As common as the scams we listed down here is the misconception that affiliate marketing is a scam too. With all the affiliate marketing courses out there telling you that there is plenty of money to be made through affiliate marketing matched with the number of people and reviews saying they earned nil through the same methods, it does throw a shade over affiliate marketing to say the least.
The hundreds of legit affiliate programs we recommend and promote here in Affilorama should be proof enough that affiliate marketing is far from being a scam.
Affiliate marketing is a legit industry that even popular influencers are earning money out of.
Before going into common affiliate marketing scams, I suggest you check out our beginner lessons on affiliate marketing. These lessons will help you define what affiliate marketing is, what it entails and how you can get started on it.
GI Joe wasn’t messing when he told us “Knowing is half the battle.” Arming yourself with a clear definition of what affiliate marketing is will make it easier for you to spot what isn’t and what is just another scam dressed as affiliate marketing.
Common Online and Affiliate Marketing Scams
Scams are not limited to affiliate marketing, or the internet. It is everywhere. As the ‘’Get Rich Quick” episode of Netflix’s docuseries “Money Explained” says: scams have existed longer than the internet, and we still keep falling for it.
So we’re not limiting this list to common affiliate marketing scams, but extending it to include other deceitful money-making methods the pollute the internet.
1. Misleading Affiliate Marketing Training Courses and eBooks
It’s mostly those new and eager to do affiliate marketing that fall for misleading affiliate marketing training programs. There are free lessons on affiliate marketing available, but most of us, particularly those that are starting out, prefer a more in-depth course, maybe a bit of handholding, if possible.
Totally understandable. Affiliate marketing is like any business that you need to learn and invest money on.
This is also why we get sucked into buying one course after one eBook after another.
And there’s plenty of people online who are more than willing to sell you a course, an e-book, a webinar and various other kinds of information. They’re practically everywhere online from ads to Facebook and of course, Youtube.
Many of these training programs are often nothing more than a rip-off. You don't actually learn anything useful and you're out whatever money you spent. At the most, you might get an e-book that is full of fluff and no real, actionable lessons.
Not all training courses and eBooks on affiliate marketing are fake or are a scam. There are courses that truly give value, but you need to do your homework. Hold off buying until after you have done a bit of research either on the course, or the people behind it.
2. Get-Rich-Quick Offers
The oldest and possibly the most common of all scams. As mentioned at the start of this section, get-rich-quick schemes have been around way before the internet and still persists today because we all still fall for it.
A scheme that is not limited to affiliate marketing but it’s these get-rich-quick offers that give it such a bad rap. They promise you will make thousands of dollars overnight, or that you can just work 2 hours a day and have $5,000 in your bank account at the end of the week.
It sounds so good we end up reaching for our wallets. Every time.
Conversely, the promise of instant gain for the least amount of work that these get-rich-quick schemes are known for is the singular, prominent red flag to watch out for. Any “secret” method or training program that promises you will earn a huge profit over a short period of time is a sign for you to take a step back and dig deeper.
Legitimate affiliate marketing takes a bit of time to learn and while you will make money from it, it doesn't happen overnight. You need a strategy and you need to implement it well before you make any income.
Again, this is where having a clear idea of what affiliate marketing is and how it works helps.
3. No or Fake Product/Service to Sell
This scheme is as pervasive as get-rich-quick offers that a friend or family member may have fallen victim to it, if you haven’t yourself.
And it’s not just affiliate marketing that gets a bad name because of this scam. Multi-level marketing has been synonymous with it, and they have both been around way before the internet and affiliate marketing.
The way this scheme works is you are shown a product or service that you buy along with an investment into the company. In order to move up, you need to get more people on board in exchange for additional commission. The money just gets passed around, and you’re not likely to see yours multiply in the long term as promised.
In affiliate marketing, affiliate marketers make their money by promoting someone else's product or services. If a company is promising you thousands of dollars in income, look closer. What is it that you're actually selling? If there is no actual product or service, it's nothing more than a scam.
These affiliate marketing "opportunities" are designed like pyramid schemes where no one is actually making any money. You make an investment to join the program and after that, money is just passed around from one person to the next. These schemes are totally illegal! You will lose your investment, and you're not going to make any affiliate income from it, either.
