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What is Affiliate Marketing: Legit or Scam?

In his Bloomberg article on ‘digital hucksters,’ Zeke Faux openly about Robert Gryn, the ultimate affiliate marketing success. He also mentions a Davos affiliate marketer’s conference in Berlin. Interspersed in this meeting were genuine affiliate marketing products from EBay Inc or Inc, and the not so genuine. 

The faces behind popular affiliate marketing scams such as miracle diet pills, male enhancers, brain boosters, and black masked face peel sellers were present at the conference. The topic of discussion? The latest affiliate marketing black hat trade tips. The Berlin meeting, hosted by Robert Gryn’s Stack That Money, also had a large Facebook presence. 

Affiliate marketing scams fueled by targeted ad algorithms

The social media’s employees moderated panel discussions and held meetings on the stage. The conference had all the looks of an above-board marketers meeting, but tricks on how to dupe people online were openly discussed. They also praised social media for revolutionizing target marketing that opened a new world to affiliate marketing. 

Thanks to robust targeting algorithms, shady affiliate marketers no longer need to spend time fishing for email addresses. They go to affiliate networks, and software programs such as Robert Gryn’s Voluum then make their fortunes from naïve buyers. 

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a powerful method of increasing traffic and sales for online businesses. The sector is rising rapidly and is now worth over $12 billion. It is such an essential online marketing tool that creates over 15% of all the revenue sourced from digital media. 

When ethically utilized, this marketing tool does not only increases sales when but it can quickly help build a customer base. It can also improve your e-commerce sales by 30%.

What Makes Some People Believe Affiliate Marketing is a Scam?

Unfortunately, like Zeke Faux details in his article, a large percentage of affiliate marketing activity is fraudulent. Robert Gryn’s Voluum, for instance, places over $400 million worth of affiliate marketing ads on social media. This is just but the tip of the iceberg. The affiliate tracking software places advertisements worth over $1.3 billion on other platforms.

The process of reaping profits from affiliate marketing through Gryn’s robust tool is simple. All a marketer needs to do is;

  1. Pick a product or service that they would like to sell, then contact an affiliate network. The seller and the network agree on sales commission figures, and then the network reaches its affiliates, designs ads and pays for slots on social media and other websites. 
  2. The affiliates use ad targeting filtering the most vulnerable buyers by age, interest, or geography.
  3. The rest of the selling is left to social media sites like Facebook that make a substantial profit off this ad revenue. 

While platforms such as Facebook have now placed measures in place to curb frauds, it has, in the past, allowed this practice to thrive. Software such as Voluum, circumvent the efforts that social platforms make to kill scams by cloaking their ads. They can, therefore, locate Facebook ad reviewer’s addresses, and show them harmless content for approval to have their scammy ads allowed on social media. 

When such accounts are eventually banned, all affiliates do is buy new profiles from “farmers” or rent accounts with massive followers instead. Scam detection is now going artificial intelligence, but shadowy internet players are keeping up with these changes. Gryn, for instance, has expanded his software company to include tens of programmers in different time zones.

Gry is the brain behind the famous “Free iPhone” offer, which did give away a few iPhones but made him his first $ million. His success so motivated him that he later bought out Codewise, and created Voluum. 

He argues that such software is not meant to aid scams, but he does not police the internet. He says that were he to ban bad actors from Voluum they would move on to the next best thing.

Examples of Common Affiliate Scams

  • Spam emails designed to generate clicks
  • Nabbing URLs by misspelling a website’s name then redirecting users to it
  • Stuffing browsers with cookies for ads then earning commission from the activity
  • Developing bots that generate clicks or sales on advertiser’s websites
  • Using identity theft to make purchases for commissions

What Makes Affiliate Marketing Legit?

  • The first sign of a legitimate affiliate marketing business is a professional website. The content should be well written, with no typos or error pages. A service or product without a website should raise a red flag because many scammers use spam emails to generate sales. 
  • A legitimate affiliate network provides excellent support to handle any questions or problems that affiliates may have. They should, consequently, have dedicated affiliate representatives, live support, and toll-free lines to ensure that your customers can also reach them if need be.
  • Genuine affiliate networks should have an extensive list of clients’ contact details that they have sold to in the past. These addresses are the best forms of testimonials if you want to avoid affiliate marketing scams. You can, too, Google the affiliate along with words such as fraud or scams to fish out any adverse reports. 
  • If you find no information in your search, that should signal that the affiliate network is shadowy. Established and credible affiliate networks that have been around for duration are the safest to work with. 
  • Genuine product or service affiliate markets cannot afford to give ridiculously high commissions for authentic items. If you are going to receive 80% of all sales generated, then the outfit is shady.


Shady affiliate marketing profiteers blame their lack of ethics on the opportunities created by giant corporations such as Facebook. They claim that they are only taking advantage of open doors in an extremely capitalist system.

Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal, a digital marketing agency focused on Pay Per Click management and growing multi-location companies. His work as CEO of Cardinal also recently earned him the honor of being selected as a member of the 2018 Top 40 Under 40 list by Georgia State University as well as 2015 and 2016 Top 20 Entrepreneur of metro Atlanta by TiE Atlanta, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2016 Small Business Person of the Year and Digital Marketer of the Year by Technology Association of Georgia (TAG).

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