Top Affiliate Marketing Scams

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Affiliate marketing is an industry filled to the brim with scams, frauds, cons, and other synonyms of the word. Oftentimes, these scams are cleverly made and marketed. Believe me, some scams are extremely well made. So, you’re probably wondering how to avoid affiliate marketing scams. Have no fear, friend! The affiliate marketing industry is only continuing to grow.  It is huge.  As more and more people move their spending online, as more and more people become aware of affiliate marketing, people naturally are looking for affiliate marketing training programs/software/help.

There are a lot of very legitimate companies, brands and people within the affiliate marketing space.  Unfortunately there are also a lot of affiliate marketing scams out there as well.  This is the natural process

(1) Upsell Funnels.

Affiliate Marketers reason with themselves saying that it is “normal” and “industry status quo” to offer upsells to people within their programs.  They compare it to the like of McDonalds asking, “do you want fries with that”.

The problem is though that you are getting part of the puzzle, not the entire thing and in order to build the entire puzzle you need to keep spending more and more money.  An upsell to get another program that you “need”, an upsell to get websites/hosting, an upsell to get a tool, and upsell to get support.

Shouldn’t all of this stuff be included in the actual product itself?  I believe so.  Instead of creating one quality product that includes everything, you have folks selling 4-5 lower quality products/services that makes up something decent (if you are prepared to buy everything).

It is one of the most common affiliate marketing scams and one that is taking place literally everywhere.  If you pay for a product and the first thing they want you to do is pay for another product, run for the hills.

(2) Companies Selling Your Information to Solicitors.

Some of the biggest name gurus have been caught doing this and it is still going on.  You purchase a product through one company/person, perhaps this could be a low ticket purchase.

The next thing they do is hand over your details to an agency that will solicit mentorship type programs to you(usually several $1,000) and pressure you into buying into them.  They take the approach that they are “involved” with the company you made the initial purchase from the legitimize the offer.

The owner of the initial product gets a cut.  So does the company that has been given your information and sold you on the mentoring (usually a 50/50 split).

Be careful about this happening and if you ever receive a call from a company trying to sell you mentoring or any type of related service, do yourself a huge favor and hang up!

(3) Affiliate Programs That Don’t Pay.

Yes, believe it or not there are still companies out there that will offer you an affiliate program, allow you to make sales and then when it comes time to paying you, they make it next to impossible.

I personally have only had this happen a few times in my 14 years online, but it is something that you should be aware of can happen.  In fact I was owed $11,500 for two years before a company finally ponied up and paid the outstanding commissions (was a voIP Internet phone company).

Also, on occasion the reason the company will not be able to pay their commissions is because they end up going out of business. Make sure that you know the track record of the company before you get too involved with them.

(4) Products With No Product.

There are many programs out there these days that are claiming to be affiliate marketing opportunities when in actuality their product is based on promoting the very same product, without any actual tangible services involved.

These are very “pyramid like” and they are becoming more common places as the MLM world tries to head into the affiliate marketing space and try to create “legitimate” services.  Unfortunately these are built to make the founders and the early adopters rich and rely on other people “losing” money in order to work.

If you join a product for the sole purpose of promoting that product and you are getting the people that you promote that product to, to do the exact same thing…then you are part of a program that is operating in the shape of  triangle.

If you are involved in a program that relies on you buying into the program, upgrading to more expensive tiers, and then promoting the same program to others, run for the hills.

(5) High Ticket Programs

Paying a lot for something doesn’t make it a scam.  Paying too much for something and taking advantage of people’s “hope” and financial vulnerabilities is.  There are many companies out there that claim the only way to build an ultra successful business online is through selling LESS product at a much HIGHER price.

The logic is that it is easier to get 10 people to buy something at $1,000 than it is to sell 1,000 items at $10.  The logic also is that if you have fewer customers, these companies have fewer people to “muffle” from their complaints.

At the end of the day you are not getting any more value by spending $2,000-3,000 on a program that you are $20-30 typically, other than the perceived value might be higher for you because you paid WAY TO MUCH.

Some of the most common high ticket programs these days are:

  • High Ticket Mentoring
  • High Ticket Courses
  • High Ticket Masterminds
  • High Ticket Conferences

Never be lead to believe that because you are paying lots for something, it is going to be of higher value in the affiliate marketing industry.  Quite the contrary.  You are likely being scammed if you are paying several thousands for information in this industry.

