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Affiliate Marketing Scams

Affiliate Marketing Scams

Identify Bad Traffic & Stop Affiliate Marketing Scams Before They Happen

We all know performance marketing tactics are a valuable and lucrative way to gain traffic…but how many of those visitors are legitimate? Are affiliate marketing scams driving bad traffic to your site, cutting into your cashflow and siphoning off your savings?

Join us as we dive into some of the most common—and most costly—affiliate scams out there, and how you can identify these threats and protect your bottom line.

affiliate fraud shield
Top 5 Bad Traffic Indicators

As we discussed in an earlier post on affiliate fraud, these inventive scammers leverage everything from adware and domain squatting to manipulating postback URLs and discount codes. There are plenty of tactics in use by dishonest affiliates out there, and new affiliate fraud threats develop constantly. Fraudsters rely on staying ahead of the curve to continue cheating advertisers and scoring unearned commissions.

The key to protecting yourself and your clients and customers from affiliate fraud scams is the ability to identify the threat, and separate bad traffic from good traffic. Below, we’ve identified five of the clearest indicators that you have a problem with bad affiliate traffic:

Chargebacks Coming in Fast

 The most common timeframe for customers to file a chargeback is 45-60 days after the original transaction. If you notice multiple buyers file chargebacks within a few days after the sale, that’s a clear sign that something is not right.

Risky Geolocations

eCommerce is a global phenomenon, but you should have certain countries and regions that make up the bulk of your customers depending on your product and clientele. If you notice an uptick in traffic and sales from a part of the world outside your usual audience, it could be a sign of bad traffic.

Interest in Riskier Products

If you carry a range of items in different product categories, it’s likely that some will present a greater fraud risk than others. An affiliate who’s relatively new to your program, but who’s pushing to market these riskier products, could be dangerous. They may use illegal tactics like incentivizing buyers or account takeover to get a sale.

Uncommunicative Affiliates

Be wary of affiliates who either ignore your emails or are slow to respond when you reach out to them. It’s a clear red flag if the person “goes dark” after you confront them about fraud or other suspicious activity.

Recurring Complaints

If you get similar customer complaints from the same traffic source, it could be a sign that the affiliate is using deceptive marketing tactics or incentives to inflate sales. Judge all complaints and negative reviews carefully and keep an eye out for emerging patterns.

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How to Get Proactive About Performance Marketing Fraud

The five signs listed above can help you pick out the more obvious affiliate marketing scams. However, there’s a simple reason that performance marketing fraud is so pervasive: it’s generally very hard to detect.

Spotting fraud after the fact is reactive; you can’t do much about affiliate fraud once it happens. That’s why you need to take a proactive approach. To start, ask yourself these three main questions:

What does affiliate fraud look like on my network?

What is the fraudster’s main objective in using dishonest tactics? Are they looking to score a quick commission and disappear before you find out about the fraud? Are they using affiliate practices to try and steal goods, or even to launder money?

How are they committing fraud?

Are you noticing certain tactics being used over and over? If so, what are they, and do you notice any fraud red flags or other traits that stand out about these transactions compared to legitimate ones?

Is it just an honest mistake?

Appearances can be misleading. Even if you suspect that an affiliate of yours is engaged in fraud, there’s a very real possibility that the individual simply doesn’t understand that they’re violating the rules of your program. They may have gotten some bad advice from a black-hat actor or misinterpreted certain practices.

How do you answer these questions? With careful data analysis, of course.

You need to organize the data in a way you can easily decipher and delve into the numbers. Otherwise, you may end up experiencing “data blindness.” You should build reports based on patterns and successful fraud attacks in the past and think about what triggered these incidents. Research the tactics these scammers employed to separate you from your money and learn the warning signs that could have tipped you off before the transaction.

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You should also monitor the fraud space just as closely as you watch your customer complaints and feedback; keeping up on new and developing trends as they develop will help you be ready before they become a problem.

Best Practices to Stop Affiliate Fraud

Once you understand what fraud looks like on your network, then you can put the practices in place to target and eliminate those scams. Put that knowledge to work with the following best practices to stop affiliate marketing scams dead in their tracks:

  • Vet Your Affiliates: Let participants in your affiliate program know up-front that you’ll be monitoring their behavior and their traffic, utilizing both proactive and reactive surveying. This will scare away fraudsters, and honest affiliates will appreciate that you take an active role.
  • Create Strong Contracts: Make your affiliate program contract strong, enforceable, and very clear in its stipulations. This will protect you against affiliate marketing scams, while also minimizing the possibility of innocent mistakes by honest affiliates.
  • Use Geolocation: This tool will help you pinpoint bad traffic by country, region, or even locality. With geolocation, you can choose to block traffic from parts of the world where you experience heightened fraud, or at least subject those sales to additional fraud screening.

Of course, the best way to keep fraud from getting out of hand is to use a tool that was created specifically to identify and block affiliate marketing scams.

Our Affiliate Fraud Shield is a first-of-its-kind product created to help advertisers and affiliate networks mitigate the risk of affiliate fraud. This tool employs a combination of human forensic expertise with machine learning technology to score individual transactions for fraud, flagging bad traffic and protecting you against criminals.

Affiliate Fraud Shield gives you the power to intercept fraud, stop bad traffic, and protect your revenue stream. Don’t fall victim to another affiliate marketing scam…contact us today and learn how much you will save.


affiliate fraud shield