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Affiliate Marketing Scams: How to Spot and Avoid Them

Affiliate marketing is a popular way to earn passive income, with the industry estimated to be worth $12 billion globally. As a result, more and more brands and retailers are investing in affiliate marketing programs. However, with the rise in popularity comes an increase in affiliate marketing scams. It is crucial to be aware of these scams and how they can affect your online business before becoming an affiliate or hiring one.

In this article, readers will learn about the most common types of affiliate marketing scams, how they work, and tips to avoid them. The article covers the five most common affiliate marketing scams that hurt affiliate marketers, as well as five affiliate marketing scams that companies should look out for. Additionally, the article provides tips for affiliate marketers to avoid scams, including reviewing affiliate program terms and conditions, requesting testimonials, and examining search results.

Key Takeaways

  • Affiliate marketing is a growing industry worth $12 billion globally, but it is important to be aware of scams.
  • The article covers the most common types of affiliate marketing scams and provides tips for avoiding them.
  • Affiliate marketers should review program terms and conditions, request testimonials, and examine search results to avoid scams.

How Common Are Affiliate Scams

Affiliate scams are becoming increasingly common in the digital marketing industry. As per research, the worldwide digital ad fraud loss is expected to grow from $35 billion to $100 billion between 2018 and 2023, posing a significant threat to the affiliate marketing industry.

Fraudulent activities in affiliate marketing can occur in different types of businesses and are challenging to identify. These scams can be spotted on search engine results, social media platforms, YouTube, and website ads. Companies need to monitor their online marketing campaigns as scammers often target this channel. It is essential to know what kind of fraudulent activities to be aware of and how to avoid them.

To help businesses better understand the types of affiliate scams that can affect them, we will cover these scams from both the affiliate marketer and company side. By being aware of these scams, businesses can take necessary precautions to protect themselves from financial losses and reputational damage.

5 Most Common Affiliate Marketing Scams That Hurt Affiliate Marketers

Affiliate marketing scams are a serious concern for affiliate marketers. These scams can damage their business and lead to revenue loss. Here are the 5 most common fraudulent activities that affiliate marketers need to identify.

Cookie Stuffing

Cookie stuffing or cookie dropping is a common affiliate fraud where scammers place tracking codes on a visitor’s computer without their knowledge. When a visitor clicks the link and purchases a product on the advertiser’s site, the scammers will earn a commission. This practice is unethical and can lead to legal action against the affiliate marketer.

Fake Products

Fake product scams involve creating ads or a page for a product that doesn’t exist. Scammers will promote the product under the name of a well-established brand to gain potential customers’ trust. This scam can lead to reputational damage for the affiliate marketer and can also result in legal action.

Get-Rich-Quick Schemes

Get-rich-quick schemes use overpromising ads to convince people that it is possible to make big money quickly with little effort. This clickbait scam usually attracts new affiliate marketers, and it can lead to fake affiliate clicks or private data breaches that will benefit scammers. Affiliate marketers should avoid these schemes and focus on building a sustainable business.

Pay-to-Join Programs

Pay-to-join is another common affiliate scam that asks for payment through a credit card or PayPal to join an affiliate program. Most trusted affiliate marketing programs are free, so beware of this type of fraud to avoid your sensitive information being stolen online. Affiliate marketers should only join reputable programs that have a proven track record of success.

Spoof Traffic

Spoof traffic is an affiliate scam where fraudsters send false click and impression data, including bots and junk, to make it look valid. Commonly, you can find this scam in Pay-Per-Click (PPC) affiliate programs. The marketing analytics program will then show many referrals to the retailer’s site when it’s all just bots, enabling scammers to earn money from the clicks. Affiliate marketers should monitor their traffic sources closely to avoid this scam.

In conclusion, affiliate marketers should be aware of these common scams and take steps to protect their business. By following best practices and only working with reputable programs, affiliate marketers can build a successful and sustainable business.

