Target Shop for Free Week & What Breeds Affiliate Marketing Scams

Yesterday Sophos reported the newest scam scheme on Facebook — the Target Week SHOP for FREE, which thousands of Facebook users have already fallen for.

Free Target Week Facebook Scam

The way it works is basically like this:

  1. You’re told you need a special gift card to participate in this promo.
  2. To obtain the card you are “required to perform a few steps, the first of which involves hitting a Facebook Like button, which will propagate the spam message through their profile” [source]. Naturally your “Like” is perceived by your friends as your endorsement, and acknowledgment of the offer’s authenticity.
  3. Then when “you try to claim your Target gift card, you are swept away to another website” where “you have to sign up for a completely different ‘rewards program’ first, typing in your first name, email address, gender, age and location” [source].
  4. “Once you’ve signed up, there still isn’t any gift card to claim. Instead, there’s a choice of nine previously-unmentioned offers, targetted to the information you just entered” [source same as above].

Apparently, the “nine previously-unmentioned offers”, which are closely targeted to match your demographics, are being linked through affiliate links. Hence, the christening of this scam as an “affiliate marketing” one here. I’ve tried replicating the process through one of the Facebook accounts I own, but couldn’t locate this particular scam anywhere. It must have been taken down (or banned) already.

It saddens (and angers!) me tremendously when I see “affiliate marketing” attached to the word “scam”. It discredits the industry, and hurts everyone involved in it. However, this happens day in and day out, and mismanaged or autopiloted affiliate programs only help the spread of the disease. If the creators of the above scam are earning their money through affiliate links, someone must have approved them into their affiliate programs! Additionally, if your link is up there among the “offers” pushed, you’re obviously doing a sloppy job of policing affiliate behavior (read: not doing any of it at all).

Yes, Facebook should be preventing the spam form happening, but it is the affiliate program managers’ responsibility to ensure that their programs are not use as fertile soil for con artists. Even if you don’t care about the affiliate marketing industry in general, understand that it’s your company’s brand that’s being brought down in the process!

9 thoughts on “Target Shop for Free Week & What Breeds Affiliate Marketing Scams”

  1. These types of “gratis” offers are the bread and butter for some CPA networks, so I wouldn’t hold my breath with any regards to monitoring and policing: from networks, managers or advertisers.

    Unfortunately, you can find these kinds of offers in all kinds of places, not just on FaceBook.

    With as many companies that have had their hand slapped by regulators for deceiving consumers with these offers, it’s amazing how many out there still don’t meet, what I consider the very minimal, FTC disclosure guidelines.

    For some in this industry how much money is being made seems to be the only criteria for whether or not a campaign is successful.

  2. Kellie, thank you for your comment, and it is sad to witness this (unmanaged and unpoliced affiliate marketing on one side, and pay-me-to-push-your-free-stuff behavior on the other) going on… I know merchants that have lost tens of thousands of dollars on what have been absolutely useless campaigns from the very outset. Why are many in the community even tolerating the fact that they’re bearing the name of “affiliate networks”?! They are a disgrace to the affiliate marketing industry!!

    What, in your opinion, can help the situation? Calling them out by name? Educating merchants on why “gratis” types of offers are a waste of money (unless they want to continue the same line of “business” hoping to hit the confused customer’s wallet past the trial period, or whatever)? Anything else?

  3. “What, in your opinion, can help the situation?”

    More and more people who feel this type of “marketing” is not good for our industry standing up and saying so. Shame the promotions were pulled before we could see who was behind it. But I could guess some CPA Networks and I’d probably be right.

    Unfortunately the bar for many in this business for acceptable practice is how much money a company is making, how much they were just acquired for or if they give good parties at conferences.

  4. I dont think they really care about this that is why i think they not taking action right away. if you think about it a big company like that makes millions and millions every day. that will be they least of they worries. unless it start messing with they money it would be totally different issues.

  5. Thank you for your comments, everyone.

    Interesting idea there, David. I was always wondering how much quality to industry conferences particular CPA networks bring (of course, yours and my definition of “quality” may be very different from theirs)

  6. There is the same scam going on with subway today

    check it out (no im not running this) also, the user keeps changing domain names throughout the day but probably has made 1000’s already using this technique

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