Affiliates who create multiple accounts in your program, are a real pain and can be hard to detect. If you run a partner program, the last thing you want is to pay the same person twice, eventually putting your transactions at a loss. While in an ideal world, we all want to see our partner programs running smoothly, unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for dishonest affiliate partners to abuse the system.
This article will explore how affiliates can abuse the partner program by creating multiple accounts and why it’s bad for the business owner. We will also discuss how this practice can harm your business and what concrete steps can be taken to prevent it.
So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!
In what ways can affiliate partners cheat?
Affiliate marketing is a popular and effective way for businesses to expand their reach and increase sales. However, with lucrative income always comes certain risks.
Unethical partners can use various tactics to cheat the program and earn commissions they are not entitled to. Rigging the system can be done in many ways:
- Self-referral: Some affiliates will create multiple accounts and refer themselves to earn commissions on their own purchases or to earn a “new affiliate” bonus.
- Click fraud: It’s possible to artificially inflate the number of clicks on referral links by using automated programs or fake traffic to earn more commissions, which some people do.
- Link cloaking: Other affiliates use link cloaking to hide the true destination of their referral links so they can earn commissions on sales they did not generate.
- Spamming: Another way for affiliates to cheat is to use spamming tactics to promote their referral links, such as sending unsolicited emails or messages to potential customers.
- Creating multiple accounts: This will be our topic of discussion – certain affiliates will create multiple accounts to earn multiple commissions, also known as “double dipping.” They can do it for various reasons – bypassing the cap limit of earnings per partner, earning multiple commissions at once, or bypassing the GEO location limit. Ever since online affiliate businesses started growing, it’s been a global problem – affiliates who try to abuse the system by registering multiple accounts.
Of course, the list is incomplete, and there are many more creative ways an affiliate can abuse the partner program.
It is important for business owners to constantly check their partner programs, detect and prevent these types of abuses, and maintain the program’s integrity to prevent it from harming their business.
Affiliate program owners must be aware of the potential for abuse and take steps to protect their programs from fraudulent activities. Businesses can keep their partner programs honest and use the power of affiliate marketing as long as they understand the problem and take effective steps to fix it.
How to detect multiple affiliate accounts automatically?
The fastest and easiest method is to use advanced partner software, such as Scaleo, which includes a fraud detection module that works in the background.
This built-in module for automatically flagging duplicate and fraudulent accounts can be extremely useful to prevent multiple account creation and cheating in your partner program, giving you greater control, security, and transparency.
Scaleo software is designed to detect and flag potential multiple and fraudulent accounts, analyzing each registered account against various factors at once – using:
- IP tracking
- User Device, Browser, OS
- Email verification
- Traffic source / HTTP referrer
- Referral codes
- and other factors.
Each of these parameters is subjected to comprehensive analysis using dozens of different measurement points and checked for the presence of both internal and global blacklists.
The results are displayed as a percentage in all reports for admin and manager accounts, with 0% representing minimum risk and 100% representing a maximum risk of fraud.
Scaleo constantly monitors your referral program for signs of suspicious activity in the background and automatically displays a red flag near potentially duplicate accounts. The decision to reject leads rests with the manager or admin accounts.
Scaleo’s user-friendly interface makes it simple for you to manage your partner program and provides detailed reporting on the performance of your affiliates, including information on clicks, conversions, and commissions earned.
It’s an all-in-one tool that combines affiliate tracking, management, and billing into one easy dashboard.
However, if you don’t use Scaleo, you can also work manually to prevent affiliate fraud, and today we will break down all the major steps you can take to prevent partners from creating multiple accounts.
1 – Implement IP tracking
This can help identify and prevent partners from creating multiple accounts using different email addresses but all from the same IP address. This is the most commonly used way of weeding out fraud.
With that being said, although implementing IP tracking is one of the most popular ways to prevent affiliate cheating, it is not foolproof, because IP can be bypassed using a proxy or a VPN.
If you wish to use IP address tracking as a reference, here’s what you can do to minimize the chances of affiliates cheating:
- Use a reliable IP tracking service to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date.
- Track IP addresses across all account creation, and affiliate link clicks (including clients / buyers accounts). This will give you a complete picture of the affiliate’s activities and make it easier to spot suspicious behavior.
- Use IP blocking and if you detect an affiliate using multiple similar IP addresses to create multiple accounts, you can block a range of those IP addresses to prevent further abuse by blocking a group of IPs, such as 123.45.67.X.
- Monitor connections generally for VPN and proxy use, as some partners may try to cheat by using VPNs or proxies to mask their real IP addresses. Blocking VPN and proxy usage altogether can help you identify and prevent this type of cheating.
It is important to note that IP tracking is just one of the tools that can indicate affiliate cheating. This should be combined with other measurements, such as email verification and referral codes, to give you a more comprehensive view of an affiliate’s activities.
