RSS Feed

Related Articles

Related Categories

How to avoid the lockdown rise in affiliate marketing scams

20th June 2021 Print

Affiliate marketing can be found in every digital space imaginable. According to Wikipedia, Affiliate marketing (AM) is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate's own marketing effort. It’s a legitimate scheme that can help businesses drive potential customers to their sites and make everyone involved some money. 

Historically, AM has suffered from a bad reputation, largely thanks to people hiding their affiliation with certain companies. Now that AM must be clearly labelled, it has earned back some trust. It now accounts for around 15% of all income generated by digital media and around 80% of brands have an AM strategy. However, that could be set to change thanks to a recent rise in the number of affiliate marketing scams.  

During lockdown, the number of fraudulent AM schemes have grown exponentially. This seems to be thanks to a perfect storm of conditions created by the lockdowns experienced around the globe. More people than ever before are spending time online including individuals who have largely avoided digital spaces. These people are less likely to be able to spot an online scam. On top of this, the huge rise in unemployment has led to lots of individuals searching for work and ways to make money online. Being in a desperate situation can lead people to take risks on things that they would otherwise identify as a scam.  

To ensure you don’t get caught out, we’ve put together a list of the most common AM scams right now and how to identify them.  

Get Rich Quick Schemes 

These are often the easiest schemes to spot as they normally sound too good to be true. They normally involve adverts describing how you can make huge sums of money in a relatively short time and with little effort. Making £1 million in a week might sound like an ideal way to start your early retirement plans but it’s safe to say you’ll regret clicking the link. AM can indeed yield substantial returns if done right but success is determined by commitment and by building an affiliate strategy over a long period. 

The other key feature of these schemes is the exaggerated use of numbers and statistics. Bold, supposedly evidence-based claims, generally take centre-stage in any ad, in an attempt to legitimise their claims. If you see an ad claiming, ‘guaranteed profits in just one week!’ it's probably best to stay away.  

Pay-to-Join Schemes 

These can be harder to spot if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Having to pay to join a well-known AM scheme may seem logical to the uninitiated. Sometimes you need to spend money to make money, right? When it comes to AM, the answer is a firm no! 

What you need to remember about AM is that the brand that marketers are affiliated with benefit greatly from affiliate schemes. As they only pay when a sale is made via an affiliate pathway it is a very cost-effective method of marketing. AM can save brands a large chunk of their marketing budget with little to no effort on their part. Affiliate marketers are essentially working for a brand, and you shouldn’t have to pay to work. 

These schemes are often disguised by using logos and branding from established organisations. If you come across an ad or page offering a pay-to-join affiliate scheme, always make sure to do some research into the company. Find their website and the information they provide about their AM scheme. If you can’t find anything about it, it’s likely a scam. 

Fake Products or Service Schemes 

This type of scheme has become increasingly prevalent with the rise of app-based stock and forex trading. Criminal enterprises are creating fake investment schemes and then approaching social media influencers to advertise to their followers. These influencers are often unaware that the schemes are false, leading individuals who see their promotion to invest and get stung. This type of scheme can be incredibly hard to spot as the perpetrators often go to great lengths to create full product catalogues, customer reviews and testimonials and even fake websites. 

A useful tool in your arsenal when investigating whether you’ve encountered a fake AM scheme is Google. Running a search along the lines of “[Product/Brand Name] Affiliate Scam” should help you identify whether anyone else has had a bad experience. When people are stung online, they are normally vocal about it. A search along these lines should yield strong results if it is a scam. 

General Rise in Fraud 

The rise in AM scams mirrors a general rise in fraud across the wider economy. Employment fraud, involving getting a candidate to pay for a DBS Check before being eligible for a role, has become particularly commonplace. On the flip side, there has also been a significant rise in job applicants lying about qualifications and references.  

Outside of the workplace, a number of high-profile scams involving criminals posing as Royal Mail and NHS Track and Trace have been discovered. It was recently reported that over 700,000 fraudulent campaigns have been taken down by the National Cyber Security Centre over the course of the UK’s lockdowns. This includes 43 fake NHS COVID-19 apps that were found outside of the authorised app stores. Whether you’re looking at AM schemes or just going about your daily life, this goes to show exactly why you should remain vigilant when you’re online.