affiliate marketing

Affiliate Fraud 101: The Impact of NOT Protecting Your Affiliate Program!

As an Affiliate Program Manager, your primary objective is to drive revenue and maximise profitability, while fostering mutually beneficial partnerships with third party referrers, influencers and traditional affiliates. However, the harsh reality is that the affiliate marketing industry is not immune to the pervasive issue of online ad or traffic fraud, which can significantly impact your program’s performance, cost margins, and brand credibility.

In this article, we’ll delve into the various forms of fraud that affect the affiliate channel, explore their detrimental effects on your program, and understand why traditional due diligence measures are often inadequate in combating these threats from dubious affiliate partners.

What’s more, we’ll examine the critical role of advanced fraud detection tools and how they serve to safeguard your program – ensuring the integrity of your affiliate partnerships and your program ROAS is being measured accurately.

Some of the most fraudulent affiliate activities can take many forms, including:

  1. Lead Generation Fraud: This involves the submission of fake or falsified leads, often through the use of bots or data harvesting techniques, in an attempt to claim affiliate commissions. More advanced fraud will use aged leads and human fraud farms to pass off aged leads as fresh ones.
  2. Click Fraud: Malicious affiliates may employ automated tools or botnets to generate illegitimate clicks on affiliate links, artificially inflating traffic and earning undeserved commissions.
  3. Impression Fraud: This is when an ad is not viewable to the human eye, but impressions are still counted. The most well-known fraudulent methods are: pixel stuffing, ad stacking, and fraudulent traffic.


The impact of fraud on your affiliate program 

The ramifications of affiliate fraud extend far beyond the obvious financial losses. They impact financial planning, time and resource cost impacts and partner relationship building, too.

While the exact figures for 2024 are not available, the evidence available to Anura suggests affiliate fraud is a significant and growing problem for the  industry.  Last year, the industry  tipped over $600 Billion in global digital marketing spend and based on Anura data they  are saying that $125 Billion was lost to fraud. 

It’s therefore wise to be aware of the different fraud tactics your program could be affected by and look to implement preventative measures to protect yourself from financial losses.

Fraud can significantly undermine the integrity and credibility of your affiliate program, eroding trust among genuine affiliates and damaging your brand’s reputation. Furthermore, fraud can lead to skewed performance data, hindering your ability to make informed decisions and optimise your marketing strategies effectively.

Unchecked affiliate fraud can have a direct impact on your program’s cost margins, as you may end up paying commissions for fraudulent leads or transactions that can’t be recouped. This not only diminishes your return on investment (ROI) from the channel but also creates an unsustainable business model, as fraudsters continuously seek to exploit vulnerabilities in your affiliate tracking systems.

The challenges of traditional due diligence

While conducting due diligence on potential affiliates is a standard practice, traditional manual checking methods often fall short in detecting sophisticated fraud schemes. Due to the way the industry tracks and pays for sales across multiple sectors, fraudsters continuously evolve their tactics, employing advanced techniques to bypass basic checks and validation processes and then de-fraud programs and disappear with their paid commission.

Relying solely on manual reviews, IP blacklists, or basic traffic filters can leave your program vulnerable, as these measures are reactive – only being able to have an impact once fraud has taken place. In addition, they are limited in their ability to identify complex patterns of fraud.

Even with rigorous vetting processes, the ever-changing nature of fraud means that unseen threats can still slip through the cracks, jeopardising your program’s integrity and profitability.

The need for advanced fraud detection solutions

To effectively combat the multifaceted threat of affiliate fraud, affiliate program managers must adopt advanced fraud detection solutions that leverage cutting-edge technologies and data-driven insights. Platforms like Anura are just one of these real time fraud detection tools brands can look at to help prevent financial losses and payouts for traffic that isn’t legitimate.

Anura is specifically designed to safeguard affiliate programs against various forms of fraud, including impression fraud, click fraud, lead fraud, e-commerce fraud, account take over fraud, log in fraud, visitor fraud as an example.  By leveraging sophisticated machine learning algorithms, real-time monitoring, and a vast network of threat intelligence, can identify and mitigate fraud threats that would otherwise go undetected by traditional methods.

Exactly, how do these tools protect your affiliate program?