(6) Get My Book Free, Just Pay the Shipping.

You have likely seen these offers out there.  You buy a book that a company/author has published.  They claim

These sorts of offers have been in the affiliate/internet marketing space for many years.  You need to think to yourself though, what reason would lead someone to write a book, spend the money/time publishing it, only to give it away for free?

First, they want to be able to tout the “sales” of their book.  Although these are ‘artificially’ generated sales in a sense, these companies want to be able to use their “top seller” status for their book even though they gave it away for free.

Second, there is no money in them giving away their book.  They will set up shipping at a price point that covers the cost of publishing their books.  They are going to use your mailing information and your contact details to present you with other offers.  Often times these are in the $1,000’s.  Often times there are instant upsells and OTO (one time offers) as well.

Lastly, these books are often times overtly promotional for the companies respective brand, products and services that they offer.

Be careful and if you ever see an offer like this in the affiliate marketing or internet marketing industry, question the motives.  They are usually to turn YOU into a profit engine for their company by selling much more expensive stuff for you.

7. Get Rich Quick Claims

This is pretty obvious. We’ve all heard it it at one point or another:

  • “Get started now and make $150 in your first 24 hours!”
  • “Make $10,000 in 2 months using this program!”
  • “Sign up and make $100 in an hour with this trick!”
*Obligatory cartoon.* This is actually incredibly true in essence.

You get the idea. This is where the affiliate marketing industry gets it’s bad reputation from.

This sign really burns my britches. Look, we all wanna be rich instantly. It’s a core desire, and fortunately for scammers, it appeals to everyone. For a marketer, what could be a better demographic?

Most of these scammers are known as ‘gurus’ in the industry. Even though they’re shady. they’re still very good at what they do. When you see a sales page showing how much cash the author makes in a day, that boasting is probably true. They likely do make that much.

And they only got to that point after years of learning and experience! Actually, that’s not some fact I’m proud of mentioning. Most of those sales pages make it clear how hard it was for the creators… right before going on to say it’s possible to get there in a day.

This is from the sales page of a product I recently reviewed. As you might have guessed, those daily earnings are nowhere near practical.

That’s how you know you’re being cheated. No one who just got through years of hardship would say they have a way to skip it all. This kind of false promise preys on those desperate not to work.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to make money through affiliate marketing, but thinking you can make 200 smackers a day with a bogus technique is just being unrealistic.

Think about it, would these guys really give away their secret to success for $20 (around that range)? Of course not, which brings me to the next sign…

Upsells, Upsells, Upsells!

I repeated the headline thrice! So you have to pay 3x as much attention!

You know what really grinds my gears? Upsells. For those who don’t know, upsells are basically more expensive offers thrown on you after you buy a cheap product.

Upsells are the one defining factor of a scam. After a sales page promises you untold riches for 30 bucks, then forces a $100 upsell on you, it’s time to walk away.  Just, the nerve they have saying there’s more to what they promised would be the only thing to buy!

The trouble with upsells is a lot of products only tell you about them after you buy! Pretty sneaky, huh?

A sales funnel made of upsells. You basically get your cash sucked outta you like a Dementor sucks your soul.

These upsells are the building block of a ‘sales funnel.’ Put simply, as you buy more products, more and more are thrust upon you. Eventually you end up spending a 1000 greenbacks on what you thought was $10 technique! See the damage upsells cause?

It’s important to mention that not all upsells are bad. A simple membership upgrade from a free trial is not an upsell. Using Amazon Prime in not an upsell. Upsells are full of false promises.

Always look around and see if a product has upsells before spending. If it does, just leave.

Done for You

This sign really ruffles my feathers. And I don’t even have feathers to ruffle in the first place!

So you’re a total internet novice who just happened to find this amazingly tempting sales page. If you’re anything like I was, chances are you’d immediately notice one of these phrases:

  • Completely done for you!
  • Just copy and paste!
  • No work needed!

This is the kind of talk that makes newbies salivate (er, not that I would know). Especially when compounded with the common ‘even newbies can do this’ exaggeration. I remember thinking,

“Wow! It’s so easy to make money online!” I wish it were, Makki, I wish it were.

But this is also exactly the kind of talk that assures a careful observer that this purchase isn’t worth it. How on Earth could anyone make money just copy and pasting? It contradicts the laws of physi- business! Laws of business.

