How to Avoid Affiliate Marketing Scams? — The Ultimate Guide

First off, if you have been around the internet for a while, you most certainly have noticed that affiliate marketing is growing in popularity year after year. When you think about it is not at all surprising really, more people are tech-savvy nowadays, and they are turning to the web for buying their everyday goods.

Affiliate marketing as a whole is a legitimate industry, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. However, like many other industries, it is not full proof against scammers. Unfortunately, affiliate scams are a plague of affiliate marketing, so you have to be wary.

So, in this post, I will share some tips on how to avoid affiliate marketing scams and what you need to look for when choosing an affiliate program so you don’t fall prey to unscrupulous scammers.

Let’s take a look at some top affiliate scams currently going on within the affiliate space.

Top 6 Affiliate Scams to Be On the Lookout For:

(1) Upsells.

This one is quite a classic. You see it a lot on the Internet. Now, here is how it works. The scammers always start with low-priced items and claim that it is foolproof and you will make money with this product.

Then, once you bought the product in question, or just before you proceed through the checkout process, you get a pop-up window or redirected to another sales page where they offer a more expensive item.

Of course, they swear that with this other product, you will make money online faster, with less effort, and so forth.

Upselling: Do You Want Fries with That?

So, folks, this is what I called the constant upsells. The scammers usually start off with a lower-priced product and gradually make their way to a more expensive item.

Moreover, their sales pitch, is of course, that you need the more pricey item or service to be able to make money online. You end up spending maybe hundreds and hundreds of dollars on the goods, which are utterly worthless!

(2) Product with no Product or Service.

This is the infamous pyramid scheme. In fact, there is no product to sell except for the idea of making money online for others. You are just trying to get more people to sign up, and the only person making money is the person at the top of the pyramid!

(3) High Ticket Programs.

First, remember that it is not because a product is expensive; it is automatically a scam!

Here is how it usually works:

These shady characters claim that they have a revolutionary method. They have unearthed the secret of how to make loads of money online.

So, all you have to do is sign up for their limited, exclusive offer, of course! By doing so, you will then gain full access to their platform, their secret on how to make money online, some training videos, the ability to attend conferences, and in some cases, you will get training from a personal coach (the owner), usually a self-proclaimed guru!

Of course, all of this in exchange for a few thousand dollars! The only thing you will get is poorer of a few thousand dollars, so please don’t fall prey to those scammers!

(4) Get-Rich-Quick Scheme.

Now this one is as old as affiliate marketing is.

First off, you should know that there are no programs out there that allow you to make $1 million overnight. It simply doesn’t exist!

To be successful as an affiliate marketer, you need to put in much work and be dedicated; over time, it will pay off. So if anyone comes along and promises you that you can be rich overnight, please do me a favor and just run for the hills.

How to Avoid Affiliate Marketing Scams — Nametag Hello I Am Going to Make You Rich.

(5) Fake Training Courses.

This one often presents itself through a free-gift offer, but here is the catch, you have to pay for the shipping!

So, it would be something along these lines: sign up and get a free e-book, a training video, or the blueprint on how to make money online, and get as a thank you a gift!

However, you must pay for the shipping to get your ”free” gift! In the end, this is a clever way for the scammers to get your email address and your information, which they will use later to bombard you with offers and try to sell you more expensive products.

(6) Pay to Join Programs.

As a rule of thumb, most legitimate affiliate programs are free to join, or at the very least, they offer a free-trial period. If an affiliate program asks you to pay to sign up, please steer clear of those programs.

Newbies, Due Diligence, Please!

Here I have compiled a list of the nine most common mistakes often made by newbie affiliate marketers when first entering the affiliate space.

(1) New, Revolutionary Methods to Make Money Online, Don’t Be a Guinea Pig, Please!

Settle for proven methods, conventional methods, such as building a website, creating content that will attract visitors to your site, and then monetizing on that traffic through legitimate affiliate programs. It will take you longer to earn a passive income, but it will last over time.

(2) Coming into Affiliate Marketing with the Wrong Mindset.

I mean that newbies often look for ways to make money online and don’t fully understand what internet marketing is all about.

So, they don’t know what they are getting into and have unrealistic expectations or goals when making money online.

