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  1. #1
    ABW Ambassador danay's Avatar
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    Need some input from affiliates on due diligence
    Ok, I really need some input here.

    We have a pretty intense screening process for new affiliates. This enables us to keep the bad ones out including parasites, frauds and the like. I pride myself on being very thorough with our DD and have trained our compliance personnel to do this. It allows us to assure both our publishers and advertisers that we take the traffic sources very seriously.

    One of the things we check out are things like, does the signup info match the whois unless it is made private. If it can't be verified, we use other methods like checking to make sure the company name matches the FEI supplied or making sure the social actually exists and sometimes ask for proof of domain ownership. It's really a combination and depends on how many red flags go up.

    Now I know that making your whois data private is essential to many of you, but it's also important for us to be very selective about who we allow into the network.

    Unfortunately, once in a while, we get someone who is very put off by this and just doesn't like the idea of us running through this checklist.

    So, my question is, how many of you are really bothered by this and why? And, more importantly, what would you suggest? I'm open to all creative ideas and am sensitive to our publishers, after all, you are our bread & butter.
    Danay @ LunaSolMedia.com
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  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador purplebear's Avatar
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    Ok, I'm not an affiliate with your program so not sure my opinion is going to really matter but if you were speaking in general, I'll give it. If you don't want it....then never mind. lol Just speaking for myself, it doesn't bother me. Privacy is extremely important to me but I think if you have a business you pretty much have to give up some of that. People need to be able to think you're dealing with a real person or business that's legitimate and should be able to verify that somehow. A lot of that is a matter or public record I think, anyway. Don't know what FEI is so not sure that would bother me or not. lol but an affiliate manager checking to be sure I'm legitimate doesn't bother me. Have a feeling though, that my thoughts might be in the minority.

  3. #3
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    One really easy way to verify that someone has control over the domain they claim to own is to have them place a file with a specific filename on their server, then you can check for its existance. Google does this with their Google Bookmarks product.

    I think if you explain the reasoning behind the extra questions (that you want to help keep bad players out), most legitimate affiliates will be understanding. You'll always have some who are offended, but you have to do what's best for your network.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  4. #4
    Influencer Marketing GravityFed's Avatar
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    Hi Danay,

    We follow the same strict protocols with new applicants. We've found many scammers trying to make their way in.. most likely to exploit a direct deposit payment system or the like.

    One thing to consider is that many times scammers will use the WHOIS domain name info (if it's public) in their applications. We've often seen this...so sometimes even comparing WHOIS data isn't enough.

    We often times will contact the Affiliate applicant directly through their site's contact form or contact email that's published. If they don't have any way to contact them through their site, and the WHOIS is pvt, then we'll even go so far as 'wing it' by sending an email to 'webmaster@', or 'info@', etc. If no response with these emails as last try, we'll just decline the applicant. If they really want in, they contact us to ask why they were declined and then the dialogue can begin.

    I am glad to read here how thorough you screen your applicants. I am very curious to know how the large networks screen, b/c (and maybe it's because we are new in the indusry) for a while we were seeing a 40% fraud rate on applications. It's gotten better, but we still see them on a regular basis.

    Take care! Gary M

  5. #5
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    The more diligent you are in your screening, the more the word gets around and the less the fraudsters try to scam you. There are much easier targets out there. It's the same principle as a security system or a dog in the yard. It's much easier to just go down the street where they don't have a security system or a dog.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  6. #6
    Influencer Marketing GravityFed's Avatar
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    Michael that makes sense as to why we were bombarded in the beginning with scammers. It's definitely slowing and I guess our thorough screening reputation is getting out there.. Gary M

  7. #7
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    I could be wrong, but when I was working as a merchant and as an affiliate with the mega-networks, there really was no screening process whatsoever. This was also very evident by the number of invalid edu leads we were receiving on a daily basis.

    I think most of the small networks, ours included, take a lot of effort into weeding out the fraudulent applications. And I agree with everyone else, most affiliates who are legitimate will not mind a network checking on their information. I would hope they would do the same when looking for the right network. It's a business for both!
    [FONT=Georgia]Adam Cieloha
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  8. #8
    ABW Ambassador Sheri's Avatar
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    Coming from a network I can tell you that you should use all of the tools at your disposal to check new affiliates. The sneaky ones figure out ways around the system every day, so using everything will help you catch them as well. The honest affiliates should have no problem with it at all.

