Affiliate marketing brings brands, networks, and the associated affiliates together to increase traffic and conversions in marketing campaigns over the years. While affiliate marketing has proved to be one of the most successful and mutually beneficial marketing channel, it has its own dark areas for the marketers to be careful about.

Affiliate fraud is one such area. Let us know more.


What is Affiliate fraud? 

Affiliate fraud takes place when an affiliate drives fake leads violating the contract to receive payments uncleanly. This is done by either flouting the advertiser’s mentioned conditions and guidelines or breaching the allowed methods to drive traffic and conversions. These fake leads are not be confused with invalid leads, as not every lead that the affiliate brings about, turns out to be your customer. Important is to be able to differentiate between an invalid and fraudulent lead. There are multiple types of affiliate frauds and fortunately, you can avoid them too from leaving your affiliate program black-eyed.


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Types of Affiliate fraud

Cookie Stuffing

Fraudulent websites commonly generate “ malicious Cookies” when you land on their page. This cookie provides you the tracking code without your permission and stays on your computer. Eventually, you carry the malignant bug to every other website you visit that day. If you buy a product from such a fraudulent link, you give the commission to the seller, who instead of promoting the product just provided you the tracking code. This type of Affiliate fraud is common and is called cookie stuffing.


Unauthorized Sources

 There are acceptable media channels or sources defined by the advertiser through which the affiliates can try and drive the traffic. Any lead that is generated through the media channel outside the defined guidelines is considered fraudulent. In this case, the lead may be legit technically but the publisher is under no obligation to pay them since he does not want the lead to be generated from a specific channel. Such frauds are also common in the industry.



This affiliate fraud depends upon commonly made typo errors while typing the domain of the brand. For example, if instead of typing “ Google” you typed “Gooleg” you are diverted to a fraudulent website that again redirects you to the advertiser’s website with the malicious tracking code. Depending upon the selected advertisement model the commission is paid right away.


Load-Time Click trickery

In a Cost-Per-Click (CPC) advertising model the user is required to not only click the display ad but also to stay on the page for some time. In this fraud gambit when you reach the landing page that is malicious, it automatically loads the advertiser’s page on the background, thus ‘tricking’ not only the click but amount of time as well that is calculated in CPC for staying on that page.

How can you fight such fraud?

These types of frauds are common but can be avoided if you take certain proactive measures beforehand. Here are some ways you can fight fraud:

Research before recruiting

Before shortlisting new affiliates you are recommended to do a bit of research. You can check for the aspects like their traffic-generating methods, their assets, the kind of traffic they attract. You can also ask for referrals from other advertisers or affiliate networks they have worked with.

Stay attentive

Look out for sudden inconsistencies in traffic or referral transactions volume. These are the indicators which cannot be ignored to identify the fraudulent activity in the network effectively.

Define clear guidelines:

Define clearly the contract terms and maintain clarity while specifying the KPIs to affiliates. It’s for you to ensure that affiliates in your network understand the penalties and repercussions if they are caught causing fraud.

Stay well equipped

Make sure that the affiliate marketing software program that you use empowers you to catch the fraudulent clicks and stopping them right at the source. Better tools you have, safer you can keep your affiliate program.

Update your blacklists regularly

In situations when you find repeat offenders, ensure that their credentials are added to your blacklist and share the same with your affiliate network to ensure those affiliates don’t work on your campaigns.

The affiliate marketing industry has proved to be one of the most lucrative and direct way of online marketing. Few dark alleys down the road should not stop you from exploring the immensely lit horizons of success. It just takes a few precautions to protect yourself from becoming a victim of fraud.

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