Because of the amount of scams out there, Affiliate Marketing has gotten a bad name for many people wanting to start an online business. But it is a very legitimate way to earn money!

The scams mainly come from those who want to take your money in exchange for a poor (or non-existent!) product disguised as an affiliate marketing system.

Here are the top 5 internet affiliate marketing scams that you will want to avoid!

No Actual Product But The Program Itself

Programs operate like pyramid schemesIf you are looking at a program and the only thing that you will be selling is the same program to other people, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. At the very least, it is not worth your money.

A lot of these programs operate like a pyramid scheme where you recruit people to buy the same system you did and get a commission.

Then these people recruit more people to buy the system and get commissions, and there is no actual product that anyone is selling other than the same system!

The first sign that a program doesn’t have a legitimate product is when their main advertising focuses on how rich you will get and how it will change your life.

I’ve researched programs where I spent 30 minutes reading their web page and listening to their videos tell me how I’ll be sitting on a beach near my mansion making thousands of dollars a month working 1-2 hours a day.

But the only thing I don’t know is what I’m actually buying, and I don’t have a clue as to how I’d be making the money!




A common theme among many of these programs is that they will do it all for you.Low Ranking in Search Engines

You just pay to join and then they handle everything like creating landing pages, giving you articles that you just have to “tweak”, even emailing your customers offers for you in some cases.

They say that all you have to do is drive traffic to the website that is created for you. Sounds good, right?

Wrong. These programs provide you with the same content and landing pages that everyone else gets, and no amount of tweaking is going to get you ranked well in the search engines.

If you can’t get ranked well enough in Google, Yahoo, and Bing, you’re not going to get any traffic, it’s as simple as that.

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So in order to drive traffic to your website, their “education” is to use Pay Per Click advertising or traffic networks that are going to cost you money, and usually a great deal of money!

While traffic networks sound like a great idea, you’re not going to get the kind of visitors that are going to convert well to sales for you.

Just getting clicks on your website is not going to result in sales or commissions.  The visitors coming to your site have to actually be interested in your niche and your content.

Without this type of targeted traffic, it will be difficult to convert any of the traffic from these networks into paying customers–so you could be literally be throwing your money away!




Programs that run similar to a pyramid scheme only make money for the founders and the few people who join in the beginning. As soon as they get big enough for most of us to hear about them, they are like a house of cards ready to collapse.

There will be enough people who see the program for what it really is, and when it gets big enough, the Federal Trade Commission will take steps to shut it down.

Once that happens, you will lose all the money you have put into it, which can be hundreds or even thousands, in many cases.

So if a program is not clear about what you are actually buying or if you can’t learn how to create any online business you want with their system, there’s a good chance you should be running, not walking, away from it!

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Small Price, Huge Upsells

Every time I go to my favorite fast food restaurant and order my favorite burger meal, I’m asked if I want to supersize it. That’s called an upsell and can result it increased profit for the restaurant. I

t’s a common and legitimate way to market to your customers.

However, there are many scams out there that have taken this strategy to a whole new level to get you to part with your hard-earned dollars!

These are the companies that get you to purchase their system for a small price. But then they try to get you to buy higher and higher priced upsells in order to make their system work.Higher and Higher Priced Upsells

So the basic way this works is you buy their system that is supposedly worth thousands of dollars for a very small price, usually below $50 or so.

But once you’ve bought it, then you really need to buy this higher priced part of their system that will give you results faster!

But wait, then you should buy this even higher priced part of the system if you really want to be a success! And on, and on, and on.

All of these upsells are designed to be heavily discounted from their real value, and you’ll have to pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to buy these in the future.

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High pressure marketing like this is also the sign of a scam or poor program.

One of the ways that people are convinced to purchase these programs and upsells is by offering a great money-back guarantee.

They’ll say that if you don’t make money within, say, 60 days, you’ll receive your money back and no questions asked. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever receive a refund.

If you don’t want the upsells and request your original payment back, most of these companies will just ignore the request. They know that many people are unlikely to actively pursue a refund of that amount over time.

If you request a refund of any upsells you purchased, there is usually something in the fine print that will keep them from having to pay it to you–like proving that you actually used all of their training or something like that.

