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  1. #1
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    How can we stop Freecause?
    Wow - over the last week I have gotten quite an education....

    I am a full-time affiliate marketer. My husband and I are also very involved (at a national level) with a non-profit organization. They recently began a "toolbar" program where they encouraged everyone to download & use their toolbar to make "free money" for the organization.

    I knew I had read about fund raising toolbars hijacking affiliate commissions by overwriting the original affiliate id with the toolbar's affiliate id. I was very concerned about this being the case, as how else are they going to get "free money" and the organization had no idea how this money would actually be generated.

    I downloaded the toolbar and monitored the activity with Fiddler. It looked to me like they were indeed overwriting my affiliate id. Further on my affiliate links, after I arrived at the merchant's website I got a little popup bar that said "Click Here To Get Points".

    When we complained to our organization that they were "stealing" from us, the organization contacted Freecause & they denied that this was the case.

    However, when we sent in screen shots to prove it, this was their response:

    "The FreeCause business model is also based on affiliate commission tracking, so we understand where he is coming from. Of course, we do not want to interfere with his business that is running an affiliate program and we would like to work with him directly to be sure that everyone is happy. We can create a rule and add his domain to a list so that the toolbar does not overwrite his tracking. Please let him know that we take this issue very seriously, and we are more than happy to work with him and find a resolution to any issue he has."
    We told our organization that offering to exempt our sites only proved they were stealing from affiliates and that it was a completely unethical way to earn money. They asked us to talk with Freecause on the phone to try to resolve this issue. (They don't want to give up their "free money"!)

    So yesterday afternoon my husband & I spoke with Brad from Freecause. Brad told us that they automatically overwrite affiliate ids unless the link has the "afsrc=1" code at the end.

    They said their philosophy is that the commission belongs to the customer and that by downloading one of their toolbars they have given their permission to have the commission taken from the affiliate and given to their organization.

    Also we had noted in our tests that the toolbar continues to be fully operational when it is "disabled". They acknowledged this and said the toolbar must be completely removed to stop functioning. I have not tried to remove it yet, but have heard and read that it is very difficult to remove. Someone in our organization tried to remove it and got a pop-up that he was unauthorized to do so.

    The good news is that we were able to prove to our organization that this is a completely unethical way to raise funds and they are going to discontinue the use of the toolbar and send removal instructions to everyone who has downloaded it.

    Freecause told us we should use merchants who do not allow toolbars or loyalty sites if we didn't want our commissions to be "hijacked".

    Because I learned just about everything I needed to know about this issue from these forums, I wanted to add our experience to the "collective wisdom". I am going to begin contacting my merchants who are affiliated with Freecause & I suppose ultimately will have to find replacements.

    I also noticed a discussion about a script to block visitors with toolbars or to redirect them to an Adsense page or a page about parasiteware. I would love to have this - but it would have to be Javascript to use on my sites. My husband & I are considering hiring someone to write such a script (we have already wasted WAY too much time on this issue) and then to distribute it freely to affiliates.

    It seems like this is going to become a bigger & bigger issue.

    Thanks for all the help thus far -
    Suzanne

  2. #2
    15 years and counting
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    Great story, Suzanne.
    They said their philosophy is that the commission belongs to the customer and that by downloading one of their toolbars they have given their permission to have the commission taken from the affiliate and given to their organization.
    The commission belongs to the affiliate. Customers don't own this commission and can't give it to anybody. FreeCause is just stealing this commission with the help of crooked networks like CJ, LS Gan.
    By the way, welcome.

  3. #3
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Hi and Welcome to the forum SuzieMax!

    May I ask when these videos were made?

    BTW, have you seen http://www.linksteal.com?
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  4. #4
    http and a telephoto
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    Suziemax, welcome to ABestWeb. That is an excellent account of how FreeCause has impacted you and the nonprofit you support. Networks are denying that they are doing exactly what you just outlined that they *are* doing.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  5. #5
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    The "affiliate payment" (commission, rebate, loyalty reward, charitable donation) belongs to whomever the merchant agrees to pay it to.

    FreeCause is not the "real" problem here: the merchants who accept FreeCause into their affiliate programs are the real problem.

    There is nothing inherently "evil" about an incentive/loyalty/charitable/coupon/review toolbar that participates in an affiliate program. Last year, I suggested a solution (multiple channels) that I thought might better serve the interests of everyone; the idea wasn't well-received.

    If the merchant agrees that a toolbar can overwrite affiliates' cookies, then that's how it is; if you don't like it, drop the merchant (and tell them why).

    If the merchant prohibits toolbar affiliates, or prohibits the specific behavior being used, then the merchant is responsible for enforcing those rules.

    In my view, the "afsrc=1" option is not meaningful. It still allows merchants to cheat naieve publishers (those who don't know to add it in their links); it may trigger search engine consequences (if not now, then soon); many unethical toolbar crooks ignore it anyway (well-documented on ABW).

    If you don't like how a merchant runs its affiliate program, complain to the affiliate manager (and if the AM's response doesn't satisfy you, complain to the CEO).

    In the end, you vote with your advertising inventory or traffic: if you don't want to send traffic to merchants who allow this activity, then stop running those merchants' ads (links), and stop sending traffic to those merchants.
    Last edited by markwelch; July 10th, 2009 at 01:04 PM.

