buckworks - 10:49 pm on Sep 14, 2010 (gmt 0)
Affiliate commission theft is difficult for small affiliates to identify, even harder to prove, and it's easy to get embroiled in paranoia that sucks time away from profitable activity.
I deal with the issue (which I firmly believe is real) by being selective about the merchants I promote, and also by giving preference to those who provide the best return on the traffic I send them.
I don't have the technical skills to monitor for multiple kinds of evil-doing, but profit in my pocket measured against traffic sent is a straightforward metric to base decisions on.
If one merchant is performing poorly with my traffic you can bet I'll start testing someone else.
several million referrals, not a single cent in payment
Using my metric it wouldn't have taken several million referrals to spot that there was a problem.
stopped all affiliate action as soon as realising how much of a rip-off it all was
There are good merchants out there, I will personally attest to that.
affiliate ads were routed through my ad agent, and shown when they had no stock to serve.
Whatever else might have been right or wrong in your situation, targeting like that is unlikely to perform well at the best of times.