What’s affiliate marketing? Should I care?

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Many of the ads you see online are created by marketers who are paid each time you click on their ad. And if that click takes you to a website where you sign up to try a product or you make a purchase, the marketer may get paid even more. These are affiliate marketers. They are hired by the owner of the product to promote it on social media, on websites, and through email. Sometimes networks of affiliate marketers negotiate the rate marketers will get paid per click, per sign-up to try the product, and per purchase. Everyone from the merchant to the affiliate marketers gets a cut. And all these people may be tracking you, too, just from that one first click.

Affiliate marketing is a good way to promote a product or service as long as the ad is truthful. The problem is that some dishonest affiliate marketers put out ads with exaggerated claims or misleading information to get people to click. They may say anything to get you to click on their ad because they have an incentive – getting paid. Check out the infographic we created to explain this.

Sometimes deceptive ads could be bait for a scam. Take, for example, a low-cost trial scam that the FTC stopped recently. People who clicked on ads placed by affiliate marketers for a “free” trial ended up on a website that offered the product trial for $1.03. That amount is not much, but it’s not free. In fact, people who bought the trial for $1.03 ended up being charged almost $200 monthly for a second product they didn’t even want. We explained what happened in this infographic.

So, the next time you see an online ad, pause before clicking. Ask yourself:

  • How do I know who’s truly behind the ad?
  • Do I know if they’re being truthful? Is someone being paid to get me to click?
  • Who is tracking me when I click on the ad? And who is getting that information about me?

And if the ad says one price, but when you click on it you land on a website that says something else, you may have landed on a scam. No matter what, check your bills to be sure you’re not being scammed.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Comments

Good information. I also receive pop-up windows. How can I stop Pop-ups.

How can i check one out if they pop-up, and i need too use one?

Thank you.

Funny you should mention the teeth whitener free sampler scam. I did that one several years ago, and it cured me of doing any more "free samples". I don't trust any of them any more.

I've been shopping online for over 15 years, but Free Samples is the only area where I have ever had a serious problem.

Admittingly and stupidly, I fell for this low cost trial scam several times before I realized it was a scam when I began to get charges to my bank account from the scammers. However, I was fortunately able to turn in the scam to the fraud dept of my bank and was reimbursed the charges. So, monitor your bank statement regularly to look for suspicious charges and report them, if not legitimate.

I'm glad you reported it to your bank and they were able to help. You can report this to us too at www.ftc.gov/complaint.

Ver y informative

Thanks for the information! I am totally frustrated by the un-ending popup ads.

I did just that and now I don't know if I will ever get my order. Facebook had a site and I jumped on it. DressLily is probably a scam. I read the reviews on Facebook after I placed an order. Really stupid of me. Most were saying it is a scam and what they got was inferior products. It's from China, you can't call them. I did get a reply from them that my product has already shipped. I tried to cancel my payment from them but they were so fast. I learned a valuable lesson.

I got screwed over by wish.com also from china n lil girl was babysitting downloaded their app n ordered $300worth. Of junk because ordered once and card info

I was a victim of this exact scam. The only reason why I was successful in having my credit card restored, and my "customer number," deleted was because I wrote to the FTC as it is recommended in the emails that everyone receives from the FTC E-mail list of which I am a recipient of emails from the FTC, and they helped me with this exact situation that I embarrassingly tried. Thank you for restoring my money and my not being a victim of this problem. I am very grateful for this site and the award winning professionals who research countless types of illegal and scamming individuals who could ruin your life.

What actions does your organization take against this practice?

If the ad is truthful, there's no problem. But, the FTC does investigates unfair and deceptive advertising. You can see blogs related to advertising actions here.

I found the perfect way to avoid this type of scam. DON'T CLICK ON THOSE ADS! Between the scams & phishing schemes, I don't trust anyone I don't know.

What a waste of time!

l been scam thomas lupian,walter kosch robert pioso,allen karr from americn rsort lnternational,ltd,allias american resort network oyesterbay beach resort,pearl development nv,concord sevices lnc.sterling bank and trustco. lnterval lnternational trave,st.marten resort in antilles,south america,and the netherlands.

This is a way over-simplified description of affiliate marketing that makes it sound like all affiliate marketers are only out to scam people. That's plain ridiculous. Every major media outlet from The New York Times to the Washington Post engages in affiliate marketing. If you like something a lot and want to tell people about it, what's wrong with getting paid to share your honest opinion?

network of affiliate marketing related companies that make money from "free" trial products: Ad Exchange Group, Push Innovation, Push Innovation Live, Chargeback360

This over simplifed example is a pretty poorly written as the author clearly did not do the research on this or talk to any company or industry professionals. Every single brand you interact with or see on TV has an affiliate program. To characterize this $1 billion per year industry in this light on the FTC blog shouldn't happen and is an insult and a disservice to every single affiliate company and employee that works in the industy. Every single industry from doctors to lawyers to salesman to As Seen on TV products have good and bad portions. I feel like the FTC blog has a responsibility to be truthful to consumers and an obligation to understand any concepts and business models spoken about on their blog and website. Any good blog post or writer should speak factually about both sides of said debate, consult and reference industry professionals and focus on examples of best practices. Step up your content FTC.

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