  6. #6
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Suzanne, thanks for sharing your experience with FreeCause, they have a very interesting (unethical) view of who commissions belong to.

    I'm not sure if this would do any good, but it may be worth a shot. If you're willing to invest a little more time in this issue, rewrite this post as a letter to the Attorney General of your state along with any WRITTEN communications from Brad or any other representatives of FreeCause. Include a synopsis of your verbal communications with Brad as well as the discussions with members of your own organization.

    You may also want to direct them to the Parasiteware forum for more background.

    I applaud you and your husband for your perseverance and your organization for "doin' the right thing".

    Oh yeah, welcome to ABW, I hope to see you around more.

    -rematt
    "I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Richard Nixon

  7. #7
    Moderator BurgerBoy's Avatar
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    Hi Suzanne. Welcome to ABW.

  8. #8
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    Thanks for the welcome.

    The screen shots I sent to them are from a few days ago from my website & my organizations toolbar. I did not send a video - but .jpgs of the "cookies" 3 ways -1 - direct to the merchant from the tool bar's link to the merchant 2 -direct from my site from a browser with no toolbar & 3 - direct from my site from a browser with the toolbar. On #3 my cookies were overwritten by theirs, which they admitted to us that they do.

    I have seen LinkSteal.com - that is how I got a fast education about all of this & I am so appreciative that I did find it. We sent our organization several links from there.

    Suzanne

  9. #9
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Suzanne this is a significant contribution and we really appreciate it. If you need help documenting your experience with videos perhaps Haiko can aid you. It would be nice to see the examples but understand the need for anonymity. Would love to see you pursue Rematt's suggestion and let us know the response.

  10. #10
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    I would welcome any assistance because I do not know exactly what I am looking for.

    I will definitely contact my state Attorney General & also our Governor has an active Consumer Affairs Office. Ironically, because of our work with the organization, we have some very good state level political contacts and we plan to contact them for advice on the best place(s) to interface with our state govt. We also have other great contacts, such as a very dear friend who is an award winning investigative reporter - who just loves to look out for the "little guys".

    For the last four years we have devoted our lives to building a sustainable online business so that we can work from home. Now, if we need to, we will devote the same energy and tenacity to protect it. My husband & I are ready, willing & able to devote our available resources, time, talent and contacts to shine the light on these parasites who are using innocent nonprofit organizations to launder their money.

    This is the reason that I posted here today to get support, suggestions and help in the best ways to protect all of our interests.

  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador Georgie Peri's Avatar
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    From CJU Awards::

    Rookie of the Year, Publisher: Awarded to a new publisher who has achieved the highest total revenue:

    •FreeCause, Inc.
    OpA! Giasou Ti kanies!

  12. #12
    15 years and counting
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    I assume they are only nominated as CJU 2009 will be held September 15-17
    Two others are also on the list for "Rookie of the Year" Kayak and New Epoch Software LLC
    Anyway, what a shame CJ!!!
    These networks are really run by idiots. Now, CJ is fighting LS for distributing Awards to crooks.
    Are they running for the most stupid network of the year award also? Ooop, sorry, GAN already won.

    To nominate FreeCause for an award is disgusting...

  13. #13
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    Thief of the Year

    (sidebar: does CJ know they could be awarding Linkshare?! ie. FreeCause = OneCause = Rakuten)

  14. #14
    ABW Ambassador Adarsh's Avatar
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    What a shame!!
    Guess 'ethics' is a word of past. Affiliate marketing should be renamed to gray market or black market .. Only crooks take awards now.

  15. #15
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    Yep, and for whose who still think these parasites are not taking that much...
    Rookie of the Year, Publisher: is awarded to a new publisher who has achieved the highest total revenue.

  16. #16
    ABW Ambassador Adarsh's Avatar
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    I really dont understand, there must be thousands who must have read the OC and FC crap but only a handful merchants kicked them outta their program. BIG cheers for merchants who took the initiative of kicking them off but what are other merchants and affiliate managers waiting for ..?

  17. #17
    Affiliate Marketing Consultant Andy Rodriguez's Avatar
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    Again, big Kudos for Brian, SAS and how he chooses to run the network ...
    Andy Rodriguez Consulting, Affiliate Program Management and Consulting Services, Since 2001
    www.andyrodriguez.com | E: abw@andyrodriguez.com | P: (888) 931-ANDY (2639) | Skype: affiliatedoctor | AIM & MSN: AffiliateDoctor | Subscribe To Our ABW Forum Posts | Follow me on Twitter | Join Our Affiliate Programs

  18. #18
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    Agreed. Fortunately, we still have an alternative with honest merchants and OPMs.

  19. #19
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    Angry Freecause has EVIL!
    I ask you to raise your voice and do something to stop Freecause's evil unethical strategy of cutting heavily into our business segment. If we don't do it now and don't do it jointly, I fear it might be too late for us all.
    Freecause is systematically eating into our profits.

  20. #20
    ABW Ambassador Adarsh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mlander View Post
    I ask you to raise your voice...
    I second you mlander but who is "you"? What is this "you" referring to? Networks .. merchants .. affiliate managers .. affiliates .. lawyers .. associations .. government .. cops .. who exactly?

    Read Markvelch's post and you would have a better idea of how to raise voice. Hope that helps ..
    Last edited by Adarsh; May 17th, 2010 at 08:09 AM.

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