Then there are the affiliate programs that do show a product or service but the product or survive seems too good to be true. No negative reviews? Guaranteed results each time?
Better do a background check on that product or service before promoting it.
One sure way to avoid this is to go directly to the main website of the product or service, and see if they do have an affiliate program. Maybe get in touch with the support team and ask.
Another option is to make sure that you only join established affiliate networks. This way, you are assured that the products and services you will promote are 100% legit.
4. Pay-To-Join Programs
Then and now, real, legitimate affiliate programs are still free to join. An authentic affiliate program is risk-free for affiliates. Just take a look at our recent post on beauty affiliate programs. All 100 of the affiliate programs listed there are free to join.
Our list of high-paying affiliate networks is another great example that affiliate networks and programs don’t require any fee to sign up. Some affiliate networks require a website. Maybe they prefer experienced affiliate marketers. But no legitimate affiliate network will ask you to pay a fee to join their network.
If you are asked to pay a fee to join, steer clear. It is most likely an illegal multi-level marketing scheme.
5. Domain Name Scams
This was a popular scam doing the rounds a couple of years ago, and you would still see this from time to time. Say you owned the domain abc.com. You would receive an email (usually from China) telling you that someone is trying to register the domain name abc.cn in China. They are emailing you out of concern as they have noticed you own the .com domain. They want to make sure your trademark is protected in China.
If you fall for the blatant lie, they will tell you that as the original owner of the particular business name, you have the right to register the abc.cn domain name with them first. You will be sent a price list and they will make money off you by making you purchase a domain name that you didn't ever need.
There are a few other variations of this type of scam like telling you that search engines like Google have blocked your domain name, so beware of any random emails concerning your domain names. If you are unsure, get in touch with the company you registered your domain name with.
Another scam that remains prevalent, and one that is like a gift that keeps on giving.
You open a seemingly secure and legit email from a bank, a colleague, or company you do business with. They are asking you to click on a link to verify your information, renew your password or to download what you thought is a valid and secure document.
You click the link and a malware gets installed, or your private information or identity is stolen. You then start seeing purchases you didn’t make, emails you didn’t send, and a whole slew of other security issues.
There are now ways to limit or prevent this but still, be wary of emails you open and links you click. As there are people who are committed to making the internet a safe place by creating systems and checks to keep phishing and other online scams from wreaking havoc, so are there people on the other side devoted to doing otherwise.
7. Cryptocurrency Scams
Cryptocurrency, like affiliate marketing, is not a scam, but as with affiliate marketing, there are scams within and surrounding it that makes it look to the ordinary person as one big phony money-making endeavor.
The biggest cryptocurrency scam so far this year is influencers recommending various cryptocurrencies and related apps to their audiences. The value of the crypto goes up and the same influencers sell theirs, taking advantage of the higher rates.
The hype dies down, leaving nothing for the people who bought into it.
8. Impersonator Scams
Yet another unlawful money-making scheme that has been going around before people were ever online. Popular public figures and celebrities are name-dropped; their images or likeness used to capture attention and gain a following. Scammers would then ask for a certain amount in exchange for something, but never deliver what was promised.
Take for example that cryptocurrency event that an Elon Musk impersonator pulled, sending people to a link where they need to send in an amount in cryptocurrency within a specific timeframe and they will get twice that amount back.
There were red flags, the most prominent of which was being asked to send over or spend money in order to “win” or get something back.
Be wary of online contests, and if you are tempted, be sure to check on the people behind the contest. If they start asking for money, then think it several times over before joining.
9. Online Romance Scams
Getting our heart broken after all the love, time and effort we put in the person and the relationship makes it feel like one big scam. But this one goes a lot more than that.
Online romance scams empty your wallets, too.
Like a tale as old as time itself, you meet Prince Charming through a Facebook group, or an online community. You two are a hit; chatting day and night.
Then he runs into some trouble and you’re the only one who could help. Or maybe he is finally going to come visit you but needs a few more bucks for his trip; maybe you could loan him some and he’ll pay you back when he gets there?
Or maybe it’s a sexy photo he wants. Or a video call in your lingerie.
