4 Affiliate Marketing Scams To Avoid

There’s no doubt that affiliate marketing can boost your income. However, not every affiliate program is equal. Affiliate marketing scams are just as likely to be encountered as legitimate programs.

These programs shouldn’t scare you off, especially since the claims these scammers make are unreliable and easy to spot.

As a result, you can focus your efforts on affiliate programs that will yield better results in the long run.

This post explores some affiliate marketing programs’ “too good to be true” claims, and explains why they can be dangerous. Moreover, we’ll discuss how to avoid affiliate marketing scams.

Keep this tip in your back pocket: If you’re ever unsure about a program’s quality, do some research.

To help you, there are many excellent domain quality checkers online. Do a Google search for “website quality checker” and see what comes up. Our experience with URLVoid has been good.

Is Affiliate Marketing Legit?

How does affiliate marketing compare to low-quality traffic? Not at all. Brands can boost sales and affiliate marketers can earn commissions through affiliate programs.

Because of this, 81% of advertisers and 84% of publishers engage in affiliate marketing.

We are going to tell you that affiliate marketing is 100% legitimate. Thousands of brands and millions of affiliates use it worldwide as an extremely effective online marketing channel.

It’s not sketchy in any way. You earn commissions from brands when you promote their products as an affiliate marketer. Whenever someone clicks on your affiliate link and makes a purchase, you get a percentage of the sale.

4 Biggest Affiliate Marketing Scams To Avoid

However, as we’ve already freely admitted, while the overwhelming majority of the affiliate industry is totally bona fide, not every affiliate marketing program is legit. 

Sadly, just like with every type of online business (and plenty of offline ones, too) there are a handful of bad apples. Dodgy pop ups, fake products, lots of negative comments, and false promises to make you a millionaire overnight.

As with every industry, anything that sounds too good to be true should be a big red flag. But to be more specific, if you want to avoid affiliate marketing scams, steer clear of any of these:

1. Get Rich Quick Schemes

Aside from winning the lottery, it’s impossible to get rich quick. Even though affiliate marketing programs can be extremely lucrative, you will not become a millionaire overnight.

However, that does not stop scammers from falsely claiming that you will. By overselling their services, they take advantage of people who want to make money.

Unrealistic offers are easy to spot because they claim you can make a lot of money with little effort. If you want to be successful with affiliate marketing, you need to put in a lot of work. Beware of offers that claim otherwise.

A get rich quick system also advertises that you can earn thousands of dollars in a short period of time. This is simply not true. Instead, choose programs with fixed payment plans.

Despite the lower monetary value these programs promise, they are far more realistic. Earnings vary depending on the program. However, usually affiliate marketers earn between 5% and 30% per sale.

2. Fake Products Or Services

Fraudulent affiliate marketing products and services are another common affiliate marketing scam.

This is essentially a pyramid scheme. To sign up for the program, the scammer asks you to pay a fee and promises you that you will soon make incredible profits.

The next thing that happens is… nothing. It’s as if they take your money and vanish into thin air, never to be seen again. Or they ask you to recruit a bunch of other people before they disappear again.

The scammers are often quite sophisticated, so it can be difficult to spot them. A reputable-looking website may have shiny affiliate marketing reviews and links to genuine product catalogs. To back up their credibility, they may even hire fake spokespeople. Be on your guard! 

Here is a helpful tip: stay away from products that look more like stock photos than real product catalogs.

3. Pay-To-Join Programs

In another common affiliate marketing scam, people are asked to pay for memberships. Again, it’s easy to fall into the trap. At first, you might think that it makes sense to pay for membership in a corporate program.

However, in most credible affiliate programs, participation is free. Since you are working for the company that developed the program, you are actually working for that company. To get started with affiliate marketing, you should not pay to do a real job.

Besides, if you invest in such a scam, it is likely that you will not see your money again. Check the legitimacy of the company behind a program before you sign up.

Is there a list of customers on the company’s website? Can you find positive feedback about the program? If so, you may need to look elsewhere.

4. Low-Quality Training Courses

Low-quality training is among the most common affiliate marketing scams. In reality, you get a branded t-shirt and some rehashed advice from free blogs at a convincingly low price (compared to legit options).