As a result, some novice affiliate marketers think they can make money online quickly and effortlessly. Nothing can be further from the truth.

If you want to be a successful online entrepreneur, it requires a tremendous amount of work, dedication, and perseverance! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your online business!

(3) Not Reading the Small Print!

Often newbies or even seasoned marketers alike sign up for an affiliate program, and they don’t read the fine prints, which are the terms and conditions of the affiliate program. You need to read the terms and conditions to know what you are getting yourself into! Otherwise, you might be kicked out of the program because you did not follow the rules.

Here is a trick that I use that allows me to read those fine prints. I copy and paste the terms and conditions document into Google docs and increase the font size so I can read the text.

(4) Shiny Syndrome Objects.

You have to remember that patience is critical when it comes to affiliate marketing. You’re not going to make money overnight. So do your research, find an affiliate program that suits you, and stick to it.

To succeed in the affiliate space, you need to stay focused on your goals and work hard. Don’t constantly move from one affiliate program to another because you are not making enough money and think this new program is better. You have to choose something and fully dedicate yourself to making it work.

Please don’t fall for what I call the shiny syndrome object by thinking that what you have is not good enough and that you need to get something better to succeed online. Your success online lies heavily on your hard work, dedication, and patience.

(5) Don’t Be Gullible.

Please don’t fall for the psychological marketing tricks, which is the oldest trick, in my opinion.

Scammers will try to trigger emotions on your part. Thus, some scammers will come up with sobbing stories such as: ”I was nearly destitute, I was living in my car, I hit rock bottom, but one day I came across this product, and it changed my life forever! Now, because of this product, I live in a mansion, own a luxurious car, and so on.” If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!

(6) Not Setting Realistic Goals.

Remember, you will build your business over time. You need to set goals that are achievable in the short, mid, and long term.

Don’t set unrealistic goals such as my website will rank on the first page of Google within a week, and I will be a millionaire within my first six months of being an online entrepreneur.

(7) Doing it Alone!

You can get so caught up in building your business or website that you forget all about the world around you and become isolated.

Instead of doing it alone, you should join an affiliate program that offers support through a well-minded community of fellow affiliate marketers like yourself. Then, if you ever get stuck, you can turn to the community and ask for help.

(8) Taking at Face Value the Testimonials and the Bank Statements.

Did you know that for about $5 on Fiverr, you can get people to say pretty much anything about a product? Yes, you can buy fake testimonials! You can find people on Fiverr that will make a video testimonial about your product. All you have to do is provide them with the script of what to say about the product!

As for the bank statements, remember that we live in a technological era. Thus, it’s very easy to doctor bank statements with Photoshop or any other editing software, so don’t take these statements at face value!

You might be shocked to learn that some unscrupulous scammers will go to great lengths to make their offers look legit. Remember, when it is too good to be true…it usually is!

By looking at independent reviews, research the web to learn more about the product or service you are interested in. Don’t make a decision solely based on the testimonials provided within the affiliate program.

Screenshot of a Webpage about Internet Scam.

(9) Don’t Ignore the Free Trials.

Many legitimate programs offer a free trial. So, why not take full advantage of this?

Do your research from the inside, if you will. Sign up and ask questions. Check out their support service. Test drive the program and look for any shortfalls. Interact with actual or former customers if you can. This way, you will learn more about the program in question.

You should always opt for a program that doesn’t request your credit information immediately or allows you to use PayPal for payment.

What to Look For in Affiliate Programs, Better Be Safe than Scammed!

How do you pick out the good affiliate programs from the scams? Well, I listed below the process that I go through to find out if the affiliate program I am interested in is legit or a pure scam:

(1) Google Search Suggest

The first thing I do is a Google search. I type in the name of the affiliate program in Google to get some suggested searches, as seen in the image below. From there, I do thorough research, read reviews, and contact people who have tried the product to better understand the affiliate program.

How to Avoid Affiliate Marketing Scams — Screenshot of a Google Search Suggest for Wealthy Affiliate.

(2) Lack of Support

I always try to contact someone from the affiliate program through support to ask questions and test their response time. If my email goes unanswered or it takes days before someone gets back to me, it shows poor customer support. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the program is a scam, but it raises a red flag about how they treat their affiliates.

