According to the U.S Internet Crime Complaint Center in 2016, there were more than 280,000 internet fraud reports in the United States alone. One type of online fraud that most people are familiar with is a scam run on Craigslist where the seller receives an email from a prospective buyer offering to send a cashier’s check to purchase the advertised item. By the time you find out the check is not valid, they have already picked up your product. In addition, they often over pay you for your item in the cashier’s check and ask for money to be sent back to them.
Online fraud has evolved and is no longer limited to strangers and stolen cards. Fraud can even come directly from the people you hire to market your products. A type of this kind of fraud is called affiliate fraud and involves affiliate networks. An affiliate network acts as an intermediary between publishers (affiliates) and merchant affiliate programs. They are the people that you hire to drive customers to your site and manage your affiliate activity.
Affiliate fraud comes in many different forms, one of which is deceiving marketing emails that are often considered spam and can give your company a bad name. It is important to market your product or service and use email campaigns strategically. Beware of the many affiliates that may create masked domains of your web site, capturing customers who may not know they have purchased your product and causing a large number of chargebacks.
A large indicator that there is possible affiliate fraud is looking for a large amount of customers coming from the same IP address or that are using similar emails. Many times the affiliate will use a gift card or prepaid card to make purchases and when these cards get close to their next billing cycle they get declined.
There are things you can do to protect yourself against online affiliate fraud. Having a stable and reliable third party reporting system will help minimize your risk. Your software should show how many of the affiliate transactions actually continue to the next billing cycle. It is also important to have a system that has the ability to block affiliates and can provide your business with data that can be analyzed. Solid reporting systems can let you know exactly what affiliate network is sending traffic back to your website.
Affiliates still remain an excellent source of traffic for people who are looking to promote their website or products online, but caution and research should be taken when selecting and monitoring what affiliate network is best for you.
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