5 Affiliate Marketing Scams to Look Out for as a Company

Google Ad Hijacking

Google Ad Hijacking is a technique where scammers create fake ads that appear on top of search results on Google to hijack your company’s paid ads. This type of affiliate marketing fraud can be detrimental to your company as scammers can steal your direct traffic by targeting branded keywords. To prevent Google Ad Hijacking, companies should monitor their paid ads and report any suspicious activity to Google.

URL Hijacking

URL Hijacking is a common affiliate marketing scam where fraudsters create a website or a product name using similar names to your brand’s. Scammers can clone your page content and redirect traffic, which can affect your SEO strategy. To avoid URL Hijacking, companies should monitor their brand’s online presence and report any suspicious activity to their web hosting provider.

Fake Leads

Fake Leads refer to generating fake leads and sending them to an advertiser or a retailer. This type of scam can be identified by checking whether their contact information is the same or very similar. To avoid Fake Leads, companies should monitor their lead generation process and verify the authenticity of their leads.

Transaction Fraud

Transaction Fraud is a scam where scammers use stolen credit card information or payment accounts to create a fraudulent transaction on an affiliate partner’s account. This type of fraud can harm affiliate marketers and customers whose data was stolen, and also impact companies. To prevent Transaction Fraud, companies should monitor their transactions and report any suspicious activity to their payment processor.

Click Spam

Click Spam is an affiliate fraud where scammers create fake clicks using mobile apps or websites. Scammers commonly use malware to generate bot traffic, making it look like mobile users click on PPC ads. This type of scam can disrupt affiliate traffic data and increase the cost of paid ads. To avoid Click Spam, companies should monitor their website traffic and report any suspicious activity to their web hosting provider.

By being aware of these affiliate marketing scams, companies can protect themselves and their customers from fraudulent activity. It is important to monitor your online presence and report any suspicious activity to the appropriate authorities.

How to Avoid Affiliate Marketing Scams as an Affiliate Marketer

As an affiliate marketer, it is crucial to work with legitimate affiliate programs to avoid scams and protect your business. Here are some ways to recognize trustworthy affiliate marketing programs:

Review Affiliate Program’s Terms & Conditions

Before registering for an affiliate marketing program, carefully review the company’s terms and conditions. A reliable brand will be transparent about how its affiliate marketing program works, the benefits of being an affiliate partner, the commission scheme, and the payment procedure. Be wary of overpromising conditions or unrealistic commission rates, as they can be red flags for affiliate fraud.

Request Testimonials

Request testimonials from the company about its affiliate marketing program or search for reviews online. Affiliate partners often share their experiences with the program on social media platforms. Testimonials from those who use the program can inform you about its pros and cons, as well as the payment system. This information will help you determine whether the program is right for you.

Try Customer Support Services

As a newcomer to affiliate marketing, check whether the retailers provide excellent customer support. Find their customer support email or phone number on the website and contact them. See if they are responsive and provide resources to help establish your affiliate marketing business. A good company will care about nurturing its relationship with affiliate partners.

Check Company’s History

Research the company’s history on its website. The website should provide information or statistics on how its affiliate program has developed in revenue or the number of affiliates in some period. You can also search for external sources on the internet, such as news and articles, to learn about the company’s track record with the affiliate marketing program. Consider whether the company has been in the market for a long time.

Examine Search Results

Google’s search engine results can help you determine whether an affiliate program is genuine. You will find good reviews and complaints for affiliate programs when searching online. Doing so should help you distinguish between legitimate and fraudulent affiliate programs.

Check If Anti-Fraud Policy Is Available

Credible affiliate programs prioritize fraud prevention. Find out whether the affiliate program you’re joining has an anti-fraud policy or a fraud detection system. If you can’t find information on the website, ask the company’s customer support team about it.

Look for Free Signups

Before signing up for an affiliate marketing program, find out whether it requires payment. Most affiliate programs are free to join, so paid signups can indicate an internet marketing scam.

