Yesterday Sophos reported the newest scam scheme on Facebook — the Target Week SHOP for FREE, which thousands of Facebook users have already fallen for.
The way it works is basically like this:
- You’re told you need a special gift card to participate in this promo.
- 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.
- 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].
- “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!