Merchants deal with all types of fraud, but one that you might not be familiar with has to do with illegitimate affiliate conversions. The good news is that we’re going to teach you how to identify, prevent, and stop these affiliate scammers in their tracks.

How Affiliate Scams Work

Devious scammers will do anything to get paid for conversions. A common method involves stealing credit cards and making fraudulent purchases using their affiliate link or code on your website. This may appear as an ordinary sale in your e-commerce platform, along with a conversion being reported on your Refersion dashboard. 

However, after a short period of time, the rightful owner’s credit card company will chargeback the purchase to your store. The problem with this is that you may have already paid the fraudulent affiliate for the order. While this is a rare occurrence, if you follow the steps listed below you’ll be able to protect yourself from this kind of scam. 

Understand How The Affiliate Is Going To Do Marketing

Most legitimate affiliates will have some way to promote your e-commence store and products. This can be a through a website, social media, or some other means. If the affiliate lists their site or blog, it’s a good idea to see if that website actually exists and if they have any association with it.

Real affiliates often have a following and want to be found online. Doing a simple internet or social media search will often verify that this person is real. If you come across their social media accounts, try to verify that the location they listed on their affiliate registration matches the info they have on their social media. 

Monitor Activity of New Affiliates

It’s a good idea to take a look at the first few orders made through a new affiliate. If an affiliate starts generating orders for big-ticket items shortly after creating their account, it’s probably a good idea to verify that those customers and orders are real. Another good habit is to keep an eye on the conversion rate of new affiliates. If the orders to clicks ratio is unusually high, you may want to make sure that all the orders are legitimate. 

Identifying The Scam 

Like most scams, the first layer of defense has to do with eliminating any potential vulnerabilities. The best advice we can give you is to vet all new affiliates before they join your program. The easiest way to do this is by doing a little background check on each applying member. 

First, to save you some time, consider adding a few custom fields to your affiliate registration page. For example, you can add a field that forces the affiliate to enter the username they use on Instagram. 

Second, you should segment your affiliates by types. We cover this topic in our How To Segment Different Affiliates. By utilizing segmentation you’ll not only be able to keep track of affiliates easier, but you’ll be able to effectively optimize your affiliate program. 

Third, make sure to research your affiliates before approving them. That means not enabling the auto-approve feature for your offers. Don’t worry it’s turned off by default. Inspect each of their email addresses as well, and weed out any obviously fake ones. 

Finally, use your gut instincts when judging affiliate applications. Inspect their social media accounts and current affiliate promotions. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with them. 

If they don’t respond to your emails or only offer short answers, then you shouldn’t feel obligated to let them in your program. After all, the decision to include them ultimately rests with you. 

It’s best to think of an affiliate as your partners or sales reps. Would you hire just anyone without an interview?

Preventing The Scam Before It Happens

If you follow the identifying advice above, then you shouldn’t have to worry about becoming a victim of affiliate fraud. However, take some time and look at your current affiliate roster. Do you know everyone? When’s the last time you’ve corresponded with them? Reach out to any unfamiliar affiliates enrolled in your program. Don’t be afraid to let people go. 

Another way to prevent affiliate fraud is to look over your conversions from the last couple of months. Do you see any weird patterns? Anything that might seem out of place should be investigated. Did you have any chargebacks on large orders? You’re specifically looking for chargebacks on large orders that were originally sent by an affiliate. If you’ve found something suspicious, then keep reading. 

Stopping The Scam In Its Tracks

Scammers want you to pay them for their conversions. If you haven’t done that yet, then you can still stop the scam. That’s one reason why we recommend waiting past your return period before paying for a conversion, especially for new affiliates that have recently joined your program. For instance, you can pay May’s conversions at the end of June. Hopefully, this gives you enough time to verify all your store’s orders to make sure no returns or chargebacks take place. If you’ve come across a suspected conversion or received a chargeback, then simply don’t approve any payments to the affiliate. 

Next, you’ll want to let us know by emailing us at [email protected]. Unfortunately, we’re powerless to help you if you’ve already paid the affiliate, but we can investigate the person to limit their usage on our network. 

Please feel to reach out to us with any questions or concerns you may have. 

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