How to Avoid the Top 5 Affiliate Marketing Scams.

How to Avoid Affiliate Marketing Scams

Affiliate marketing has been gaining more and more popularity in recent years, in particular as a result of the proliferation of social media and the fact that so many more people are using affiliate marketing to promote products/services to their friends and family through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

The problem is that any time there is opportunity and money to be made, it attracts the vultures and unscrupulous that are in the business of “taking advantage” of people. As a result, there are many companies portraying themselves as affiliate marketing, and many affiliate marketing scams popping up.

I want you to be very careful out there. In this post, I am going to break down what an affiliate marketing scam looks like to help you avoid getting taken advantage of.

The Industry is Changing, Be Careful.

When I started out online back in 2002, affiliate marketing was just gaining popularity. You had mostly tangible products (physical) and service based companies starting to realize the potential of having a base of affiliates promoting their companies.

Instead of these companies relying on “in house” marketing team, they were able to attract 100’s if not 1,000’s of affiliate marketers to promote their services. They didn’t need to pay them unless they generated revenue for them, so it was completely performance based and they didn’t need to pay the salary of expensive employees or deploy significant ad budgets…they let the affiliates do the work for them.

Move forward to 2018, the industry has changed and in recent years we have seen a cross over of companies trying to set foot in the affiliate marketing industry, that actually are not affiliate marketing. We see companies charging WAY too much for affiliate education. We also see companies up selling the hell out of their customers, taking a low ticket product and then forcing a customer to pay several $1,000’s by the time they are done with their pitch fest.

This is unacceptable in my eyes. It is ruthless, and it is something that ethical affiliate marketers (the ones I associate with anyways) don’t stand for.

Fortunately for you though, there are obvious signs that you can look forward when trying to determine whether a program is an affiliate marketing scam.

5 of the Most Typical Affiliate Scams.

There are a few very common types of affiliate marketing scams. You can pretty much put every unethical company within this industry under one of these umbrellas.

(1) Low Ticket to High Ticket. There are many scammers out there that will try to sell you on a very low ticket item, stating the given price and everything you need to succeed is $7-$49, but in reality there are $100’s if not $1,000’s in up sells immediately after you purchase the given product. Not only that, they make you feel really guilty if you don’t spend more money (tell you things like “you are worthless”). It is horrible.

(2) Free Plus Shipping Book. You probably have seen these within your social media accounts. Companies pitching you on the idea of getting a free book, plus shipping. That sounds good in logic, but the problem is they are doing this to get your “contact details” which they are then going to used to promote all sorts of other stuff to. The “books” are usually completely promotional in terms of their intent, lacking actual value and substance.

(3) Join Program, to Promote (MLM). Often times companies that are within the MLM (multi-level-marketing) world will present themselves as being “affiliate marketing”. Anything that is MLM, is NOT affiliate marketing. The big difference, multi-levels. You have to be careful when you are joining these programs as they will get you in, often times at a very expensive price ($1,000-$50,000) and to recoup your costs, they will get you to promote the very same program to others.

Many of these programs are taken out by FTC every year for being fraud, pyramid or ponzi schemes. The problem: If you are involved in them and promote them to others, you are just as liable as a participant as you are being the owner of the company.

(4) Social Feed “I am in” for more details. You see this on Facebook or Instagram all the time, but you will also see it within Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat as well. A marketer tells you how much they are making, how you can “change your life” and then pitch you on the idea that they are going to teach you how to make money just like them.

Firstly, most of these people pushing these videos on social media are not making any money (unless you buy into their crap), and secondly, they are almost certainly about to throw you into a network marketing scheme where you need to peddle the same garbage to others.

(5) Showcase Lifestyle and Money. You can pretty much chalk up any program that sells itself solely on lifestyle, on “mindset”, on flash cars or houses a scam. These companies tend to lack product/service substance. If you are being sold on this emotion and you want to be sitting on the beach or driving the Ferrari like the person selling on you on this idea in the video/sales pitch, make sure you know what they heck you are getting into first!

If are currently research a program and it fits into any of these categories, be careful. There is a good chance that you are about to get involved in one of the affiliate marketing scams that are present within the online world (IE, the wild west) these days)>

So if These are Affiliate Scams, Why Do They Exist?

They exist because they make money. They make money, because people get sucked into them. The FTC and other government driven regulatory entities that are created to protect you from such scams are very busy. Quite often they not going to waste their time taking down a company until it reaches a minimum of $10MM+ in revenue.

Thus many of the smaller programs will survive and survive for some time (sometimes forever). You can help prevent these companies from sustaining their unethical affiliate businesses within the online world simply by understanding that they are scams and avoiding them altogether. When you get ripped off, you are giving the monster in essence money.

If you don’t feed them with your hard-earned money, they are going to have to legitimize themselves at some point or completely get out of the affiliate marketing world altogether.