    Sheri

  9. #9
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Danay, what if an affiliate wanted to promote you on an ISP website? Do you discourage that?

    I started affiliate marketing on a website like

    http://www.isp.com/~mysite

    In fact I still have the ISP site (it gets lots of traffic).

    If a merchant would prefer that I restrict the links to my domain sites, I am willing to do that.

    What can applicants gain by saying they own the xyz site when they don't?
    If an affiliate claimed to be the webmaster of reallypopularsite.com, would you believe that person? Surely that webmaster couldn't make a change to
    reallypopularsite.com without the prerequisite passwords

    I was surprized when I received this from a Kowabunga merchant:
    Thank you for applying to efg.com. Your application is currently being reviewed, and I need some further information from you about your site. As soon as I receive the information, I can finish processing your application. Thank you in advance for your help, and I look forward to hearing from you. If we do not receive a reply within two business days, your application will be denied ...

    You application is being reviewed because the registered owner of the site did not match the registered owner that we have in our records. Please, submit name, address and email for verification.
    I responded with:
    What exactly do you need?

    I am the webmaster/owner of:

    site1
    site2
    site3
    site4

    I'd rather fill out a secure information form on a secure web page than write my personal details over insecure
    e-mail.
    Why is it that I never had problems with Commission Junction or Linkshare?
    kowabunga is disappointing.
    There was also a problem cause by the fact to join some merchants with a network I had to have an e-mail address that corresponded to my domain names -- I'm used to using my ISP e-mail, but I created me@domain.com addresses to please the network and then I had the e-mails forwarded to my POP3 ISP e-mail.

    I had to write out my whole life story for this merchant

    My domains have been made private for security reasons -- I was receiving unwanted phone calls.

    Edit: Also a network rep merely has to glance at my sites to know that they are created only with CSS/html/xhtml and the sites lack any spyware/adware or cookie stuff on my part.
    ~Rhia7 -- Remember the 7
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  10. #10
    ABW Ambassador danay's Avatar
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    Hi Rhia, you pointed out the exact concern I have with certain affiliates. Not everyone is as easy to confirm. The problem that we encounter is "how do I know that you are hte owner of those sites?"

    Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10, affiliates who cannot prove who they are end up being fraudulent apps. I will say that we do a phone interview which helps us weed out most fraudulent apps. People who want to hide their identity tend to not answer the phone or give a wrong number.

    Thanks for your input!
    Danay @ LunaSolMedia.com
    Global Perfomance Marketing. Global Niche Markets = Opportunity!
    HispanicYa!|MallFreebies

    I dwell in possibility. ~Emily Dickinson

  11. #11
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    I agree.

    A phone call will go a long way to getting into the program quickly and painlessly.
    [FONT=Georgia]Adam Cieloha
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  12. #12
    CPA Network Rep Jon@Fluxads's Avatar
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    The more steps you can take to protect your network, your advertisers and your current and future affiliates the better. Within reason of course. If you were to start requesting stuff like, fax over photo copy of drivers license, birth certificate, proof of residence, a lock of their hair, and a blood sample, then it's going too far. But from what you say you are requesting from applicants does not seem unreasonable at all.

    I started a thread a few months back ranting like a little baby about how frustrating the amount of fraudulent affiliates who were applying to our network was. We were seeing up to 8-10 false applicants/day. Since implementing a more thorough screening process, it's dropped to around 1 every other day. It seems they have finally got the hint. It's like when a cat keeps clawing at your couch and you squirt it with a water bottle each time, eventually it gets the point and will stop trying to scratch the darn couch. (just got a kitten, first thing that came to mind. lol.)

    So stick to your guns, but always be open for suggestions (i.e. this thread). After all, it's the affiliates that make your network successful, not you. So listen to them.
    Last edited by Jon@Fluxads; June 2nd, 2006 at 12:49 PM. Reason: fat fingers cause silly typos! :)
    [B]Jon Lyons[/B]
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  13. #13
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adam C
    I agree.

    A phone call will go a long way to getting into the program quickly and painlessly.
    Try e-mail first
    ~Rhia7 -- Remember the 7
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  14. #14
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    How do you become a fraudulent affiliate?