  1. Comprehensive Fraud Detection: These tools employ advanced techniques like device fingerprinting  and anomaly detection to identify fraudulent patterns and activities across multiple channels and touch points. With a 99.999% accuracy rate in identifying fraud, there are rarely, if ever, real users flagged as fraud.
  2. Real-Time Monitoring and Alerting: They continuously monitor your affiliate traffic and transactions, providing real-time alerts and insights into potential fraud threats, enabling you to take swift action to mitigate risks.
  3. Affiliate Risk Scoring: These tools also assign risk scores and provide score cards on all affiliate referral partners so that affiliate managers can assess their partners based on their historical performance allowing you to prioritise your due diligence efforts and make informed decisions about affiliate relationships and pin point any potential issues with newer  partnerships.
  4. Fraud Prevention and Mitigation: Often these tools offer proactive fraud prevention measures, such as traffic filtering, visitor blocking, and automated rule enforcement, helping you stay ahead of fraudsters and protect your program’s integrity.
  5. Detailed Reporting and Analytics: Accessing comprehensive reporting and analytics, gives you in-depth insights into fraud trends, patterns, and sources, allowing you to make data-driven decisions and optimise your fraud prevention strategies.

The benefits of partnering with a fraud detection platform

By partnering with an established fraud detection platform such as Anura, affiliate managers can enjoy numerous benefits that contribute to the success and profitability of their affiliate programs:

  1. Cost Saving: By preventing fraudulent activities, you can avoid paying commissions on illegitimate leads or transactions, resulting in significant cost savings and improved margins.
  2. Enhanced Program Integrity: With advanced fraud detection capabilities, you can maintain the integrity of your affiliate program, fostering trust among genuine affiliates and protecting your brand’s reputation.
  3. Data-Driven Decision Making: The insights and analytics provided by a fraud detection platform enables you to make informed decisions about affiliate partnerships, marketing strategies, and budget allocations which, in turn, optimise your program’s performance and ROI.
  4. Competitive Advantage: By staying ahead of fraudsters and ensuring the quality of your leads and conversions, you can gain a competitive edge in the affiliate marketing landscape, attracting top-performing affiliates and delivering superior results for your clients.
  5. Scalability and Adaptability: As your affiliate program grows and evolves, Anura’s flexible and scalable solution can adapt to your changing needs, providing consistent fraud protection and ensuring the long-term sustainability of your program.


The numbers speak volumes as to why fraud must be stopped 

The effectiveness of fraud detection and prevention solutions, such as Anura, is evident in the remarkable results achieved by the testimonials of clients already integrated with their platform.

According to the case studies on their website, Anura has helped affiliate programs save millions of dollars by preventing fraudulent activities and protecting their program profit margins with early detection and rejection of fraudulent traffic thus making it a lot harder for affiliates to game the faulty affiliate commercial attribution sales systems.

For instance, a Global Web Services company running an internal affiliate program used the platform to manage over 750 affiliates and saved a staggering $2m/month after implementing Anura’s advanced fraud detection capabilities, significantly improving its program’s profitability and efficiency.

Anura was able to identify the affiliates who were not the best affiliates. The affiliate team was then able to start pruning their affiliate lists because of what they discovered and could see early on from incoming traffic sources.

Saving time, money and resource costs to build scale without impacting actual attributed ROAS.

The importance of prioritising fraud prevention

As an Affiliate Program Manager, it’s crucial to prioritise fraud prevention as a critical component of your overall growth strategy. Negotiating marketing spend and evaluating traffic sources should go hand-in-hand with implementing robust fraud detection measures.

While negotiating favourable terms and pricing is essential, failing to address the issue of fraud can quickly undermine any cost savings achieved, as fraudsters continuously seek to exploit vulnerabilities in your affiliate program.

By partnering with trusted fraud prevention solutions, building proper onboarding measures and implementing regular checks on who you’re really working with –  you can ensure that your marketing investments are protected, and your program’s integrity remains intact.

Discover how much fraud you could obliviously be paying for!

As stewards of your affiliate programs, it is your responsibility to prioritise fraud prevention and find the right processes, and solutions to spend your company budget diligently.  In doing so, you can ensure the long-term success and profitability of your program, maintain the integrity of your brand, and stay ahead of fraudsters who seek to game the challenging affiliate systems we all navigate to chase growth.

Don’t let affiliate fraud compromise your hard-earned efforts and investments. Embrace the power of advanced fraud detection technologies and position your affiliate program for sustained growth and success in an increasingly competitive and dynamic marketplace.

Download Anura’s ‘Ad Fraud 101’ eBook – Learn the basics about ad fraud, including common types of ad fraud, signs of a problem, and what to do about it. Access the free eBook here.

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