5 Common Affiliate Marketing Fraud activities to watch out for!


Affiliate marketing offers a lucrative opportunity for individuals and businesses to earn revenue by promoting other companies’ products and services. However, as with other major marketing channels, the affiliate space has also attracted fraudulent individuals who can undermine its integrity and value while they look to make a fast buck. From data hijacking to trademark infringement, these illicit practices not only harm all legitimate businesses building relationships with serious affiliate entrepreneurs but negatively impact consumers. Secondly, this behaviour also tarnishes the good reputation of the entire affiliate ecosystem.

In this article, we’ll shed some light on some of the most common types of fraud that can be found in affiliate marketing, and what to watch out for.

We want all our advertisers and publishers to be aware of what to look for and hopefully help you identify and avoid anything that may end up harming your business and partnerships too!

1. Cookie stuffing

Cookie stuffing is a form of affiliate fraud where untrustworthy individuals insert their affiliate tracking cookies onto a user’s browser without their knowledge or consent.

This fraudulent practice aims to hijack commissions from sales that the affiliate had no part in generating. Cookie stuffers often employ tactics like embedding tracking codes in website pop-ups, iframe ads, or even malicious software to subtly drop their cookies onto users’ devices.

When these users make purchases from the merchant’s website, the fraudulent affiliate claims the commission, effectively stealing it from the affiliate who genuinely drove the sale. With the advent of cookies becoming obsolete in the near future, this may not be something we have to be vigilant about, however it’s good to know for the meantime and is one of the most common types of fraud inherent in our industry.

2. Shaving/stealing commissions

Unfortunately dishonest affiliate networks and advertisers can at times intentionally underreport or withhold a portion of the commissions owed to their affiliates for tracked sales and this is why tracking is such a big topic in our industry.

These kinds of deceptive practices, known as shaving or stealing commissions, are a blatant breach of trust and a significant concern for affiliates who rely on commission payments for earnings.

It’s part of the reason why transparency of reporting and good business services practices are just a few of the key services you should investigate
before partnering with a network or tracking solution to host your affiliate program.

Shaving can be identified by affiliates who may notice inconsistencies between the sales they’ve tracked and the commissions they’ve received or encounter unexplained discrepancies in their monthly tracking and payment reports.

3. Fake leads and incentivised traffic

In the realm of affiliate marketing, lead generation is a lucrative business model. However, some fraudsters exploit this by selling fake or low-quality leads to unsuspecting merchants or affiliates.
Fake lead frauds involve generating leads through deceptive tactics like incentivised traffic, where individuals are offered rewards or compensation for providing their personal information without any genuine interest in the product or service being marketed.

These fraudulent leads not only waste the time and resources of the affiliates or merchants who purchase them but also undermine the effectiveness of lead generation campaigns and skew performance metrics.

4. Content spam and “thin” affiliate sites

Another prevalent affiliate fraud involves the creation of low-quality, spam websites or content solely to generate affiliate commissions. These “thin” affiliate sites are generally set up on domains that have been recently purchased and contain duplicated, or auto-generated content stuffed with affiliate links, offering little to no value to the end-user.

In addition to providing a poor user experience, these sites may also engage in black hat SEO tactics like cloaking, keyword stuffing, or link farming to manipulate search engine rankings. This not only violates search engine guidelines but also pollutes the online landscape with low-quality content, making it harder for legitimate affiliates and businesses to stand out.

5. Malware and adware distribution

In some cases, unethical affiliates may resort to distributing malware or adware through their affiliate links or websites. These malicious programs can infect users’ devices, steal sensitive information, display unwanted advertisements, or even hijack browsers to redirect traffic to the affiliate’s designated landing pages.

Not only is this practice illegal and unethical, but it also poses serious security risks to consumers and can severely damage the reputation of the affiliate programs or merchants associated with these malicious affiliates.

Protect your business from Affiliate fraud:

To safeguard your affiliate marketing efforts and maintain a trustworthy reputation, it’s crucial to implement robust measures to prevent and combat potential affiliate program fraud. Here are a few points to consider and implement in your affiliate program to protect against any issues in the long term:

– Make sure you thoroughly check potential affiliate partners, networks, and advertisers to ensure their legitimacy and adherence to industry best practices.

Implement strict fraud detection and prevention measures, such as commission tracking, IP filtering, and real-time traffic monitoring.

Stay up-to-date with the latest fraud tactics and industry developments to identify and mitigate emerging threats.

Develop transparency and establish clear guidelines and policies with your affiliates. Make sure you understand acceptable practices
for your campaigns and the associated consequences for any violations.

Collaborate with industry organisations, regulatory bodies, and law enforcement agencies to report and combat any fraudulent activities that you may come across.

Affiliate marketing should be about building trust with partners and providing the right amount of data transparency to enable them to work with you efficiently. At vCommission, we aim to do just that.

By prioritising integrity, transparency, and proactive fraud prevention, affiliate marketers can cultivate a trustworthy ecosystem that benefits all stakeholders – affiliates, merchants, and consumers alike. In an industry where fraudulent activities are possible, ongoing training and reporting vigilance combined with a commitment to ethical practices are paramount to its long-term success.

By staying informed and taking a zero-tolerance stance against fraud, Advertisers can protect their businesses, reputations, and build scale with legitimate publishers to reach their growth targets and maintain the overall health of the affiliate marketing industry.

If you’re looking to scale your affiliate program, talk to our team and we’ll guide you forward to keep your affiliate program growing from strength to strength.

Book a FREE call HERE