Fraud: Affiliates Fight Back

On the affiliate solution provider side, it is very encouraging to see that a proactive stance is being taken against fraudulent affiliates.

Be Free

“Be Free has been doing a lot on the technology and services side to combat fraud,” according to Tom Gerace, founder and chief marketing officer of Be Free.

“Antifraud initiatives are critical for cost-per-click [CPC] and cost-per-lead programs, and Be Free recently released BFAST V6.70 to assist merchants in detecting suspect activity,” continued Gerace.

Be Free is also looking into methods for sharing community knowledge about affiliates that have been disabled by other merchants, and soon there will be an anonymous service called “Fraud Watch,” where affiliates and merchants can report suspect sites.

The recent BFAST V6.70 update from Be Free provides additional functionality to its “Suspect Activity” report, such as a new click-threshold value, new columns in the “Suspect Activity” report, and the ability to disable multiple sites.

Commission Junction

Todd Crawford, VP of strategic alliances at Commission Junction (CJ), recently shared with subscribers of the United States Affiliate Manager Coalition email discussion list some useful information about fraud.

“There are hundreds of sites offering robots to cheat CPC programs. There are actually organizations of cheaters (for both CPC and CPA [cost-per-ad] programs) numbering in the thousands. They are all over the world, and they range from kids clicking on each other’s banners (‘Click Clubs’) to criminal organizations,” said Crawford.

CJ has a very reputable compliance department composed of eight people who work full-time to detect and prevent fraud network-wide.

The group United Against Cheaters lists CJ as one of the companies with a strong stance against cheaters. The site states that CJ “maintains an active stance against cheaters and fraud” and “tries to come up with solutions that will benefit all members and advertisers. [Its] attacks against large cheat sites have resulted in shutdowns. [Its] sophisticated cheat prevention and manpower produce a large task force for taking down cheaters.”


In the LinkShare vernacular, the various forms of cheating and fraud are categorized as “invalid activity” to limit the legal risks involved with fraud allegations.

According to Stephen Messer, chairman, CEO, and cofounder of LinkShare, “A lot of the affiliate solution providers think of invalid activity as good revenue for them, so they are not as proactive as they could be in combating it. But we saw it as our responsibility to protect our merchants, and we built a SWAT team to combat affiliate activity that is detrimental to our merchants.”

In its efforts to protect CPC merchants, LinkShare utilizes a program called Cupid, which limits activity to one click per user ID. This method is helpful for catching the less sophisticated cheaters who attempt to manually click on their own link repeated times.

“We cannot share details for some of the more complex techniques utilized by LinkShare to root out invalid activity. There are some very smart affiliates that create programs intended to mimic all sorts of authentic Web usage, and we utilize a program we call Honeypot to identify and halt these sorts of actions,” according to Messer.


The high-end affiliate solution providers are not the only ones who take fraud seriously. FreeFiliate, a free affiliate solution provider, has also incorporated antifraud features for CPC programs.

JB McKee of FreeFiliate explained that these antifraud features employ cookies “to determine whether somebody has clicked on a link previously. If they have, the affiliate is not credited for the click. If the visitor’s browser is set to not accept cookies, the affiliate is not credited for the click at all.”

After determining that some hackers were able to circumvent this preventive measure, FreeFiliate also integrated a system for fraud detection where it monitors affiliate activity.

Unique Solution

As the cheaters become more sophisticated, affiliates are making greater strides in their antifraud efforts to keep pace. One of the ways tries to prevent fraud among its affiliates that run CPA offers is through the use of an authentication code.

Its “R Tag” technology generates a unique code for each sign-up in a JPEG format so that bots (programs that automatically fill out forms) are not able to read them. The user must type in the code in the box provided.

The cheaters and hackers are out there, and they’re fleecing affiliate programs all over. What are you doing to checkmate these rats? It’s essential to incorporate some antifraud measures into your affiliate management, or your program could be the next one to fold.

When it comes to affiliate fraud, follow the sage advice of that mean sensei from the Kobra Kai dojo (in “The Karate Kid”): “Strike hard! Strike first! No mercy!”

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