Every business on the Internet has its problems and risks. Affiliate fraud is one of the most dangerous problems facing the affiliate marketing industry. It affects all the different parties at the same time.
But do you know what affiliate fraud can look like? If you work in the industry, it’s likely, but if not, let’s give you a short, accurate answer and then go into more detail.
What is fraud by an affiliate?
Affiliate fraud is any behavior against an affiliate program that isn’t legal, doesn’t follow the rules, or is misleading. This includes making purchases with fraudulent payments, generating leads with fake user information, making false claims in marketing, and other misleading actions. The main goal of affiliate fraud is to get commissions from the affiliate program. Usually, this is done by doing things that aren’t allowed or are frowned upon.
Like any other kind, Affiliate fraud is dishonest and hurts customers, businesses, the reputation of brands, and affiliate networks. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t help anyone but the person who commits fraud.
It needs to be taken care of right away, and luckily, there are more modern ways to find and stop these kinds of activities quickly. Fraudsters have found their way into the affiliate system because affiliate marketing is more popular than ever.
But there is always a way out. The first step closer to finding a solution is to figure out each activity.
Strategies for Affiliate Fraud
From what we said about affiliate fraud, you might think it includes many things. So, to get a better idea, let’s try to put the most common types of fraud into groups.
Bots and Auto-Leads
Bot traffic is a common way to get more views, hits, shares, likes, and visits. Bots are computer programs that try to act like people. They are used to get traffic to a specific goal and target that traffic.
Fraudulent social media influencers use bot traffic to get more followers, likes, and comments so that sponsors and affiliates will give them money. In the same way, bot traffic can be used to send traffic to a certain affiliate partner.
This would help the affiliate marketer make more money but wouldn’t help the affiliate partner. This is a clear fraud case, which hurts businesses financially and messes up their business metrics by giving them false information.
In other words, the business’s platform would get X visits, but there wouldn’t be X conversions or sales because the traffic is fake and wouldn’t have bought anything.
Bots can also automatically fill out lead generation forms or create accounts to make real leads look fake. Bots can be used to commit fraud, but there are ways to find them.
These strategies are often used in affiliate programs that reward visits, views, and hits instead of sales. The marketer tries to hide the traffic by bringing in some real people to help imitate how they interact and act on the site.
VPNs and Home Proxy Servers
The use of proxies and VPNs is another way affiliates lie about their earnings to make them look better. This lets affiliates make sales or get leads from bots and visitors who are in a different part of the world than they are.
Affiliates offer different conversion rates based on the visitor’s country if you don’t already know.
For example, if a visitor from the United States meets a goal, the marketer will get paid more than if a visitor from China meets the same goal. This is because of several things, like different currencies and the preferences of different groups of people.
Non-compliant marketers will use proxies and VPNs to send fake traffic to make more money. The VPN will help hide the origin and show the website differently (and maybe more profitable). The same matter can be done with real traffic if the marketer gives people a reason to use VPN and go to the affiliate offer. These don’t lead to conversions, but the marketer usually gets a big payment.
It is highly recommended to use a service for proxy detection because it stops location spoofing, bots, and fraudulent activity.
Promotions that Lies
Promoting things that aren’t what they seem is common for affiliates to make money. You may have seen YouTube videos with clickbait thumbnails that promise more than what the video gives.
It’s a sneaky thing to do! But either way, if you’ve ever wondered why they do that, it’s to trick visitors into clicking on the video so that they can get more views. When they get more views, they make more money from ads.
Affiliate marketing is another way that marketers use the same kind of trick. They will use banners and images that are likely to get people’s attention and then send those people to an affiliate that has nothing to do with their site.
Now, visitors don’t like it when they’re treated this way, so when it happens, those who are upset leave the page right away. Because of this, the affiliate website gets few (or no) conversions from these visits, but it still has to pay the marketer.
These tricks make the visitor unhappy, but they could also hurt the business’s reputation and hurt its finances. So, these kinds of actions need to be dealt with healthily.
Some marketers use fake incentives to get people to visit their sites, like misleading ads. But these things are not in place. It’s risky to market because visitors don’t know what’s happening and are likely to blame the affiliate business, thinking it must be their fault.
In all of this, the marketer keeps the payment but hurts the value of the brand of the affiliate business. Some of these offers even use pages that aren’t what they say they are…
The customer wants oranges, so he clicks on the link. However, when he gets to the site, he finds that it only sells apples. This is a story that most people who use the internet have heard before. It bothers the visitors and hurts the website’s reputation that is being attacked. Google is getting better at finding many of these sites, but the practice is still used today.
But at the same time, systems for catching fraud are getting stronger and smarter. So, these methods don’t work for long because the window of opportunity for fraud is found and closed more quickly. But their effects are still felt.
Add-ons for browsers
Browser extensions are often used to make apps easier to use or add extra features. Application developers also use the extensions because they let a piece of code be stored locally on the client computer, which speeds up the processing.
You can find these browser add-ons in the Google Chrome store or on the company’s site that wants you to download their extension.
But there are also a lot of spam extensions you can find online that try to steal your personal information, copy your behavior, and use that to make fake visitors, force you to go to certain sites or add ads to your browser. These extensions can also infect your computer, causing it to crash, damage your hard drive, or do worse things.
Studies have found that many extensions silently took data from customers and forced them to act in certain ways.
The extension will change the URL in your browser to do what it needs to do. Affiliates sometimes use these extensions to add their code instead of someone else’s code to make more money. The customer and the affiliate marketer have no idea whose code has been changed.