Affiliate Marketing & Programs

How to Avoid Affiliate Scams


Affiliate Marketing is shady to many individuals because it’s a business model that many have abused through spamming, fake reviews, bait & switch, and flat-out lying. All of this is just on the affiliate side of things but there are also issues going on with the platforms, marketplaces, and product/service producers, too.

You see it happen every once in a while:

  • An affiliate network goes belly up and doesn’t pay out

  • Producers drop support and the flack comes back on you

  • People want you to “invest” in an opportunity that goes no where

  • A plethora of pyramid schemes that come and go

With so many products, services, markets, niches, industries, and the like, out there it can get a little tough when sourcing legitimate affiliate opportunities. The last thing you want is to make a financial or time investment into something that turns out to be a scam. Not only does it hurt you but if your community gets involved it’s your brand that takes the hammering.

The purpose of this post is to help you spot and avoid common affiliate scams; once you know what to look for you’ll save yourself from a hellish experience – keep these in mind:


(Overly) Big Promises

There are many amazing affiliate products on the market but there are also plenty that are too good to be true. You’ll notice them through the big promises of wealth, ease of use, and something along the lines of “anyone can do this with very little investment”.

Real business takes real effort; businesses take time to grow. Promoting these types of offers are going to label you as one of “those types” of affiliates that are trying to capitalize on the uneducated.


Dodgy Customer Service & Returns

Product/service producers that are in for the long-haul are going to provide customer service and a returns program for their offers. They know that it’s their reputation on the line and if they fail to address issues or flat-out refuse to provide refunds then they are going to be quickly labeled as scammers (and that’s when the ship sinks).

Try getting in touch with customer service and talk about the return policies of the products/services you’re thinking about promoting. Feel them out to see if they are genuine with their support or just another boiler room that is put there to continually push upsells and give you the run around if you have problems with their offer. Do this work and you’ll help your leads avoid all that trouble.


Don’t Pay into a Program

Marketplaces, platforms, and programs are there to attract affiliates because they are the ones that will be doing the work to sell the product. If someone requires you to pay “for the privilege” of selling their product or service you are going down one shady road.

These businesses or individuals may want to charge a “setup fee”; when they tell you that just tell them to shove it and find head somewhere else to find someone legitimate.


Don’t become the In-Between

Pyramid schemes are all too frequently found on the Web. Most of these are easily spotted because your earnings will basically only come from recruiting more people under you. Well, affiliate programs will sometimes do this too.

Some affiliate programs will try to sell you information and products to become a “better affiliate” for the company. In a sense it’s you that are now the product; the only way to recoup that cost is now passing that off onto other, new affiliates and before long you’re now in one of these schemes.


Check for Professionalism

The product/service provider should have all their ducks in order:

  • Business license

  • Full contact details

  • Customer service

  • Professional website

  • Social media accounts

  • Online reviews

  • Trust signals

Many of these things can be spoofed but if you’re diligent enough and dig around their site and what others are saying about them on the Web you can find the truth. You are a professional so make sure you are working with professionals.


Lapse in Payments

When a program announces they are pushing back payments, need to switch payment processing, or set higher payout thresholds it’s time to find your way somewhere else because these problems will continue to get worse.

If a program can’t pay out their affiliates on time you already know they are having financial stress (or there may be something going on behind the scenes far worse). Get out while you still can even if it means you’re taking a hit because that time lost trying to “wait it out” could have been placed in the effort to pivot and go with different, better offers.


Wanting too much Info

When you sign up to a program you are going to provide the company with your basic information for tax purposes. Something that will tip you off as shady is if they begin asking for your audience information which is a big no-no.

You should never disclose personal information about your audience to others because not only will it break the trust you have with them but it’s also illegal.

Being a victim of an affiliate scam is no fun but it does happen from time to time if you aren’t armed with proper information to spot them. Like they say “if it looks too good to be true, it probably isn’t” so stick with the well-known marketplaces when you’re starting and be careful once you start digging deeper into the affiliate programs. Good luck out there!


Image by Geralt


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