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Identifying, Preventing, and Stopping Affiliate Fraud
Identifying, Preventing, and Stopping Affiliate Fraud

Take these steps to avoid affiliate scams and keep your network clean.

Andre Tan avatar
Written by Andre Tan
Updated over a week ago

Merchants deal with all types of fraud. But illegitimate affiliate conversions might be new to you. The good news is that they are pretty rare, and we’re going to teach you how to identify, prevent, and stop affiliate scammers in their tracks.

How Affiliate Scams Work

Affiliate 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 look like an ordinary sale in your e-commerce platform, which then shows up as an ordinary-looking conversion 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. Here are the steps to avoid this harrowing scenario.

Setting the Bar High During Registration

One of the first steps to take to prevent affiliate fraud is creating a screening process that filters potential fraudulent affiliates. Build an application process that requires a manual approval before the affiliate ever comes on board. Here are a couple of things to confirm before you approve affiliates who apply to your program:

  • Email: Does the new affiliate's email address look like it could be fake? Does the email address match their website's URL?

  • Channels: Most legitimate affiliates have channels in place to promote your brand and products: social profiles, a website, blog, YouTube channel, etc. You can request this information in your Affiliate Registration Page as a custom field. As you approve Affiliates, you can review and confirm that they look legit.

  • Approval process: Leave the “automatically approve affiliates who apply to this offer” at NO.

  • Following: Most affiliates have a built-in following. It comes with the territory. When you cross-check 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.

  • Terms & Conditions: Most types of affiliate fraud aren’t illegal unless they violate a formal terms and conditions document. Use your program terms and conditions to define what behavior is unacceptable within your brand's affiliate program. The terms should clearly state the consequences of those behaviors too.

Vetting New Affiliate Sign-ups

When screening a potential affiliate, you'll want to verify that they have an active, legitimate website and that their content aligns with your products or services. This can reduce the risk of a bad actor making their way in undetected.

A detailed application process is essential. Start by setting parameters for the types of affiliates you want, and screening each applicant manually. Some businesses even have affiliates get on a phone interview before handing over the keys to their program. This may be time consuming, but it can ensure your affiliate team is professional, and won’t spam the internet or do anything that could negatively affect your brand reputation

Consider asking some or all of the following questions to potential affiliates on your registration form:

  • How long have you been in the industry?

  • How do you plan on promoting our products? What’s your promotion strategy?

  • What’s the size of your audience?

  • What other brands do you promote?

  • Do you currently work with any of our competitors?

  • What drove your interest in our program and our brand?

The more questions you ask, especially long-form questions, the more likely you are to weed out affiliates who are likely to damage your brand’s reputation. This will also give you insight into the general quality of new affiliates. If a new applicant is not able to effectively communicate why they are excited to promote for your brand and what their plan is, then do you even want them representing you in the first place?

Monitoring New Affiliate Activity

  • Segment your affiliates to make it easier to tell who’s doing what, at a glance.

  • Check your Dashboard for 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.

  • Keep an eye on the conversion rate of new affiliates. If the orders-to-clicks ratio is unusually high, you may want to confirm that this activity is legitimate.

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. But it’s also good practice to scan your ranks periodically for any unfamiliar names and either re-engage them or let them go. (A house-cleaning every so often can mitigate risk.)

Using Reports to Spot Potential Fraud

Another way to prevent affiliate fraud is to look over your conversion reports from the last couple of months. (Pro tip: you can also set up recurring reports that just show up and get you in the practice of reviewing.)

You’re looking for chargebacks on large orders that were originally sent by an affiliate, or anything else that jumps out at you.

Stopping The Scam Pre-Payout

Scammers can’t truly scam if you don’t pay them. 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. This will hopefully give you enough time to verify all your store’s orders. If you spot a suspicious conversion or receive a chargeback, wait to approve any payments until you’ve had time to look into it.

Finally, we want your network — and our whole network — to be 100% fraud-free. If you need a hand troubleshooting or tracking info down, chat with us from the app or email us: [email protected].

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