Go Affiliate Marketing Legit.

There are absolutely legitimate opportunities. If you have read this and are feeling a bit discouraged by the affiliate marketing industry as a whole, please do not be. The affiliate marketing industry is VERY ethical, it is vast, and it is full of an incredible amount of opportunity.

In fact, in my 16 years within the online world I have yet to see more opportunity. Affiliate programs are popping up everywhere, all major brands/services in the world have affiliate programs, and affiliates have a subset of over 550 MILLION (yes million) products and services they can promote in exchange for a commission.

Whether you are interested in cats and dogs, make up and beauty, sports, health & fitness, technology, etc… there is an opportunity for your to carve yourself out a very successful business within the affiliate marketing space. No experience necessary.

There is a legitimate process to building a business online though. It looks a little something like this.

  1. Choose a direction for your business. This could be anything and there are a million and one niches out there.
  2. Build a website/blog to promote your business. This is very easy to do these days. Within platforms like Wealthy Affiliate you can have your very own niche website ALIVE online in less than 30 seconds. Yes, 30 seconds.
  3. Get Traffic to your business. There are MANY ways to do this. One of the primary methods is getting rankings in Google, Bing & Yahoo (which is free to do), but you can also pay for traffic, leverage social networks, and use email marketing just to name a few.
  4. Generate revenue through affiliate programs. This is where the affiliate programs come in. There are millions of products, likely within pretty much any niche, that you can promote in exchange for an affiliate commission. These commissions range from 2% to 75% depending on the company and can lead to a HUGE stream of income.

That is it. The process in a nutshell, all you need is a platform that provides you with the training and the environment to create, grow and manage your business. This platform is Wealthy Affiliate and it is completely free to try through their elite Starter Membership (no obligations whatsoever).

By lesson 4 alone within the training, you are going to have step 1 & 2 above complete. By the first course alone, which is included in your starter membership, you are going to understand the process of getting ranked in Google with your website, getting traffic, and how you can build out you business in the most appropriate manner for long term success.

I digress. I hope this article has offered you a lot of insight into the “bad” side of the affiliate marketing world, and if you have been seeking out any of the FIVE types of scams that I have suggested you avoid, I hope you do so.

If you have any bad or good experiences within the affiliate marketing world you would like to share, opinions or questions that you want to get feedback on, please leave me a comment below. I would love to hear it, I could chat about this stuff all day!

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28 thoughts on “How to Avoid the Top 5 Affiliate Marketing Scams.”

  1. I am sure you already saw my post on my website and on facebook about the AWOL Academy. Unfortunately I went there before I found WA. Big mistake. I don’t have the money for the constant upsells. Oh well, live and learn. I am really glad I am now with WA for the last two months and doing awesome.

    • There are a lot of programs out there that leverage the upsell model. This process does exist in the conventional business world (would you like fries with that), and I don’t really have any issues with companies trying to sell their customers more once they have built trust. What I don’t agree is when they keep their pricing a “secret” or they are not upfront about what their products/services are.

      This is happening a lot within the opportunity world, many companies are leveraging certain models where they get you in at a low ticket price (just so they know you have money), then they will hit you with many more upsells. In some cases these are $10,000’s which is completely insane, unethical and ruthless.

  2. A very concise and informative article Kyle.
    I can relate to each and every one of these scams, having been around marketing for 3/4 years, but the knowledge of them weren’t around in my early days. Or if they were as a newbie I would have been oblivious to the fact.
    It’s great that we have good honest people around these days to help and watch our backs.

    • Those that are scamming people like this, don’t even believe or realize they are scamming because they come form a “circle” where this sort of behaviour is OK.   There are many people these days helping others avoid such programs (including regulatory agencies, FTC, SEC, etc), so I am hopeful that as time goes on less people are going to be taken advantage of by these so called “affiliate marketing” schemes, than more. 

  3. When it comes to scams, we have all been trapped.For those who wonder how to recognize scams, there is no better article. For those who seek the real stuff, just join the Wealthy Affiliate community. You will not regret it.

    Wealthy affiliates is a wonderful platform with educational tools and eye for details. Whether you are a beginner or advanced user. And… you can try for free for as long as you want.

    Be assured, no hidden agenda. My only regret is that I did not know them earlier.  

    Yes you have guessed it. I am a happy WA user. Enjoying the help and company of so many. But most of all a 24/24 and 7/7 site support!

    So, thank you!

    • I do think it is safe to say, most of us have been trapped in a scam in our journey to achieve success, regardless of the industry.  I certainly have, and I speak to folks on a daily basis that have run into one of the many scams, the types that I have outlined within this article. 

      Also, really glad you are enjoying your experience at Wealthy Affiliate.  It truly is a safe haven from scams and once you find WA, you are never going to be in a position where you will be scammed again (unless you continue to chase shiny objects).

