HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – There are many types of online B2B fraud that webmasters encounter daily, and a panel at the XBIZ Hollywood '07 Industry Conference agreed that the most effective way to prevent it is for owners to screen their affiliates, keep a close eye on the kinds of traffic they attract and look for transaction patterns.
Mitch Farber of Netbilling moderated the discussion, prompting questions regarding what flags and warning signs to look out for when fraud – whether it's by affiliates or customers – is suspected.
Jeff Thaler of Epoch encouraged webmasters to watch for patterns in user IP addresses and mismatching payment and personal information, and Brandon Shalton of Cydata Services said be aware of harmful keywords, such as child porn or bestiality, found on affiliate sites because, ultimately, the webmaster is responsible of the all paysites he or she works with.
Oystein Wright of MPA3 stressed that it's ideal to monitor affiliates from the start, preventing them from being able to "wreak havoc" in the first place. By screening affiliates, webmasters can know right away which are legitimate and which aren't, and whittle their list to just a few. That way, it is easier to nurture relationships and end up with a small number of higher quality affiliates, resulting in higher profit with a lower risk of fraud, Wright said.
There are many affiliates on the Web whose ultimate goal is to get as many signups as possible, and they will do whatever it takes to do it. This means, Joan Irvine of ASACP said, affiliates often trick users seeking a certain niche to join sites that appear to offer desirable content but, when they sign up, they find it's not what they wanted. This results in a chargeback and a financial loss for the webmaster.
Thaler and Mark Greenspan of CCBill agreed that an effective way to prevent customer/surfer fraud is to work with a payment processing company that offers 24/7 customer service and specializes in working out billing disputes.
Thalor said a common form of surfer fraud is through bounced or canceled checks. Users can pay for content using a check or debit card, and in the few days it takes for the charge to go through – whether it is ultimately accepted or not – the user is able to look at the site's content.
By referring to other affiliates and working with affiliate management systems, webmasters have access to account number databases and black/white lists. Future risks of affiliate and surfer fraud can be avoided this way, and though it costs more money, the panel agreed it is worth every penny.
"Fraud is simple to stop if you spend a little money," Wright said. "A few dollars extra to protect yourself will save you a ton of money."