Marketing Madness

Affiliate Fraud? No Way! What to Look Out For

Fraud – we have all experienced it in the real world – but affiliate fraud it is quite rampant in the affiliate world as many of us in the EDU space know all too well. No name dropping here but Google two vowels and the 7th letter of the alphabet and you will know what I mean. There are entities on the “interweb” that solely exist to take advantage of the not so swift and truth be told use a lot of creative techniques to bypass the unknowing eye and commit advertising fraud. Have no fear, there are quite a few weapons and bits of knowledge at our disposal that can come in handy when trying to counteract these attacks from these, pardon my language, bullshit companies and DBAs.

Things to Look out For

It’s easy for marketers to defraud their clients by generating false visits and sales to a website.  Here are some pointers I came across in a conversation with Evan Lovett, a senior member of Media Trust:

1)      Viable English. A must for clear communication. Affiliate marketing is so nuanced – and vulnerable – that a clear, concise understanding/dialogue is mandatory for proceeding with a relationship.

2)      Transparency. Increasingly imperative, especially as the “black-hat” movement has become exposed, and cheats/frauds are becoming more deceptive. If you can’t see the ad (display), referrers (content), or creative (email), it is fair to wonder if the affiliate/partner is hiding something (no, not his ‘secret sauce’). Viable, long-term partners share their business as again, a mutual understanding can only enhance a relationship.

3)      Over Communication. This may seem counterintuitive to the above points, but when (potential) affiliates are TOO persistent, specifically regarding finances – how fast can you pay? Do you have my correct wire info? Can you do ACH? How about PayPal? – It sends up a red flag.

4)      Multiple Channels. A jack of all trades is a master of none. Rarely, if ever, do singular affiliates specialize in more than one method of distribution. If a prospective affiliate has email, search & media buying at their disposal, it’s another reason for caution.

5)      Eagerness. Generally, affiliates have more than enough options of where to run offers, eg buddy, I hear from 50 networks/day – why should I work with you guys? Thus, when a new partner wants to run “all of your best offers” immediately, that could be a sign that they are out of options, perhaps due to nefarious behavior at other advertiser/networks.

Protecting Yourself

You might also consider a good software program that runs an audit for you.  These programs are designed to check your traffic patterns and conversion rates, as well as all the details that bring visitors to your site.  There are many great options available out there: ScrubKit, CPA Detective to name a few.

None of the above items are 100% fool proof, however, it will help ensure your marketing is working to your advantage and your traffic is performing optimally.  Such a program is a sound investment for any site owner.  Affiliate marketing can bring you the visitors you need, but only if you monitor your traffic well.


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Ricky Ahuja

A serial entrepreneur, Ricky Ahuja has been known and well respected for his strong acumen as an online marketer and social media expert. . His previous agency was ranked in the Top 10 on 2012 list of the “Top 10 Networks” and was most recently nominated as a Top 20 Ad Network on Blue Book survey by Revenue Performance. He is now the Director at Nutryst and working closely with John Crestani and Steve Lowry to build the leading Nutra only network.

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  1. Great article Ricky. I still think one of the easiest things to do, which i know I am one of a very few to do so, is to take the network private and not allow unsolicited applications. People slay all day because they waste time on validating sign ups. No real affiliate will just sign up…we have to track them down and make them want our business- agreed!

    1. Hey thanks Peter! I think taking a network private is a great idea but that works better for an established network which has been around a while. Hopefully we at AVG will be able to do that one day soon.

  2. Great article with a lot of key indicators to watch out for early on when you are vetting the affiliate. Once traffic starts rolling in, as you say, it’s wise to have a solid fraud management system churning on the backend – ScrubKit!

    Brian McLevis

  3. As much as the points in this article are accurate, let’s not forget that there are many merchants, networks, and companies who would LOVE to “cut out the middle man” and not have to pay affiliates.

    I know for a fact that sometimes campaigns are stolen – lock, stock, and landing page – from affiliates who have put a ton of work and risk into developing them only to be given questionable reasons why they have to stop running, or find themselves simply being hugely outbid by a clone of their own campaign that it turns out is being run by the merchant or offer owner.

    Fraud happens on both sides of the street, let’s not paint it as only on the affiliate side.


    1. Amen to that Jonathan! “Fraud happens on both sides of the street, let’s not paint it as only on the affiliate side” Because its already happen to me and not just ones.for the record, this is what stupid Evan Lovett of media trust told me. “traffic not converting advertiser needs backend conversions first” WTF! is it the my fault if the people dont wanna signup to their damn offers. they only allowed Email Spamming to there network

  4. “Over Communication. This may seem counterintuitive to the above points, but when (potential) affiliates are TOO persistent, specifically regarding finances – how fast can you pay? Do you have my correct wire info? Can you do ACH? How about PayPal? – It sends up a red flag.

    Hey Ricky Ahuja,are you crazy! what if she/he just want to be clear of the information, what if she/he have orders from his/her boss to get the details/information. is it asking these question makes you a affiliate scammer or something? your really funny guy……

  5. I am an affiliate and just wanted to chime in here and say that I totally agree that there is a lot of fraud in the affiliate industry, however you just can’t sit back and say its just the affiliates committing fraud for example this is a true story that happen to me or I should say happening to me. I have been with an affiliate network which is a private one I am not going to say any names yet as I’m still trying to work things out with them and give them the chance to do the right thing before I start trash talking them and taking any further actions, I will say that they use LinkTrust as there affiliate tracking. I have been with this network for about 4 years; roughly 2 years ago they merged into a private network and now only accept publisher that can make 1000 dollars a week. with that being said if you was an existing affiliate in the public network and didn’t make 1000 a week you get paid net 30 instead of weekly. Ok so I am only doing about 700 dollars a week which I thought was a fair amount to receive anything better than net 30 so I decided to contact them to have my traffic and leads/sales reviewed so I could get expedited payments. So they review my traffic and come back 3 days later to say that its obvious that I committed fraud and would not be paid for over a quarter of the leads I provided even though all the leads came from the same paid traffic source. The fraudulent activity they say occurred was the click IP and conversion IP was different and that I used proxies which I did NOT use any proxies the only thing I did was redirect through my own tracking links which I had permission to do form the owner of the network not my AM; the owner. So I start my own investigation, now remember I mentioned above that they use LinkTrust as there affiliate tracking platform; so I first start out by going to linktrust’s website to check out there fraud prevention tools and feature and I see this (this is copied and pasted from linktrust’s features page its the last feature listed in the fraud prvention section)(” Don’t automatically approve transactions when click and conversion IP addresses don’t match”)now if they have the ability to not let any transactions of that type go through why wasn’t it implemented in the first place rather than take any chances of there advertisers getting any fraudulent leads?? Also they come back to say that they received a letter from the advertiser stating my leads will be removed, I asked to see a copy of this letter and my request was denied, they said the only thing they would show me is that the click and conversion IP’s don’t match up. Also I want to add this why did they continue to allow me to run traffic after the FALSE accusations of fraud if it was such an obvious case of fraud why is my account still active to this day? and why don’t they use any of the fraud prevention tools that they have access to? I guess what Im trying to get at is none of this makes any sense to me seems to me they are the ones committing fraud!

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