Whatever his “requests” might be, think twice before giving in. You don’t really know personally who is behind that phone. And even if they do show their faces, it’s easy enough to change names and identities online.
10. Covid-19 Scams
Unscrupulous individuals have not let the current pandemic past. They are capitalizing on the current situation to exploit the unwary among us.
These scams work similar to phishing. You get a text, call or email letting you know you need to verify your information in order to receive your stimulus or government assistance check. It can also masquerade as your health insurance or Medicare provider asking to complete forms in order to continue their coverage.
All these have only one goal: to get your personal information.
Once they have your personal details, it’s easy enough to get access to everything else related to you.
Just like with phishing scams or any scam for that matter, stopping and taking a step back to double-check will save you from getting caught in a scammer’s net.
How to Avoid [Affiliate Marketing] Scams
You’ll find that the same things that you will do to avoid getting caught affiliate marketing scams are the same things that will help you avoid becoming an online scam statistic.
The rule of thumb before signing up for any affiliate program or affiliate training course is to do your due diligence. There are some well known and reputable programs and courses in the industry (including ours!) but when you're new, it's hard to tell.
Generally, it’s those products with dollar bills, numerous ads, lengthy and sensational copy, and lots of redirects that will signal not just affiliate marketing scams, but any scam. There is a consistent “spammy” look to these scams and these are what you should watch out for.
In saying that, a clean-looking, professional website doesn’t mean a 100% legit affiliate program or training course. Follow some of the tips we mentioned above in spotting the above common scams.
Here’s a few more suggestions:
Stop, Look and Listen
It’s easy to get caught up in our excitement and join just about any affiliate marketing program or course that comes our way.
Don’t. Stop, look and listen.
There are usually free webinars you can join that discuss these courses and programs. Before even attending the free webinar, look up the people speaking in the event. Check out reviews of the course they are promoting.
If there isn’t much information yet, then be sure to ask your questions during the webinar. Reach out to their support team if necessary.
Get as much information you can before deciding if the course is for you or not.
A certain level of awareness will give an added layer of protection against online scams. Read through an email thoroughly before clicking on any links. Check who it’s from and the actual email address it is coming from. If anything looks dubious, don’t open or click on any of the links.
Always remember that companies will never ask for your personal information over phone, email, chat or text.
If you’re being asked to hand over money within a limited time, or elseâ€¦ then maybe you it’s better to sit out until after you have done your research.
Yes, Google, in this instance, is your best friend.
The easiest way to find out the legitimacy of any affiliate program or training course is to Google it. If it's a well known scam, you will more than likely see reports about it online. If you can't tell just by searching for the name, try searching for variations, such as "[affiliate program name] scam" or "[affiliate program name] ripoff." You can also search for "[affiliate program name] reviews," etc.
Check out affiliate marketing forums and blogs. What courses do other affiliate marketers recommend? What courses are they saying to avoid?
You can find all these by asking Google.
The Company Website
In the unlikely case of Google not giving you as much information as you want, head straight to the company website. Legitimate companies in the affiliate marketing industry always have professional websites. If this is not the case, it should raise a red flag for you.
Don’t hesitate to reach out and inquire. Send an email or chat with a support representative if you can.
Genuine Commission Percentage
As an affiliate, you will make money off commissions. If a company is offering a ridiculously high commission percentage, don't believe it straight away. It's not impossible (some programs really are quite generous), but it's better to do your research and see if they really pay out their affiliates. Also, make sure the products and services they offer are genuine and of good quality.
You’d usually find these being discussed in popular affiliate marketing forums and blogs. If you are intent on pursuing affiliate marketing, then join in and read through the various information before buying a course or joining a program.
If It's Too Good To Be True
Anything that is too good to be true, generally is.
That is to say, you are better off being suspicious about a course or program. Be wary of unrealistic offers, easy money schemes and any businesses (especially foreign) offering to help you with something out of the blue.
Use your common sense and you have nothing to worry about. There are hundreds of genuine and completely legitimate ways to make money as an affiliate. Be aware of the affiliate marketing scams, but don't let them keep you up at night!
Do you know of any other affiliate marketing scams that we've missed? Let us know and we'll add them to the list.