I recently reviewed a product that promised a ready made website and hundreds of dollars a day in eBook sales. Sounds cool, right? In reality, the website was a simple landing page. How is a newbie supposed to get traffic?

‘Done for you’ are the words you need to avoid. More generally, anything that assures you that you don’t have to work hard or wait a long time to make a quick clam (I’m using up all of my dollar synonyms here) is  just not worth a purchase.

Extra: Testimonials?!

That’s right! I said I’d give you 3 signs, but you’re getting an extra one! It’s totally not because I wanted a longer article or anything. Um, let’s forget I wrote that and move on, OK?

Anyway, if you’ve ever been on a sales page, you’ve surely seen the testimonials. These are where some allegedly real customers share their successes with the product.

Now, these can be pretty damn convincing, since real accounts are relatable  and often are marked ‘real.’ But sadly, some of these, I should say most, aren’t real at all.

F***! Yeah, I said the F word! These guys are fake! Don’t be mislead!

The fact is, if you see a positive review of a product that otherwise looks scammy, it’s probably paid. If you’re seeing extraordinarily positive testimonials on a sales page, then be aware that they might be bogus. There’s no way to prove their authenticity.

And if you see a video testimonial, know that there’s a whole industry of actors specializing in testimonials.

Look at this guy! He doesn’t even hide it! The nerve of this guy and his $5 fabrications. Why I oughta…

If you’re reading a full positive review on another website, then keep in mind that the reviewer could be trying to score some commissions by getting you to buy the product. It pays better than a truthful, negative review, right?

But just hold on! Not all testimonials ever are fake. Most indeed are, but if you see a product that otherwise checks out, there’s no reason to doubt the reviews.

Decisive Discernment!! Reader Takes Watch!!!

These 3 (ahem, 4) signs will go a long way in helping you fend off scams. Remember, always try to read as much reviews as possible to be sure that you’re not being played. I shamelessly recommend my reviews, if you want a bona fide, certified opinion.


A saying I recall that’s relevant here is, ‘when in doubt, throw it out.’

OK, that’s for rotten food, but it works here quite nicely! Don’t forget that scammers can be very believable. I’ve been fooled by some of the most authentic looking people you can find.

Thankfully, There is Hope For Affiliate Marketing.

In is not all bad, in fact it is mostly “good” in the affiliate marketing industry.

Where there is money to be made, there are people that are trying to take advantage of others though.   That is the unfortunate part of the business world.   However, not all companies operate their business in this way and there are a lot of “shining stars” within the affiliate marketing world and people that truly care, that push the industry in a positive direction, and then continue to work to evolve and truly help folks within this space.

There are A LOT of legitimate affiliate programs.    Do your due diligence, research a program before you join and if the product is legitimate and they have a good track record, chances are the affiliate program is legit.

There are a lot of legitimate affiliate networks.   To name a few,,, amazon associates, and the ebay affiliate network.  There are literally 100’s of affiliate networks out there, many of which are high quality and you usually do not have to worry about

There are a A LOT of legitimate affiliate marketing training programs.   I have personally been helping people for close to 11 years in this space.   If you ever need a hand, I can coach you personally within the Wealthy Affiliate community (where you have everything you need to create, grow and manage your business online).  No upsells.  No high ticket.  Just straight up training, tools, websites, hosting, support and networking

You can check out the other quality programs that I recommend in the industry under “The Good” section in my top menu.

There are a lot of legitimate affiliate marketing tools.   These range from stats tools like Google Analytics (which is completely free), to keyword research platforms like, and

And there are a lot of people that care your affiliate marketing business.   There are lots of good guys in the industry.  A good way to determine this is if you actually get a response from the founders of the company and they are not constantly blasting you with “one way messages” (with little to no response to the feedback).

So although there are a lot of scams in the affiliate marketing industry, there are a lot of programs that will truly help you and your business.  The opportunity within the affiliate marketing space only continues to grow with each day that passes.  You can literally promote MILLIONS of different products as an affiliate and carve out your business within any niche that you want.

There is hope.

Before I leave you today, I want to open the communication with you here.  If you have any affiliate marketing experiences that have left you feeling as though you have just been “scammed”, please leave them below.  Let’s start a discussion and keep the affiliate marketing industry a safe place for all of us to co-exist!

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