Affiliate Marketing Fraud: How to Find and Prevent it with Affise

Tips & Guides — 29 Apr 2021

How to Prevent Affiliate Marketing Fraud with Affise

Affiliate Marketing Fraud: How to Find and Prevent it with Affise

Over 80% of US brands rely on affiliate marketing, and this strategy brings up to 20% of their revenue. Yet there is a phenomenon that prevents businesses from reaping the benefits — affiliate fraud.

The worst part about affiliate fraud is that you may fall victim without even noticing it. In this article, we’ll explore how scam affects the affiliate marketing industry, what types of sharp practices are there, and how to protect your business from them.

Fraud in Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate fraud is more than meets the eye in terms of wasting your marketing budgets. You may think fraudsters steal just a couple percent of your traffic, but actual numbers are devastating. 

A cyber-security company CHEQ estimates the rate of affiliate marketing fraud to be 9% across all verticals. However, the exact scale of affiliate fraud depends on your marketing goals and may be much higher.

Another point to consider is the success of your referral program, which ups the chances to encounter a scam. eCommerce giant Amazon, which runs the most popular affiliate program Amazon Associates Program, knows its best. Roughly 40% of Amazon partners are engaged in various types of fraudulent activities.

The harmful effects of affiliate marketing fraud do not boil down to siphoning off your budgets. Sharp practices also aggravate your marketing strategy by showing you inflated conversion rates. To take the teeth out of an affiliate marketing scam, you need to learn more about the way fraudsters can disserve your business.

Types of Affiliate Fraud

Fraudulent activities come in various shapes and sizes. They encompass trivial spamming by email and domain squatting (typosquatting) or creating web pages with names similar to names of popular websites, as well as more sophisticated tactics. Here are the most common methods affiliate marketers can encounter.

  • Click spamming, or click flooding. This tactic implies generating tons of fake clicks to eventually make the closest one to the app installation, purchase, or other desirable action.
  • Click injections. This method resembles the previous one with the only difference — malware generates a single click at the point of download.
  • Diverting. By using this technique, fraudsters draw traffic away from a legitimate affiliate’s web page, and direct customers to faux sites.
  • Cookie stuffing, or affiliate parasitism. Scammers send false cookies when a user visits the web page, and create false attribution to get credits instead of honest affiliates.
  • Ad stacking. In a nutshell, ad stacking is placing several ads into a single ad spot. This method allows fraudulent affiliates to earn more, as advertisers pay for all ads while only part of them are visible to users.
  • Pixel stuffing. This type of ad fraud implies compressing usual ads into 1×1 pixel frames. When a visitor browses a web page, the ad gets an impression, and the publisher earns the commission for it. However, users never really see the ad because it’s too tiny.
  • Domain spoofing. A sharp practice of showing ads on low-profile websites or copycats of trustworthy, profitable web pages. Affiliate networks or publishers deceive merchants into buying ad spots on these platforms by presenting them as more reputable ones.

These schemes seem far-fetched, but they work and affect the affiliate marketing industry dramatically. Moreover, fraudsters constantly develop and refine their practices to bypass your fraud prevention. Thus, advertisers need a well-thought-through software solution to combat fraudulent activities and protect their business.

How Affise Can Help You Combat Affiliate Marketing Fraud

As a leading platform for affiliate and partner marketing, Affise puts a lot of effort and expertise into creating a well-developed ecosystem for its customers. And a top-notch solution for advertisers, publishers, and networks is impossible without a robust set of fraud prevention tools and hacks. Let’s explore how affiliate marketers can protect their businesses with Affise.

Eliminate Fraudulent Affiliates at the Start

Successful fraud prevention begins with a careful verification of new partners. Consider starting by switching the registration of new affiliates in Affise into a pre-moderation mode. This move will help you get all the information about potential publishers.

In pre-moderation mode, you can add custom registration fields to acquire as much data about affiliates as possible. You may adhere to the following options:

    • Location;
    • Contact information; 
    • Affiliate’s website or social media accounts;
    • Experience in affiliate marketing; 
    • Promotional methods;
    • Experience in working with affiliate networks, etc.

You can switch to pre-moderation in global platform settings. Find the Affiliate platform design block and choose Registration. Here you can opt for pre-registration mode and alter the set of sign-up fields.

Affiliate Marketing Fraud: How to Find and Prevent it with Affise

Ban Suspicious IP Addresses

Sometimes, locations where you get requests from may be suspicious in terms of affiliate marketing fraud. For instance, you may target customers from the APAC region, yet you get requests from potential publishers outside this area. This untargeted traffic won’t bring desirable results. Worse, the requests may come from fraudulent affiliates.

To reduce the odds of encountering fraudulent activities, you may ban specific IP addresses in Affise. Thus, potential publishers from untargeted areas won’t be able to join your affiliate marketing program. To employ this opportunity and give a miss to specific IP addresses, consider reaching your Customer Success Manager.