(3) Look for Upsells

This is my favorite one! The scammers always play on your emotions by making you feel like a loser or that you are destined to fail if you don’t buy another product (more expensive), and use it as a pretext that you really need this product to earn a passive income online. If a program offers too many upsells, do me a favor and steer clear of that program!

(4) The Company’s Website 

Generally speaking, most legitimate affiliate programs will have a website. So, visit the site and look around to learn more about the affiliate program.

If the company does not have a website or it is poorly designed, or in plain terms, the site looks crappy, then I hit the back button quickly!

(5) The Commission Rate 

As you research affiliate programs, one of the first things to look for is the commission you will get for each sale you make. If the percentage is ridiculously high, don’t take it to face value; do further research.

However, be aware that not only scammers offer a high commission rate. There are legitimate affiliate programs that pay a very generous commission. So, to ensure that the commission rate is genuine, you should also look at their payment history to see if you get paid and pay on time.

(6) The FTC (Federal Trade Commission)

Check the FTC and other government agencies dealing with fraud to see if there have been any complaints about a particular program you are interested in.

Is There Any Legitimate Affiliate Marketing Opportunities Out There?

YES! Loads of affiliate programs are legit within the affiliate marketing space! One such affiliate program is Wealthy Affiliate.

Okay, still not convinced about the legitimacy of the program! No problem! Let’s run the Wealthy Affiliate program through my ”checklist” mentioned above to see if Wealthy Affiliate is a legit way to make money online.

The first thing to do is a Google search to see what people say about Wealthy Affiliate. Thus, before joining, look at reviews to learn more about the program, and check out the discussion forums online to see what people have to say about WA.

Then visit the Wealthy Affiliate website. Sign up for a free trial and take a tour inside the WA platform.

Get in touch with other WA members and fellow affiliate marketers, ask them questions and get their input. The Wealthy Affiliate platform offers exceptional support and their response time is usually under 10 minutes, quite unheard-of in the affiliate industry!

The best part about Wealthy Affiliate is that there are no upsells! You have two levels of membership. The first one, the Starter member, is FREE and offers limited access to the platform, and the second one is a premium membership that enables you to get full access to this elite marketing platform!

Furthermore, the WA platform offers all the affiliate tools needed to create, grow, and manage your online business in ONE place!

Wealthy Affiliate has been in business for over 15 years (since 2005), so it is not a get-rich-quick scheme. They offer GENUINE training courses about internet marketing and affiliate tools to help you create your online business.

Don’t just take my words for it. Try it for free and test drive the Wealthy Affiliate Platform.

As for the affiliate program offered by Wealthy Affiliate, it is quite a generous one! The commission rate is 50%. Furthermore, I have been a member of WA for a while now, and there have never been any issues with the commission payments, and you ALWAYS get paid on time!

The last thing to do before signing up for Wealthy Affiliate is to visit the FTC website and check out if there are any issues regarding WA or customers’ complaints.

Here, take a look at the screenshot below:

Screenshot of the Result for Wealthy Affiliate Program on FTC Website.

As you can see, I couldn’t find anything related to the Wealthy Affiliate program!

So, there you have it, the process you need to follow to avoid affiliate scams. Due diligence is vital, don’t sign up for affiliate programs on an impulse!

My Final Thoughts

So before I leave today, I just want to reiterate one more time that affiliate marketing is a legitimate business.

However, like any other business, YES, unscrupulous people are looking to get their hands on your hard-earned money!

Don’t let that be a deterrent that prevents you from becoming an affiliate marketer.

How to Avoid Affiliate Marketing Scams — Computer Keyboard with Red Scam Buttons and Magnifying Glass.

After reading this post, you are now well-equipped to spot scammers from a mile away. Just do your homework by following the advice and tips provided here, and you won’t fall prey to scammers!

If you are ready to take the jump into the affiliate space and become an affiliate marketer, well, you should take a look at my #1 recommendation when it comes to building and managing a successful online business!

If you have any questions or would like to share your experiences with affiliate marketing, by all means, leave me a comment below and let’s start the discussion!