So if you are looking at a system that says they’ll provide a great affiliate marketing system for a small fee, but then starts trying to upsell you higher and higher priced parts of their program, you should definitely think about getting out before paying more money.

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The program that hosts my websites and gave me training, Wealthy Affiliate, offers a free membership with no credit card required to join.

I was able to see everything they had to offer, and there was just one other premium level that I could upgrade to whenever I knew that the program was right for me.

Those are signs of a legitimate system, and it’s my #1 recommendation for anyone wanting to start making money online!

Free Books

Have you ever seen an offer that says “Free! Just Pay Shipping and Handling”? It sounds like a great deal, but is it really?

Free Book ScamsThere are a lot of books you can order that are marketed this way. However, what I’ve found is that most of the time these books are nothing buy promotional materials put out there by someone who is trying to market products or services to you.

Now, affiliate marketing is a valid business model where you promote products or services and get commissions.

But the marketing is based upon writing thorough reviews and posts, and the fact that you can earn commissions should be clear in the website.

But no one normally takes the time to write a book, goes to the trouble to have it published, and then just gives it away for the cost of shipping it to you.

The shipping and handling fee will cover the entire cost of the publishing and shipping, so the quality of the book is suspect from the start.

What you’re actually receiving is the ability for this company to continue to market all kinds of products to you since they have your name, address, email address, and know you are an online buyer.

Remember, you get what you pay for. So if you’re getting a free book, look for what else the author is getting by offering this promotion and be sure it’s not just a marketing pitch.



Selling Your Information

There are those companies who have been caught selling personal information to other companies that they’re connected with.  Unfortunately, some of the biggest gurus in the industry have done this.

What happens is that an affiliate marketer buys into a program from one company, then that company sells their information to another company under the guise that they are connected.

Usually they will call and try to sell more programs saying that they are connected to the one you purchased.  This makes it look like they are legitimate and can add value to what has already been purchased.

Always be on the lookout for this type of scam because many people have spent thousands under the assumption that these programs are connected and necessary for you to succeed.

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High Dollar Products

High Dollars ProductsOne of the most common affiliate marketing scams involves affiliate programs that sell training and high dollar systems.

There is a common perception that the higher something costs, the more it must be worth.  Many times that is the case–but many times it’s not!

There are programs out there that tell you they have a system that will make you thousands of dollars.

All you have to do is buy it and learn how to promote the same program to others.

Most of the time you are buying the “right” the sell their program, and of course, they tell you that you can’t sell it unless you have bought it!

The marketing for this type of program shows people traveling the world, driving luxury cars, and living in mansions on the beach–all because they are selling high dollar products and making thousands on every commission!

But what they don’t tell you is that you have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars buying these programs first!

Their training is supposed to be the valuable product that you are selling, but most of this training can be found elsewhere on the internet either for free or much cheaper.

People are lured into these programs because of the perceived value of these high dollar products. But most of them will never recoup their costs of purchasing the programs or the costs associated with trying to market them.FTC Shut Down MOBE

One of the most recent examples of this is MOBE, Marketing Opportunities in Business and Education.

On June 4, 2018, the Federal Trade Commission filed an injunction and halted their company from doing business.

MOBE was an overpriced affiliate marketing system that made money by getting people to buy their programs with the intention of these customers selling the program to others, and so on and so on.

There was no real value, with most of the sales coming from those “buying the rights” to the system. and the earnings were very exaggerated.

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There Are Legitimate Programs Out There!

In spite of all the scams you can find, there are plenty of legitimate affiliate marketers, hosting and training programs, and affiliate networks.

So if you’re looking to learn about affiliate marketing and how this online business could benefit you, check out my resources in the navigation bar at the top.

For more information about internet scams in general, you can access the Federal Trade Commission site and learn about spotting and reporting scams.

Have you ever had a bad experience with an affiliate marketing program? Have any questions about how affiliate marketing works or how to start an online business? If so, feel free to leave a comment or question below!

I'm Janelle, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother of 5 angels (most of the time)! I started BuildYourEarlyRetirement.com as a way to show how anyone can become financially independent and retire early. As I build out this site, I hope you'll comment and share your experiences as well. Good luck in all your endeavors, and may your success start now!