By following these steps, you can avoid affiliate marketing scams and work with legitimate affiliate programs that will help you grow your business.


Affiliate marketing can be a lucrative business for both brands and marketers, but it also attracts scammers looking for quick profits. The most common affiliate scams include cookie stuffing, fake products, get-rich-quick schemes, pay-to-join programs, and spoof traffic.

Companies using affiliate marketing programs should also be aware of fraudulent activities such as Google ad hijacking, URL hijacking, fake leads, transaction fraud, and click spam.

To avoid falling victim to affiliate marketing scams, it is important to be vigilant and take necessary precautions. Some valuable tips to avoid scams include researching the affiliate program and partner, reading the terms and conditions carefully, and avoiding programs that require payment.

Additionally, companies should monitor their affiliate program closely and investigate any suspicious activity. By being proactive and taking necessary steps to prevent scams, both affiliate partners and companies can build successful and profitable businesses.

Affiliate Marketing Scams FAQ

Is Affiliate Marketing Legit?

Affiliate marketing is a legitimate way to earn commissions by promoting products online or through affiliate websites. Brands and retailers have a system to generate affiliate links and track conversions, and they only pay commissions for sales made through the affiliate links.

How Serious Are Affiliate Marketing Scams?

Affiliate marketing scams are a serious threat to legitimate businesses. They are difficult to identify and eliminate completely, which can impact both marketers and retailers.

How Do Affiliate Marketing Scams Hurt Merchants?

Affiliate scams can lead to drops in Return on Investment (ROI) due to unqualified leads and wasted ad spending for digital marketing campaigns. Not only does affiliate fraud affect marketing performance, but it can also damage a company’s reputation and cause them to lose trustworthy affiliates.

How to Spot an Affiliate Marketing Scam?

While there is no foolproof way to spot an affiliate marketing scam, there are some common signs to look out for. These include claims of fast money, low-quality images, excessive website redirections, and multiple ads.

By being aware of the risks and knowing how to spot potential scams, affiliate marketers and retailers can protect themselves from the damaging effects of fraudulent activity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the risks associated with affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing involves promoting products or services and earning commissions for successful sales. However, there are risks associated with this type of marketing. One of the biggest risks is the potential for fraud, which can occur when affiliates use deceptive tactics to generate sales or when merchants fail to pay commissions. Additionally, affiliates may face legal issues if they violate advertising laws or engage in unethical practices.

Can you really make money with affiliate marketing?

Yes, it is possible to make money with affiliate marketing. However, success in this field requires hard work, dedication, and a solid understanding of marketing principles. Affiliates must be able to generate traffic and sales through their marketing efforts, which can be challenging. Additionally, competition in the affiliate marketing industry is fierce, making it difficult to stand out from the crowd.

What are some legitimate affiliate marketing sites?

There are many legitimate affiliate marketing sites, including Amazon Associates, ShareASale, and Commission Junction. These sites offer a wide range of products and services to promote, as well as reliable tracking and payment systems. It is important to research any affiliate marketing site before signing up to ensure that it is reputable and trustworthy.

Is affiliate marketing a legitimate side hustle?

Yes, affiliate marketing can be a legitimate side hustle for those who are willing to put in the time and effort required to succeed. It is important to approach affiliate marketing as a business and to develop a solid marketing plan in order to generate sales and earn commissions.

What are some common scams associated with affiliate marketing?

There are several common scams associated with affiliate marketing, including pyramid schemes, fake reviews, and misleading advertising. These scams can be difficult to spot, but it is important to do your research and avoid any programs or products that seem too good to be true.

Are there any legal concerns with affiliate marketing?

Yes, there are legal concerns associated with affiliate marketing. Affiliates must comply with advertising laws and regulations, and failure to do so can result in legal action. Additionally, affiliates must ensure that their marketing efforts are ethical and do not mislead consumers. It is important to consult with a legal professional if you have any concerns about the legality of your affiliate marketing activities.


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