Affiliate Marketing & Programs

Cookie Stuffing Lands Affiliate in Hot Water


The affiliate business has two main sides to it (like most other businesses). There’s the light side of the force, so to speak, and the dark side of the force. As you’d imagine, cookie stuffing is a practice that’s highly “dark side.”

Cookies are small text files stored in your web browser when you visit a given website. Essentially, affiliate links work because of cookies. Whenever someone clicks your affiliate link, a cookie gets stored that keeps your affiliate ID and other data.

However, there’s a possibility to store a cookie without the need of someone clicking an affiliate link. When someone visits a given site they can receive a third-party cookie from a completely different site. This is cookie stuffing.

Not to get into all the technical details let’s just say that the practice itself is highly fraudulent as it records an affiliate referral that didn’t actually happen.

Just recently, a report on has uncovered a cookie stuffing scam crafted by one “clever” affiliate. This affiliate used forum cookie stuffing to create fake referrals. What’s interesting about this particular case is that the cookie stuffing happened on the merchants’ own sites.

This means that whenever a visitor came to a given merchant’s site and navigated to a certain subpage they were infected with a fraudulent cookie.

Why are we even describing this?

First of all, we’re not here to publish instructions on how to do cookie stuffing.

The real reason for publishing this story is to create some awareness among affiliates. Cookie stuffing is one of many fraudulent practices that not only puts a bad reputation on affiliate marketers, but can literally drought the industry financially.  In essence, you need to look at Affiliate Marketing as an ecosystem, with all affiliates, programs, merchants and networks interdependently working together.

Although it may be tempting to cross over to the dark side…  (Let’s face it, we’re operating in the epitome of cutting-edge technology and so many clever resources can be as far away as our fingertips.) At the end of the day, affiliates who decide to cross that bridge are playing with fire.

Essentially, if an affiliate is knowingly committing a fraudulent activity, it’s as though they’re digging their own grave.  Merchants and Networks are constantly surveilling their program & campaign stats, purely to prevent and stop fraud.  Therefore, odds are that acts of affiliate fraud will be caught.  And the repercussions are never pretty…  Not only will affiliates lose commissions, but they’re also vulnerable to extensive legal consequences that can be costly, resulting to run affiliates out of business and potentially ruining their reputation.

Bottom line, it to think like and practice like a blue chip marketer.  And, be sure to take action whenever you stumble upon any kind of shady affiliate behavior.

Always report dishonest affiliates to the program managers or the merchants. Our job – true affiliates working honestly towards our goals – would be much easier if it weren’t for all the scam artists.  Plus, running an honest marketing strategy will ultimately earn affiliates a viable, long term revenue stream.

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