing to an affiliate network, you can use some of the most common screening techniques in place, such as:
Checking if the affiliate has an active Web site
Checking if the site’s content relates to what you’re selling
Checking if the affiliate’s site is optimized accordingly for the above mentioned content
Keeping in touch regularly with the affiliate.
If you have a CPC campaign in place, make sure you include some anti-scam features, such as cookies that can detect if a link was clicked on more than once from the same IP in a short interval. Such cookies will provide you with enough information to allow you to single out and eliminate unwanted scamsters.
Even if it is more time consuming, you can go for manual approval of all the affiliate applications. This will allow you to review all the data provided by the applicants and immediately spot the “rotten apple” in the basket. You can even go as far as giving each applicant a phone call to see it they are real and if they mean business.
After carefully “trimming” the list of affiliate applicants, sort out the bad ones and add them to a red-flagged database for future reference. You never know when it may come in handy.
Also, join forums where you can discuss with fellow merchants various ways of putting into place anti-scam affiliate programs, share opinions, filtering techniques, black list of scamsters’ URLs, IDs, etc. Communication is of utmost importance in this particular business.
Scam prevention is not an easy task. But, by continuously monitoring your affiliates, it is possible to keep them on a “short leash”. It is important that you pay attention to the smallest details and signs that show that something is going wrong. Do everything in your power to protect yourself, and share your results and opinions on specialized forums that deal with the detection and prevention of online scam.
Don’t forget that by protecting yourself you protect your fellow merchants and the entire industry of affiliate marketing. If you outsource your affiliates business to an affiliate network, then you should be ok. Still, keep in mind to check your provider and always choose the right one.
If you are a victim of any of these scam sites feel free to register and file a scam report online at www.scamchecker.com. Why? There are many reasons why you have to do so with scam checker. Scam Checker is the most trusted scam busters online. Scam reports are sent to 300,000 journalists worldwide and through the worldwide web, file scam reports is distributed out to local authorities that includes FBI, CIA, NBI, Interpol and local enforcers, file scam reports are distributed to major or top search engines that includes Google, Yahoo and Bing this is to make sure that you’re report gets on top of every organic pages so when a person type these queries a warning from Scam Checker is firstly seen so others will not continue or be scam. Scam Checker’s how to scam check has an advocacy of helping others to stop scammers and telling you that you are not powerless against these scammers even if its online, we will bust them for you to stop them from tricking anyone, like you we are concern too.