Employ Click-level Fraud Prevention

With verifying new affiliates and eliminating traffic from suspicious IP addresses out of the way, you still can suffer from click fraud. To blow it out of the water, employ Affise’s built-in Click-Level fraud prevention tool. This solution will keep you away from click spamming and click injections, as well as ban VPN and proxy traffic.

Affise’s click-level fraud-prevention tool discovers suspicious traffic in real-time and blocks it straightaway, so fake clicks won’t reach your web page. As a result, you get high-quality traffic and improved conversion rates. 

You can enable the Click-level fraud prevention tool while setting up the new affiliate offer. To do so, go to the Targeting groups tab and activate the tool in the panel. You can also apply this tool to your existing offers.

Affiliate Marketing Fraud: How to Find and Prevent it with Affise

Try Conversion Rate Optimization

When it comes to affiliate marketing fraud, conversions may be corrupted as well as clicks. The easiest way to spot that there’s something very wrong with your conversions is some common sense and end-to-end analytics.

The first thing that should make you alerted is unnatural conversion rates. If your ad has 40% CTR and less than 0.1% conversion, you’re probably dealing with click spamming or other fraudulent activities. However, if you spot this illegitimate traffic too late, you still have to make payouts for it.

Instead of finding false conversions in your reports at the end of the day, you may combat them with a CR optimization tool. If you know your typical conversion rates, you may set the limits for affiliates and decline the traffic that doesn’t fall under these limits. For example, if your usual conversion rates are between 1% and 2%, you may set the CR threshold at 1%. CR optimization tool is available on Enterprise and Custom plans.

Set Minimal Time to Conversion

Another simple trick to spot false conversions is counting the time between the first click on the ad and conversion. If a user converts too shortly after the initial click, it must be suspicious. To help you deal with such cases right off the bat, Affise designed Minimal Time To Conversion feature.

To reap the benefits of this tool, you need to set the time to conversion. For instance, you may know that it takes 1 minute to install the app you’re promoting. Then, you just set up this span and decline all conversions that happen earlier. 

If you don’t know your usual time to conversion, we recommend you explore the Time to action report. It will show you statistics on what timespan most of your conversions usually happen in. In the example below, you see that most users convert either within the first hour after the click or within the following day. The conversions that don’t fit into this pattern may be considered suspicious.

Affiliate Marketing Fraud: How to Find and Prevent it with Affise

Hinder False Conversions with IP Settings

Controlling incoming traffic from specific IP addresses is another effective way to prevent affiliate fraud. Often, fraudulent affiliates generate multiple fake leads and conversions from the same IP address. To prevent them, you may employ the Reject not unique IP feature. This simple tool blocks conversions from the same IP and marks them with the comment “IP duplicate”. 

To reinforce your fraud prevention, you may ban conversions from the majority of IP addresses with the Allowed IP feature. This tool comes in handy in cases then scammers use global postbacks to produce fake conversions. To reap the benefits of this feature, you need to ask your partners about the IPs they use and put these addresses into a white list. 

You can switch to the Allowed IPs when setting up an offer. Consider going to the Postbacks section and past the list of addresses into the Allowed IPs field.

Affiliate Marketing Fraud: How to Find and Prevent it with Affise

Keep an Eye on Statistics and Metrics

Analytics is another way to spot fraudulent activities — any unusual behavior or change of patterns should be considered dubious. So, it’s crucial to monitor your affiliate marketing performance regularly.  

The first thing you should pay attention to is conversion rates. Any conversion rate lower or higher than usual for a certain traffic source is a reason to get suspicious. To check your affiliates’ conversion rates, go to daily stat and use Affise drill-down reports. There you’ll get detailed data on each of your affiliates.

Next, you’ll need precise information about conversions, which you can get from the Conversions report. Apart from the rates, this report shows OS, geo, and device user agent. The latter shows the unique characteristics of the device from which the conversion has happened. If you see several conversions from the duplicated user agent and IP addresses, the chances are that you’re dealing with affiliate fraud.

To Sum Up

Fraud is one of the biggest issues the affiliate marketing industry has to tackle. Fraudulent activities draw out the money from marketing funds and deteriorate marketing strategies. Meanwhile, scammers constantly work on inventing new types of affiliate fraud.

To handle partner marketing efficiently instead of throwing money down to fraudsters, companies need echnical solutions with strong fraud prevention expertise. Apart from partner marketing management functions, Affise has a set of fraud-prevention tools to filter affiliates, ban suspicious IP addresses, eliminate click fraud and false conversions. 

Run your partner program eliminating fraud risks with a convenient and thought-through software solution at your service. Sign up with Affise and get a 30-day free trial to make a decision.

Try Affise today! Submit for a free trial and
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Anna is a Content Marketer with a background in B2B, creative approach, and eagerness for professional improvement. She aspires to produce content that helps achieve business objectives and benefit readers. When she’s not delved into writing another exciting article for you, she’s probably fooling around with her cat.

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