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However, in that case, of course they'd be putting in their own contact information, so you'd not know about it unless the merchant actually went through your site to contact you direct.
Can it hurt you? Not in any particular way I can see, unless you have existing relationships with these merchants that might get confused.
It can hurt you.
I've been the victim of affiliate fraud for several months. A HUGE Chinese affiliate fraud ring has signed up for hundreds of affiliate programs using my good name, site, whois and my well established reputation. They do it with lots of other sites as well.
Why? Well I won't go into it all, so as not to educate anyone else that wants to pull this scam but in a nutshell...
They know since they are in China they probably can't get approved for most programs. They also don't want to use real identity cuz all their transactions are fraudulent. So they pretend they are someone else to get approved. Then after a month or so, or when it's about check cutting time, they switch the pay to address to one of several mail forwarding accounts they have in the US.
I got one mail forwarding service to cooperate with me and they held and collected their mail for about a month - then returned the money to the affiliate programs and networks. They earned money from TONS of different programs using numerous people's names not just mine. The mail company collected about 50 checks in that one month and that was only one of many mail boxes these guys have all over the US. Not a single sale or lead was valid but they are earning a TON of money. I tried getting the FBI involved to no avail.
Not sure if it can hurt your site per say. But it can be a pain, a time eater and can hurt your rep. Many of you know me in the industry and I have a strong reputation. Some merchants that did not know who I was thought it was really me sending fraudlent transactions. I guess if one of them wanted to sue me or press charges or take some type of action, they could have and I would have been tied up trying to prove I was innocent.
Hope this isn't what's happening to you, but it's a pretty wide spread problem. Don't trust the IP address because i'ts probably spoofed. Many have been the victim of this type of identity theft and affiliate fraud. They did it to Shawn Collins too.
[edited by: Catalyst at 8:42 pm (utc) on July 14, 2006]
I suggest that affiliate programs use a verification scheme of the form that Google Sitemaps does:
namely asking that webmasters upload a uniquely named file to the website they purport to control, or include a metatag on their homepage with a unique code. Both methods allow an affiliate program to verify things via a robot, thus it can all be automated.
I don't actually know how they are committing the fraud and making sales. Have not been able to track it that far. I just know many of the programs they signed up for in my name and also know of lots of affiliate checks they got from Indies and networks. I contacted every merchant and network I knew of that they had used my name for and told them to cancel the account.
I don't know how they are making so many sales I only know it's a ring of fraudsters - several people involved not just one. All I know is they can't be making that many sales legitimately but I'm not sure how they are doing it.
They could not get away with it if AMs and networks did a better job of screening. The only way I found out, (since they were using an email address I had never set up - like email@example.com)was... 2 affiliate networks called me one day to verify that I was the person that signed up. They said they were forced to start calling to verify affiliates because so many apps were fraudulent.
When you want to sign with an AM and your site is already used, you can't get in. That might just be a hassle, because later AM will realise and might fix it and you might be able to get in.
Your name has been used for some fraud and that will hurt your brand. Mainly, if you are trying to market something, it won't be that effective.
Your domain/name itself might be blacklisted by merchants as they might get fraud complaints and might get linked to you.
These are just some of my imaginary issues. I am not a victim of this fraud (yet, and hopefully never).