    If I can't update/edit/modify a website, I can't make a sale -- so where's the money in that?

    I just got rejected to Blue Nile's program, but maybe I could get approved if I fake it?

    Okay, so how do I do that? How can I own a site I don't?
    ~Rhia7 -- Remember the 7
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  15. #15
    http and a telephoto
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    As an affiliate you will never be able to match my application info with my domain whois info. Nor will do I/did I have emails to match ALL my domains. Many affiliates are using gmail or hotmail for affiliate program email. My application data is always accurate, my whois data is different for a variety of reasons, mainly privacy because of working at home for many years and being vulnerable to bad people. And because of unwanted phone calls from people who were not affiliate managers, and getting junk mail from scammers.

    My whois is and always will be a PO Box. Many others are too.

  16. #16
    ABW Ambassador MoneyBusiness's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by danay
    Ok, I really need some input here.

    We have a pretty intense screening process for new affiliates. This enables us to keep the bad ones out including parasites, frauds and the like. I pride myself on being very thorough with our DD and have trained our compliance personnel to do this. It allows us to assure both our publishers and advertisers that we take the traffic sources very seriously.

    One of the things we check out are things like, does the signup info match the whois unless it is made private. If it can't be verified, we use other methods like checking to make sure the company name matches the FEI supplied or making sure the social actually exists and sometimes ask for proof of domain ownership. It's really a combination and depends on how many red flags go up.

    Now I know that making your whois data private is essential to many of you, but it's also important for us to be very selective about who we allow into the network.

    Unfortunately, once in a while, we get someone who is very put off by this and just doesn't like the idea of us running through this checklist.

    So, my question is, how many of you are really bothered by this and why? And, more importantly, what would you suggest? I'm open to all creative ideas and am sensitive to our publishers, after all, you are our bread & butter.

    You know what? If it means that you keep out all of the parasites, and keep your program clean, then I'll leave my doors open to you to check all you want. I think it's a great thing that you're doing (just as long as you're not doing anything you're not supposed to - like selling the SSNs and the like)..
    Follow my dog, Maya, and I, as we fumble around the affiliate marketing world: www.MarketingMaya.com
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  17. #17
    Influencer Marketing GravityFed's Avatar
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    Rhia7,

    From what we gather.. once a scammer gains access using a domain that is not theirs.. they can then setup payment to be sent to an account somewhere in the world. Once the direct payment is set-up they can easily send fraud orders through their IDs and the network using stolen credit cards or whatever..

    We're not sure this is the intentions of many of the scammers but it seems logical.. like you said.. what else could they do?

    GBM

  18. #18
    notary sojac Herb ԿԬ's Avatar
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    >>>I just got rejected to Blue Nile's program, but maybe I could get approved if I fake it? <<<

    sometimes rejections come from whoever has their hand on the switch at the network, not the merchant. I could cheerfully deal harmfully with some of them.

  19. #19
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    Rhia,

    Some of the things fraudulent affiliates do don't make a whole lot of sense on the surface, but they have their reasons. By claiming that they are a different (often well-known) site, they gain a little legitimacy and won't raise as much suspicion if they have large amounts of earnings.

    I don't think it's productive to reveal too much detail about fraudulent techniques publicly, as it just encourages others to try them.
    Michael Coley
    Amazing-Bargains.com
     Affiliate Tips | Merchant Best Practices | Affiliate Friendly? | Couponing | CPA Networks? | ABW Tips | Activating Affiliates
    "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." Nelson Mandela

  20. #20
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    Danay,

    My who is will always be private. I applaude your measures to keep your program clean, that says a lot to me.

    I would be open to a phone call for verification reasons in that situation as it would give me peace of mind. However anything you stated on the phone about your program that I could not verify in print would be taken with a large grain of salt.

    Take care,

    Brian

  21. #21
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    I don't mind networks taking measures to ensure that I am who I say I am, and that the sites I say are mine are mine. It actually makes me feel a bit better knowing they are being that thorough.

    I'm one of those whose public Whois information doesn't match my private information. I work from home and dislike having my home address out in public like that. But whatever contact information is in my Whois record is my contact information, meaning letters sent to the address on file will reach me.

    As long as a network clearly states what it needs from me to verify what it needs to verify, and as long as, as someone says, it doesn't include DNA samples etc I'm fine with it. It's all information that I am accustomed to providing as a business.