  4. There was a time, not that long ago, that I would not have identified these scams. After being exposed to Wealthy Affiliate for seven months now, I not only recognize them, but find them annoying! One bad apple as they say and they give the industry a bad feel for many. Great article exposing them!

    • I wish it was just one bad apple, but there are 10,000’s of bad apples in the affiliate marketing space that give the FEW companies that truly care a much difficult time because people starting making negative assumptions. It only takes getting ripped off once or twice by a so called “affiliate marketing” program (which they never are) to become jaded and put anything that is labeled affiliate marketing in that bucket.

      My mission is to help people within the affiliate marketing space create successful businesses of course, but also to help folks understand the red flags of the many scams out there to save them time, money, and anguish of getting taken advantage of.

  5. Very interesting article Kyle! I didn’t know that there were so many scams out there and the variety of different ones too! I love the way you have written the article as it keeps me drawn in and wanting to read more and more! I would love to talk to you personally on how I can maximise results at wealthy affiliate!

  6. What an eye-opener, Kyle. Thank you for this valuable information! Until I read your article, I had no idea how many scammers have crossed my path in the past couple of years. I wasn’t really seeing the signs clearly. You have really brought them into full focus now. 

    Fortunately for me, I had no money to invest or I may well have fallen prey to the very tactics you describe.
    Very grateful to have found Wealthy Affiliate where I am leaning how to create rich content on my website and provide real value to my readers. What is your top tip to convert free referrals into paying referrals?

    • Most people don’t realize they are sitting on a scam, until it is tool late.  The other problem is that when someone gets involved in a scam, they are instantly associated with other people that are within the same scam, so all of a sudden it feels normal and they work really hard to convince you that what you are doing is ethical (when it is not). We see this a lot within t he affiliate marketing world and it has always been the case. 

      In respect to conversion and how to convert people from free to paid (within anything), this comes down to offering people help, before you ask them for anything at all.  Most people naturally think that when they are an affiliate, they are salespeople.  That is very transparent, in particular if you are pushy or urging people to buy.

      If you put your best foot forward and you help people, help them solve their problems, let them into your “circle”, you have their trust and at that point making a recommendation is natural and you will convert better than you ever have.  

      You can look inward and think about the past 3-4 purchases that you have made online,  what did that process look like and what lead you to make the purchasing decision.  That will give you some really good insight as to how you want to go about treating your audience to maximize your conversions. 

  7. I was scammed by a program exactly explained in your #1. I joined a program off of Facebook that signed me up for $99 and said that I would get all the training that I need, then when push came to shove and i joined for this price I found out they wanted close to $10,000 for everything they need.

    I guess that now you mention it another sign was the fact they didn’t really tell you what you were getting into before you joined so that should have been another red flag that went off. Nonetheless I got a refund from my credit card and I gave them a nasty review on the BBB because I was so upset that there are such shoddy programs out there.

    Live and learn.

  8. Hi Kyle,

    I have seen many times some of these types of scams. Also low ticket scams with the huge upsells include an MLM package as the higher upsell.

    These guys know what a beginner want to hear and many times use the same words with other legit programs.

    Is there any way to avoid an MLM before joining? How can we recognize them?

    • That is very common place within the “digital information” MLM programs these days.  They get you in at a lower price just to make sure you have an active form of payment, but the real purpose of this is to get you to join a much higher ticket product (which is part of their multi-level scheme).  

      They will often times also assign you a “coach”, which is actually a high pressure sales rep that will make you feel bad if you don’t sell your car or take out a loan to buy their high ticket option.  This is certainly NOT affiliate marketing, and these often times turn out to be pyramid schemes (and the FTC and other regulatory entities tend to punish these eventually).  

      If a product or service isn’t clear as to what it is, or if they have an “income disclosure” on their website (which MLM’s are legally obligated to), they are MLM.   These programs typically sell you on the idea of getting rich, but don’t explain much about what you will be doing.  At the end of the day though, your way to make money within these mlm schemes is by promoting the same stuff to other unsuspecting folks. 

  9. Really good article and i am learning a lot from it. I have ran into so many of them scams so i am glad i have found WA. I do want to take my education further with affiliate marketing im just not sure what steps to take. I am tired of them companies making false promises and telling people something is free when it is not. Im hoping i can succeed in this affiliate marketing world!

    • The affiliate marketing world is a vast one, and most successful blogs and websites you see online that are creating sustainable businesses, are implementing and leveraging affiliate marketing.  

      The thing is, you can promote 100’s of millions of products on your website, without owning a single product and having to ship products (or offer support).  That is the beauty of affiliate marketing.

      So by all means, you can create success within the affiliate marketing space and you are going to be learning how to properly construct and grow a business online within WA (Wealthy Affiliate).   I really look forward to working with you Justin. 

