Affiliate Fraud – What To Know And How To Prevent It?

Posted on the 28 July 2021 by Nisha Garg @nishagarg21

You'd agree that affiliate marketing is a big thing in the internet market space today. And the loud buzz around it is not a fuss. According to Statista, affiliate marketing spending in the United States will reach 8.2 billion dollars in 2022 coming from 5.4 billion estimated in 2017.

However, affiliate fraud is a nightmare for every marketer despite the abundant prosperity in affiliate marketing. Affiliate fraud involves different malicious activities done by marketers to unjustly accumulate commission.

In this article, I've curated the common affiliate frauds and the ultimate ways for you to spot and prevent them. Just dive in and let's go!

Methods of Affiliate Fraud

1. Browsing Cookies Stuffing

One of the common affiliate marketing frauds that you may not know of is cookie stuffing. You have probably seen one or two prompts to accept cookies whenever you visit a website, didn't you?

While a cookie is primarily for tracking the users of the website, there are other uses of cookies too.

Cookie stuffing is a practice where affiliates place multiple third-party cookies on a visitor's computer from various advertisers to drive you to another website.

These cookies keep interrupting your search on the website. Cookies are annoying and very frustrating.

Affiliates engage in this practice to earn more commission. This fraudulent technique interrupts user's interaction with the website interface. Moreover, affiliates earn money even if they don't play a direct role in bringing visitors to that site.

2. Attribution Fraud

Attribution fraud is common in the operations of affiliate marketers. The first question that comes to mind is that; " what is attribution fraud? "

Attribution fraud basically occurs when fraudsters try to steal credit. This credit can be for software installations that were not produced by them but produced by others.

Usually, the fraudsters use affiliate links to generate fake clicks. They use these clicks to record the last engagement on your device. They do this to manipulate and steal credit from a software organic source.

3. Registering Wrong Domain Name

Manipulation of the merchant's domain name is yet another common fraud in affiliate marketing. In this case, fraudsters deliberately spell a merchant domain name incorrectly. After which they go ahead to register this wrong domain name.

Whenever a user misspells a merchant's domain name in a way that fraudsters anticipated, the user will be sent to the fraudsters' website.

The users are redirected through an affiliate link to the merchant's website. As a result, when you buy a product on the merchant's website, the affiliate is credited with the sale. This is unethical and a big disadvantage to the real merchant.

Some examples include using GrooveCart for the actual product " GrooveKart ".

4. Affiliate Marketing Deception

Do you know that affiliate advertisements can sometimes be bait for fraud? The process used in affiliate marketing deception is known as diversion. Diversion is the practice of redirecting visitors from an affiliate's site to a fraudster's site.

Usually, fraudsters use variants of false clicks and spamming to get credit for purchases. Fraudsters use these fake clicks to divert affiliate website visitors to their page. Therefore, diverting is a terrible trend you must look out for while browsing.

5. Website Cloning

Website cloning involves duplicating real affiliates' sites. Fraudsters also clone materials on the website. They clone the website to confuse and mislead honest prospects like you.

This act leads users to the wrong site without their knowledge. Where these conversions occur, merchants lose both relevant traffic and income.

6. Illegal Transaction

Loopholes in affiliate marketing make it easy to fraudulently purchase goods and services using stolen credit cards, credentials, or false information.

To resolve issues arising from this, most transaction costs are refunded subsequently. The merchants would have already paid the affiliate commissions on the original sales. The paid commissions are irrevocable.

Likewise, I remember when we paid a $100 commission per $7 subscription the affiliate sent. Soon after some days, we realized that the purchase was made using the same credit card but with a different email address and name.

We tracked a similar IP address sequence. But, since we already paid the affiliate, there was no way to reverse it. The only way out was to blacklist and inform co-affiliates about the suspected fraudster.

7. Malicious Browser add-ons

Are you aware that there are malicious browser add-ons? You'd agree that add-ons make browsing easy but malicious add-ons can be your greatest enemy if you aren't careful.

But, how do malicious browser add-ons work? Add-ons functionality doesn't work on its own. Instead, they frequently require a range of permission from you. In the first week or two following the installation, the malicious add-ons work well.

Monitoring tools do not detect any malicious activities of the add-ons. So, fraudsters intercept browser requests after visiting a certain page. They also implant JavaScript snippets or alter the traffic of the websites.

As a matter of fact, some affiliate program scammers sometimes employ harmful browser add-ons to trick customers into installing malware without their knowledge.

You may not discover a malicious add-on because many of the add-ons are highly rated and being sold at " extension stores " which make them look authentic. As a result of their true functions for few weeks of operation, they can remain unnoticed for an extended period.

How to spot affiliate fraud?

Due to the proliferation of astute fraudsters, it is becoming difficult by the day to spot affiliate fraud. These fraudsters do everything possible to beat the detection tool. Yet, there are still simple and effective tips to spot affiliate fraud.

  • You can spot affiliate fraud by monitoring unusual activity on your website. Keep an eye on your website analytics. For example, you can compare your engagement rate and click rate to identify any abnormality.
  • Engage detection tools developed to spot unscrupulous activities. For instance, the bot tool can detect activities like ad injection and content scraping.
  • You can ask affiliates using your website to identify all third-party sources from the recorded traffic rate. You should do this regularly to ensure transparent dealings.

In addition, always keep an updated record of blacklisted affiliates to identify fraudulent ones.

How to prevent affiliate fraud?

Without much ado, some common best practices can be implemented to prevent affiliate fraud and other vices in affiliate marketing.

  • Firstly, you should determine whether the affiliate has an active website before you approve him.
  • Compare the website's content to the products and see the relevancy.
  • Check the affiliate websites to see if it is optimized for the material/product indicated.
  • Track if any cookies have been installed. If yes, intimate the affiliate for removal.
  • For you to identify the fraudulent websites, note that actual affiliates should have their contact address on the website for communication.
  • Stay in touch with the affiliates regularly and keep track of their engagement.
  • Lastly, in the event of sophisticated issues, you should engage the service of a cybersecurity or software expert where necessary.

Final Thoughts

Affiliate marketing, when done properly and responsibly, is a fantastic tool for digital marketers. However, as in other parts of your business, you need to be aware of affiliate marketing fraud and take precautions to avoid them.

Scammers are always out looking for the next victim. Tips shared here will save you cost and help you beat scammers' gimmicks.

P.S. - There are several affiliate marketing companies out there, however, choosing the one that provides advanced tracking capabilities is crucial. Good Luck!

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