2 – Use business email verification
Technically, you can easily ensure that each partner only has one account by requiring email verification through business emails (i.e., [email protected]). Although this will prevent people from creating mass accounts using Gmail, MSN, or even disposable email addresses, this is far from being bulletproof, because, let’s face it – most people have several email addresses at their disposal, even hosted on business domains.
What can you do?
- Always require email verification for all new accounts; this will at least ensure that each affiliate only has one account associated with a unique email address.
- Send a unique verification link because it will prevent the reuse of the same link for multiple accounts.
- Prohibit disposable email addresses. Some affiliates may try to create multiple accounts using disposable email addresses, so prohibiting them may automatically reduce the load of such fraud. You will need to constantly update the database of blacklisted domains to keep it fresh and up-to-date.
- Consider using any double opt-in process: For example, using a combination of email address verification and Twitter account login. This way, you can confirm that the email address is valid and belongs to an affiliate, not a fake one.
3 – Use referral codes
Assign each partner a unique referral code and require them to provide it when signing up for a new account. This will help you track which affiliate is responsible for each account. This is ideal when using a 2nd tier MLM partner program, but it might be a burden for very busy partner programs.
How can you use referral codes to minimize the chances of partners creating multiple accounts?
- Assign unique referral codes to each affiliate, as this will help you track which affiliate is using which account.
- Require referral codes to be entered during account registration. That way, only partners with valid referral codes can create new accounts.
- Monitor for the reuse of referral codes. If an affiliate is caught creating multiple accounts using the same referral code, they are likely cheating.
- Consider using referral code tracking software, such as Scaleo. Affiliate software allows you to track the origin of the referral code or partner and to monitor the performance of the affiliate who provided the referral code; this will give you a more detailed view of the affiliate’s activities.
4 – Have a strict policy in place
Clearly communicate to your partners that creating multiple accounts is not allowed, and you have a procedure to detect and penalize violators.
Writing a strict partner program policy can help prevent members from creating multiple accounts. Here are a few key elements to include in your policy:
- Clearly state that creating multiple accounts is prohibited. Make it clear that it is not allowed and that violators will be penalized.
- Explain the consequences of violating the policy. Clearly outline the consequences of creating multiple accounts, such as disabling the account, revoking commissions, and potentially banning the member from the partner program.
- Make this policy easy to access. Make sure the policy is easily accessible to all members, such as prominently displayed on your website or within the partner program portal. Ensure it is reviewed by all new members when they sign up for the program.
- Regularly review and update the policy to ensure it is up-to-date and relevant.
Example of a partner program ToS and policy
Here is an example of how a partner program policy should look, outlining the key points discussed above. Just copy and paste it into your partner program!
Partner Program Policy: Prohibited Multiple Accounts Creation
Welcome to our partner program! We are excited to have you as a member and look forward to working with you to promote our products and services. As a member of our program, you must abide by the following policy, which prohibits the creation of multiple accounts.
Prohibition of Multiple Accounts: Creating multiple accounts is strictly prohibited and violates our partner program policy. Any member found to have created multiple accounts will be subject to penalties, including disabling the account, revoking commissions, and potentially being banned from the partner program.
Methods of Detection: We use a variety of methods to detect multiple accounts, including IP tracking, email verification, and referral codes. By participating in our partner program, you agree to comply with these detection methods.
Consequences of Violation: If a member is found to have violated this policy by creating multiple accounts, the following actions will be taken:
- The member’s account will be disabled immediately.
- Any commissions earned through the use of multiple accounts will be revoked.
- Members may be banned from the partner program at the discretion of program managers.
Reporting Suspicious Activity: We encourage all members to report any suspicious activity they come across, such as multiple accounts being created using the same IP address or referral code. If you suspect that a member is creating multiple accounts, please contact us immediately.
Accessibility and Review: This policy is easily accessible to all members and should be reviewed by all new members when they sign up for the program. The policy is regularly reviewed and updated to ensure they are up-to-date and relevant.
By participating in our partner program, you agree to abide by this policy and any updates made to it. We appreciate your cooperation in maintaining the integrity of our program.”
It is important to note that this is just an example, and it should be tailored to your company’s and country’s specific requirements and regulations.
Remember to have a strategy in place to handle violators: Once you have identified an affiliate cheating through IP tracking, referral codes, email addresses, or device ID – it is important to have a pre-designed system in place to handle the violator. This could include disabling their account, revoking any earned commissions, and potentially banning them from your partner program.
The main conclusion you should arrive at is that you should monitor your partner program closely at all times. Even if you choose partners carefully and board them individually, you still cannot rely blindly on their uniqueness because fraud can come in many different shapes and forms.
Check for signs of multiple account creation on a regular basis, such as unusual activity patterns, suspiciously spammy account names, IPs, ISPs, the use of VPN or disposable email addresses, suspicious spikes in earned commissions or traffic — and take appropriate action.
It is important to note that all of the above are common ways to prevent partners from creating multiple accounts, but it is not foolproof, so it is important to have an automated system in place to detect and handle violators.
If you have a busy partner program and want to automate fraud detection – try Scaleo free for 14 days; no credit card is required!