10 thoughts on “How to Avoid Affiliate Marketing Scams? — The Ultimate Guide”

  1. Thanks for this post. It’s a reminder even for us affiliate marketers. I had stumbled upon many of these scams when I was looking for a way to earn money, so I know all about it.

    These names are unknown to me, so it’s good that I saw them tell others about them. Since I found out about WA, I have been in it, and I see the results of hard work.

    Affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. You need to work hard for it. No business will give you money in just a few days. People need to recognize that.

    • I agree with you that the get-rich-quick scheme always sounds too good to be true, so you have to stay clear from those offers. 

      Because like in life, everything that is worthed you need to work hard to get it!

  2. This was a great article, Sonia. I’m a newbie in affiliate marketing, so the tips for watching out for scammers were very helpful. I’ve actually come across a few of those before. If you aren’t sure what you’re looking for and have no experience, it’s easy to fall victim to them. I’m thankful I came across Wealthy Affiliate. I wasn’t so sure about them either until I checked for reviews and tried the free membership. It was definitely worth upgrading to premium.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Well, thank you, Jasmine, and welcome to the affiliate marketing world! 

      I can relate, I have been burned by scammers in the past, so I am always very wary and do extensive research before committing as you did before joining Wealthy Affiliate.

      Keep up with the training and building your online business, if you ever need help with anything, please let me know and I will be more than happy to help you out!

  3. Thank you for this wonderful piece of Information, I so much feel for a whole lot of internet users who still fall victim of all this affiliate scammers online, you have stated virtually almost all the strategies they use in exhorting people.

    Genuine affiliate programs are free to join and require no amount at startup and are never a get rich scheme.

    • Right you are! If what you offer is genuine, then you don’t have anything to be afraid of. Therefore, you will be more inclined to offer a free trial and let people learn more about your affiliate program and figure out if that’s what they are looking for!

      On the other hand, if your program is a scam the last thing you want is to offer a free trial! 

  4. This is excellent advice! I especially resonated with the shiny object syndrome. I am still suffering from it more than 2 years in and despite making consistent income month after month in this space, I am still shifting and changing my mind often and feel very unsettled about my direction. 

    One thing I decided to do recently is to commit mostly to ONE website and create an editorial calendar as well as literally plot out the exact times I will be working on my business. I printed off my monthly google calendar and looked ahead at least a month at a time and mark in what posts I will do on what days, so I always know what I am doing ahead of time. 

    This is a new strategy for me (and something I know I should have done ages ago, but was splitting my time and energy between 4 websites and was pretty all of the place.) I think I am getting more settled now and much more goal orientated when it comes to creating content. 

    Thanks for the pep talk here and the reminder of what is important!!

    • Well, I am a big fan of the Google calendar as well as the Excel spreadsheets! I find that it helps me stay organized and goal-oriented.

      Wow, I must say 4 websites, doesn’t leave much time for anything else… You most certainly need to have a system to keep your online business running smoothly!

      Thanks for stopping by.

  5. These are great tips you mention about avoiding scams. I’ve come so close to falling for multiple online scams and it was because I didn’t read the fine print until right before checkout. 

    I have always been a skeptic, so after the first scam almost got me, I started doing my research. You’re right, times have changed and it’s getting harder to tell what’s a scam and what’s not just by looking at things like site design and grammar.

    I noticed that you mention Wealthy Affiliate is legit, but how is this training different than any of the others that are legitimate? Does Wealthy Affiliate offer more detailed training? Or has it just been around longer?

    • Well, to answer your first question about the training offered by Wealthy Affiliate, YES, the training is very comprehensive, and this is mainly what sets Wealthy Affiliate apart from the rest of the Affiliate program out there. The WA platform provides a wide range of training courses, including the entrepreneur certification and the Bootcamp training courses as well as email marketing, PPC (Pay per click), video marketing to name only a few. If you are interested in learning more, my Wealthy Affiliate review.

      Wealthy Affiliate has been around since 2005, and I don’t think that I would have lasted all those years if Wealthy Affiliate is a scam. The WA platform is not going anywhere anytime soon! Kyle and Carson (owners of WA) are in the affiliate marketing for years to come! Usually, the modus operandi of scammers is not to stick around for long, all they want is to make money fast and then disappeared with it!


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