Fraud, FunnieZ and other F Words
Zlata ThoughtZ Vol. 11
Hello beautiful people! It’s almost summertime and I hope your living’s easy. Back for some more networking links, best tweets and Affiliate ABZs. Today we’re talking affiliate fraud. Because people are assholes but we still have to live among them.
So, as Meghan Markle probably said to Harry this week, let’s fucking go.
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What is affiliate fraud?
Great question! So glad you asked. Sometimes affiliates trick you into paying them for fake leads or conversions. Basically affiliate fraudsters make their money by scamming merchants and marketers. Like I said: Assholes.
Types of Affiliate Fraud
There are other types of fraud—criminals come in all shapes and sizes!—but these are the most common types I’ve seen. Most of these are related to general advertising as well, so some of it might be familiar.
Ad stacking/Cookie stuffing: Sometimes, fraudsters will apply cookies illegally (I could get into how but it’s kinda technical and who GAF right?). Basically, it lets them track people longer with hidden affiliate links that give them credit for a sale/lead even though they didn’t do anything to promote the brand.
Lead fraud: In a cost-per-lead model, affiliate fraudsters will exploit the system by delivering bad data and/or filling out forms themselves. I’ve heard of some delivering opt-out lists as OPT-IN lists! 😱
Click fraud: This is when the bad guys generate clicks either manually or with automation, leaving the brand with a bunch of fake paid leads.
Influencer fraud: In these scenarios, fraudsters deceptively inflate their accounts to appear more popular than they are. Literal fake fucking friends.
Cost-per-acquisition fraud: In this straightforward act of deceit, cheaters use stolen credit card numbers and IDs to finalize conversion.
To make everything worse, sometimes they’re sophisticated enough to automate it all with bots. Which honestly is just lazy.
Why This Sucks
Aside from the obvious of wasting precious marketing dollars on these assholes, affiliate fraud absolutely wreaks havoc on marketing and PR efforts. Think about it: Now you’ve blown budgets on fake shit, have no new sales or leads to show for it, AND your KPIs are screwed because they were tracking with fake data. Not to mention the potential reputational fallout. Ahhhhhhh. It sucks on every damn level. Don’t worry, I have good news.
What to Do About It
Affiliate fraud is unfortunately a massive problem, but there are some steps you can take to prevent it and stop it immediately if it does happen.
Solid Screening. You need to vet the shit out of these people, okay? In every affiliate program, you’re granting people access to represent your brand. They need to be sharp, appropriate and worth your time.
Monitor Sales and Enforce Compliance. Pay very close attention to your affiliate program and use data analysis to detect any potential fraud. Look at your referring URLs, verify IP addresses, flag unusually high orders and more.
Swift Action. This is one of those scenarios where I recommend a very healthy low tolerance for bullshit. If notice something amiss, immediately pull out the oh-no-you-don’ts. Investigate the affiliate in question and block them from your program if you’re at all suspicious. Mistakes can happen and do, and it doesn’t mean every affiliate is a criminal, but patterns always demand investigation.
Best Practices. Commit to good habits—pick a day every week to review your affiliate program for fraud. Proactive preparation always helps too. For example, in retail, I always recommend making sure your cookie length matches your return policy so you’re not paying commissions on return goods. This helps with fraud too, because you’ll more easily spot outliers.
Fraud is a big deal but if you’re smart and diligent about it, you can catch it quickly and boot the offenders fast. And listen if you don’t have the time to check for fraud, find a professional partner who can help. It isn’t something you want to leave to chance, trust me!
Have you joined my new affiliate group yet? It’s called AffiliateZ from A to Z and is a safe space to ask questions about all-things affiliate marketing. Come join us and bring friends! As always, you’re also invited to my other groups too. I’ve found lifelong friendZ and some of my best working relationships in these groups—come network with us!
PR and Marketing Jobs group: The latest opportunities in PR
ConnectionZ group: PR, marketing, and media professionals
AffiliateZ from A to Z: My newest group for affiliate focused convos and questions