For Third Time, LinkShare Awards, Revokes Suspected Fraudster

For the third time in a row, LinkShare Corporation, one of the Web's largest affiliate networks, awarded and then revoked its $15,000 quarterly prize to a company accused of diverting commissions from other affiliates in the network to itself.

On Oct. 14, received LinkShare's Titanium Award for the second quarter 2004--which is given to the network affiliate whose year-over-year quarterly revenue increased by the highest percentage. But, four days after bestowing the award to, LinkShare revoked it, making the third consecutive recipient to forfeit the award after accusations of unfair practices. LinkShare now plans to donate the $15,000 prize money to the American Cancer Society in the name of Don Council, a former LinkShare employee and active ABestWeb member who died of cancer recently.

LinkShare's revocation of the award came only weeks after LinkShare awarded, then revoked, the same prize to As with, was accused of using unfair practices by angry affiliates. LinkShare later kicked off of its affiliate network.

Responding to the LinkShare decision to revoke's award, a representative of the company stated: "I believe that the Titanium Award has great potential. I am disappointed at the lack of organization and professionalism that has been displayed. LinkShare has an innovative concept, but definitely has some kinks that need to be worked out." apparently halted its suspect practices after angry affiliates on the chat site accused the company of engaging in a technique called "cookie stuffing," according to Kellie Stevens, a LinkShare consultant.

As of now, is still a member of the LinkShare network.

Stevens, president and founder of affiliate marketing resource site, and also a well-known member of the affiliate community, was recently hired by LinkShare as part of the company's efforts to mend the widening rift between the network and its affiliates--who are enraged by what they view as ongoing fraud.

Independent of her affiliation with LinkShare, Stevens is now working on a compliance testing service for merchants, affiliates, and affiliate network providers. The system checks in real-time for specific frowned-upon behaviors, and reports results back to a subscription Web page hosted by Stevens' association Stevens said the compliance testing site will go live in a couple of weeks.

She said that retroactively looking backat affiliate behavior during the second quarter "is not the way to do compliance testing," because it does nothing to stamp out current fraudulent acts.

She said a "big picture" approach is required to deal with the issue of stolen commissions, and that the Titanium Award incidents are symptomatic of an industry-wide problem that is by no means unique to LinkShare.

The specific practice was accused of engaging in--"cookie stuffing"--is deemed unfair by the major affiliate networks, including LinkShare, Commission Junction, and Performics. A cookie-stuffing affiliate places a tag (sometimes several hundred tags at a time) on an unsuspecting Web user's computer, after the user clicks on one of their links. The added tags are commission codes that instruct the user's computer to attribute commissions to the tag-setter whenever that user visits one of the merchants' sites--even if the user did not link to the merchant's site via the affiliate's site.

In other words, the problem with cookie stuffing and other similar tactics is that they potentially divert commissions from the affiliate that should receive them to the company that has placed its own tags on users' computers.

Affiliates who feel they've been cheated out of commissions by tactics such as cookie stuffing have been increasingly frustrated. For now, many are venting their anger on Web sites devoted to affiliate marketers, such as ABestWeb.

"It just kills me when I see a few hundred dollars on a check and realize that [TheDesktopShopper,] are throwing up this kind of junk and raking in thousands," wrote one affiliate marketer. "Sometimes I actually hear the dark side calling."

Next story loading loading..