  10. I’m fortunate that I haven’t been caught with an online scam till now. But I do know a few people who have been duped with good sums of money after they joined some obscure MLM business. Not that I think all MLM businesses are bad but I think it pays to be more cautious when we invest in something without much proper homework. 

    And interestingly, some of the most “conservative” and cautious people have been victims. I always wonder why despite all the news of scams happening people still fall for them. Perhaps, it’s our human tendency to go for the short-cut ways. 

    Thanks for a great article, Kyle. Will always remember the scams list you have mentioned. I have been lucky till now but who knows…

    • I think we all know someone who has been subject to at least one of these types of scams, and a high percentage of us have been exposed to or involved in a scam like mentioned above. 

      People that are conservative, are also hopeful and often times desperate for a better life.  This allows them to fall into one of the many “slick” traps out there, and there are a lot of them.   

  11. Very insightful information! I must admit, there are many people out there looking to scam people and it is easy to fall into the trap if we are not careful. This is especially so when these scammers use a different wording for their promotions.

    For example, I was looking for part time jobs on Facebook groups recently and I came across “Email Processing Job”, which is basically pyramid or MLM worded nicely. Makes me mad when these people are proud of the way they earn their money. (Spreading false information)

    Thankful for this article as it not only helped me, I believe it helps many other people who are not well-informed. I truly believe earning money ethically will not only make you a better person, your job is secure and safe from backlash too.

    Just an additional question to a professional entrepreneur like you: Do you think it is better to create multiple websites for affiliate income or focus on one website/niche?

    • Anything that is labelled as an “email processing job” I would avoid like a plague.  Sure, there are some actual “jobs” in this space, but in terms of an opportunity, that it is not.  Most of these offers as you say end up tricking people into joining some sort of scheme, often times they are pyramid in nature (which are illegal). 

      In terms of how many websites you should be creating, ,y recommendation is always to start off with one an niche, get your formula for success down in that niche, and then you can diversify in several different niches. 

      The thing is, once you understand the process for creating success online, you can build out as many successful websites as you want across a wide breadth of niches.  Over the years I have been involved in many niches and very successful within them.  That is what is so awesome about the affiliate marketing world, you can truly build a business in any niche/passion you want, and move onto another whenever you like.   You are in full control!

  12. AWOL was a killer. They lure you in with cool videos and imaging. Then when it comes down to it, after they show you what the program is worth, and how much ‘you’re saving’ because they have ‘discounted’ it, they try to hit you up with a $10K bill. Yes, you read that right – $10K. They are out of their minds. I guess it’s working for them. I speak of experience and not second hand. Thanks for the article, Kyle. Wish I could afford the $49 a month for WA. A bit too steep right now.

    • I am not familiar with this program, but $10K is a lot to spend on anything, in particular something that is digital. What I do know is that there are a lot of programs out there on the internet that utilize high ticket prices in order to attract affiliates (so they can earn high commissions).

      The problem with that is that there is no product that constitutes a price of $10K, and a lot of people end up losing, and a lot of affiliates/participants in the program end up taking advantage of people because they succumb to the scheme.

      Some of these higher ticket programs have some legitimacy to them, but anything that you join for the sake of selling it yourself or if you have to upgrade to a level in order to promote that level, I would be very careful. Many programs of this nature get taken out by the FTC or SEC.

      And in respect to WA, join as and stay on as a Starter member if you don’t have the budget for Premium. It is completely free, no obligations, and there is not “end” to your starter membership and you will be able to get rolling with your website/niche business on the Starter until at a later date you do consider upgrading to Premium.

  13. Very informative news about programs targeting people with scams, especially the low ticket to high ticket method. Thank for the awareness, this is a common technique that I know many are getting ripped off with.

    • Yeah, the “upsell” is something that has spun out of control in recent years. Companies and unscrupulous marketers are getting people in at a very low price, usually $50 or less, then once they have your payment information and personal contact details, they recommend MANY and MUCH higher ticket products/services that you all of a sudden “need” if you want to succeed.

      They try to reason with it saying “all companies offer upsells”. Well, this is not an upsell, this is called taking advantage of folks. Treating a customer like a vehicle to make as much money as you can, versus and actual person is not ethical. Shameful affiliate marketing tactics in my opinion.

  14. Thank you very much Kyle for this helpful post.
    I promote “FREE+Shipping Books” for Clickfunnels, they want your contact details, but they are not a “SCAM”.
    So this doesn’t apply on everyone and every product.
    Best Wishes,

    • Well the actual offer itself (initial) isn’t a scam. They make up for the cost of the book by charging their break-even for the shipping component of the book, and then they use your information to sell you all sorts of other stuffs. Some would say that is “just marketing” and if the value is there in the subsequent offers, then it is not a scam. If someone is being pushed $1,000’s in products after the fact though, I don’t believe the vale is there.


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