Low-Tech Ways to Spot Suspicious Affiliates – By Hagai Shechter

by Jenae Reid on January 1, 2018



Affiliate marketing can bring in valuable leads, spur app installs, and drive sales, however, when hackers fake KPIs (i.e., those leads, installs, and actions), that portion of the marketing budget has been wasted.

Even more detrimental are marketers wasting time chasing phony leads, or measuring campaign performance using fake metrics.

Most affiliates are trustworthy and effective, but a small percentage of nefarious players have made their way into networks to steal commissions. It’s important to note that fraudulent affiliates go out of their way to avoid detection: using proxies, hijacking computers, and even forging location data to cover their true origin.

A surface view of campaign logs may miss fraudulent activity. So, what can marketers do? Here are some low-tech hacks for detecting suspicious affiliates:

In-App Activity is Not Normal or Nonexistent

If you find that app installs from a certain affiliate result in no activity within the app, or the activity is suspiciously consistent (e.g., all the users play your game but then stop after a certain level or uninstall the app after a set amount of time), it’s time to look deeper into that campaign’s performance. Fraudsters are great at masking their bots’ activities, but looking close enough may reveal a pattern.

The Campaign is Going Too Well

Fraud performs well. If the average conversion rate (in a click or install campaign, for example) for all affiliates is ten percent, but one affiliate consistently delivers 40 or 50 percent, be suspicious.

The Campaign Goals are Consistently Met

If you change your campaign goals (e.g., the number of views, clicks, actions, or installs), and they are suspiciously achieved, even when a very niche demographic or target is set, be suspicious. Again, fraudulent campaigns tend to perform well on paper.

There’s a Ton of Traffic, but No Buyers

This might seem obvious, but don’t get hung up on vanity metrics: clicks, views, installs, etc. They can be easily gamed, and bots don’t buy products or services. Keep an eye on KPIs that matter: real sales, phone calls, and leads that respond to your emails.

Unusual Uptick in Refunds or Chargebacks

Fraudsters are known to create fake sales with stolen credit cards, resulting in you paying out a commission to an affiliate, only to receive a chargeback or the product returned later on. You must refund the sale, but the commission you paid is gone.

While these may be basic, even obvious suggestions to detect a fraudulent affiliate, they’re a starting point for marketers.

The bottom line is that as long as fraud is profitable, it will continue to happen. Marketers are wise to keep their guard up, be suspicious, and speak up to partners when things don’t seem right.


Hagai Shechter is the CEO of Fraudlogix, an ad fraud and affiliate fraud detection company.

This article appeared in issue 41 of FeedFront Magazine, which was published in January 2018. https://issuu.com/affiliatesummit/docs/feedfront-41

Comments on this entry are closed.