Moreover, once you have access to the courseware, you can not get a refund.

Do your research, read reviews, and remember that if something is the cheapest option available, there’s probably a good reason for it.

If you want to learn from a real expert, check out our list of the best affiliate marketing courses

How To Spot Affiliate Marketing Scams

Affiliate programs that are technically legal but considered somewhat shady or distasteful are a sore spot. The “shady or distasteful” part of that description may sound like a line from the Leave It to Beaver generation, but it holds true.

These affiliate-marketing programs aren’t completely on the up-and-up because of the validity of their offerings or their operational practices. For example, if a program has a long list of complaints registered by unhappy customers and affiliates, this company is skirting disaster. Or maybe the program is connected to obscene or pornographic products and there’s a question about how the material is being distributed.

For lots of reasons, think twice before affiliating with these types of organizations. Be aware that your site’s name and reputation become linked with any program you promote. With that advice in mind, here’s a list of red flags to watch for when you review affiliate programs:

  • No money-back guarantee is offered: Be wary of programs that don’t provide product guarantees or some form of money-back guarantee to customers. As a prospective affiliate, this one definitely presents a red flag. You can get stuck holding the bag and taking the blame when your referred customers get burned.
  • Returning a product is especially complicated: Nobody likes to deal with returns, but reputable companies offer return policies. Usually, you don’t need an act of Congress to make the exchange!
  • Corporate information isn’t readily available or verifiable: Legitimate companies place contact information prominently on their websites. You can also cross-reference and verify company information by using domain-registration services and other affiliations.
  • Affiliates or customers are unhappy: Monitor the parent site’s message boards, or other community message boards, for tales of broken promises and disastrous customer service.
  • No support is offered: The purpose of an affiliate program is to use other sites to drive more traffic and customers to your product. A company with that goal in mind provides resources and support to help affiliates be successful. Newsletters, contact information for technical support, links, banner ads, and other marketing materials are the norm in legitimate affiliate programs. If these items aren’t mentioned, trouble might lay ahead.
  • A sign-up fee is required: Signing up for most affiliate programs is free. If you have to pay to join or have your application “screened,” run!
  • Scam associations are obvious: You may find a company with no complaints that promotes the type of material that is often labeled as a scam or shows up on consumer watchdog lists. Work-at-home programs and business opportunities are often among the list of top offenders (although plenty of legitimate ones exist, too).
  • Legal proceedings have been initiated: Although you might not have any concrete information, check for lawsuits that have been filed against a company or any pending legal proceedings that might point to fraud in the making. You can check with the Better Business Bureau online or call your state’s attorney general’s office. This information might also show up in an Internet search.

Another source of telling information is a company’s affiliate agreement, along with its policy for accepting affiliate marketers.

Look for affiliate programs that adhere to strict guidelines, or you can just check out our list of the best affiliate programs for beginners. A legitimate program typically turns down approval of a site or cancels an affiliate agreement that has any of these characteristics:

  • Inactive URL: Because your site cannot be verified, the domain may not match what you entered or your site may be under construction.
  • Trademark infringement: You have references to registered names or logos on your site. Mismatched information: The information you provide doesn’t match your tax information, business license registration, or domain registration from other, legitimate resources.
  • Questionable content: Your site contains pornography or obscene information; contains hate-oriented information; distributes or links to illegal substances; promotes gambling activities; or is otherwise deemed questionable.
  • Questionable recruiting: Affiliates who plan to market a program by using aggressive email campaigns can violate anti-spamming laws.

Based on your state of residence, you may not be eligible to participate in an affiliate program. California and other states passed a law requiring the collection of taxes on all online sales, regardless of whether you have a physical location in the state — and they extended this law to cover affiliates. 

For that reason, major online retailers (such as Amazon) have pulled eligibility of affiliate participation to businesses and individuals residing in these states, which also includes Connecticut, Rhode Island, Colorado, Illinois, Arkansas, and North Carolina. Doing this helps Amazon avoid penalties for tax collection oversights and the creation of complicated tax collection procedures to cover all its affiliates.

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