    I also don't mind a phone call, although I do prefer email.

  22. #22
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    I will say that we do a phone interview which helps us weed out most fraudulent apps. People who want to hide their identity tend to not answer the phone or give a wrong number.
    I'm going to disagree with that statement, because I never answer any phone for other reasons, and I don't have anything to hide from any merchant.

    When an honest affiliate joins any honest merchant, I don't see how can that merchant not be able to verify that the affiliate is, who that affiliate says HE or SHE is, without the need for a mandatory phone call.

    If the honest affiliate has a website, once the affiliate put the merchant link on that website, it's because that affiliate have the access to that website, and regardless of were they own the domain or not, and regardless if they own the domain and the whois it is made private or not, I don't see a valid reason for that affiliate, not to let that merchant know of a way to communicate at any time with them.

    Also, there will come the time when that affiliate has meet the minimum payment amount in order to get their first commission payment for that merchant, and if by that time the merchant has not have being able to verify who is that affiliate, I don't see a reason to pay that affiliate automatically just because that unidentifiable affiliate made some sales, but still don't want to be identified themselves to that merchant.

    I have noticed lately that a few merchants are complaining about bouncing emails, and that they can't communicate with some of their affiliates, so I think that one solution to a problem like that would be something like this:

    ---------
    Put a clause in your affiliate agreement that says something like this: that no affiliate will be paid until you can verify who the affiliate is, and unless they don't keep a current and working email address on file with you, they may see a delay in payment until they get in contact with you.
    ---------

    I don't know how the crooks can get away that easily with joining a regular merchant, and manage to get paid every month by that merchant, since by just following the money trail, I think that any merchant can find out more that way, than if they just call the phone number that a crook may use in the application to join the merchant.

    But anyway, that is just what I think, because to me a phone interview will never be an option for me to do anything.

    Sal.

  23. #23
    What's the word? Rhia7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Sal
    ... because to me a phone interview will never be an option for me to do anything.

    Sal.


    I don't think an affiliate relationship requires a phone interview.

    I've made money with Commission Junction & Linkshare: neither of those networks ever called me (yay).

    What if one of your affiliates gave you a home phone number but has a day job somewhere else? Receiving phone calls in some office settings can be really uncomfortable.

    If someone called me at home and said, "Hi, I'm Candy, I'm from the XYZ Network and I'd like to ask you a few things..."
    I wouldn't trust the stranger at the other end unless someone pre-arranged a convenient time via e-mail.

    I get way too many telemarketer calls, so I have an answering service. Most people who call must leave a message.

    Signing up with CJ & LS was exceptionally easy plus their sign-up pages were on secure servers. If there's too much of a velvet rope, I wonder why.
    ~Rhia7 -- Remember the 7
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  24. #24
    OOOPS just realized was an old POST, LOL GethsemeneRose's Avatar
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    Personally I would rather be open and have them check me. My wondering though is if that is what you are doing prior to deciding to approve me then what other thing could I have done to "not be approved" by other companiew. I have an open whois and am more than willing to give a phone or email interview. (personally if anyone steals my ID online they will be in worse shape than they are now) :P
    :gnome: [URL]www.gethsemenerose.com[/URL] :gnome: As for me and my SITE we shall serve the LORD!

  25. #25
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Nice to see a merchant AM policing their commission pool during the application process. Those applicants offering full disclosure upfront, with matching site contact info and whois info are normally 100% legit affiliate partners. With the growth of Blackhat CPA networks, those taking BHO PPCSE train rides, cookie stuffers and cookie cannons you need to police applicants. Out of the 24,000 registered ABWers there are only 200 active posters and few know who they really are. The rest are not just innocent lurkers as they troll this place for likely victims.

    I establish a repoire with each new verified affiliate applicant giving sound advice and link coding help. Heck I'll design a custom banner or landing page for them. Since 1998 I've never had to write one termination notice or challenge one affiliate sale reported. Never saw any SERP spamming or PPCSE trademark violations in 8 years. No affiliate has ever had a reversal, and no affiliate didn't convert 1 sale per 20 targeted clicks. So if the upfront verification and personalization process keeps me quiet, and the existing affiliates happy, and the merchant doubling legit affiliate sales every year ... why not verify?
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

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