Rogue Venturebeat.com Advertiser Plunders Affiliate Revenue
Venturebeat.com (Alexa Rank #2,957) has a number of options available to advertisers. They range from an $11 300×250 CPM model (that’s per thousand impressions on their site) all the way through to $1,500 per week for a 125×125 button:
The weekly button is what is of interest to us today, for one of these advertisers is using Venturebeat to Cookie-Stuff their visitors and steal potential affiliate revenue from honest Amazon affiliates.
Here’s how the scam works:
- Advertiser buys advertising space from Venturebeat
- Venturebeat may do some quality control to make sure that the ad is a-okay. Which is fine, because if you load this particular scammer’s ad verbatim then it will not exhibit the Cookie-Stuffing behavior
- Venturebeat starts running the ad
- Once the ad is running the advertiser flips a switch on the backend to start the Cookie-Stuffing
Short and sweet. The red arrows highlight the ad:
For the technically inclined, this packet trace steps you through the entire page load and onto the Cookie-Stuffing behavior (the Amazon affiliate id being used in this scam is ‘kitchebelle02-20‘). Worthy of mention:
- I’ve not attached the Flash in this packet trace, don’t hesitate to contact me if you want it
- Until Venturebeat takes down this ad, you can reproduce this for yourself by repeatedly loading Venturebeat.com, keep watching your Web debugger until you see the Amazon affiliate URLs being loaded.
- The scammer uses dreammediasite.com as a demilitarized.com zone to redirect through http://www.onlinespy.net/awesome-high-tech-kitchen-gadgets/ which then acts as the referrer to Amazon. That’s no blank referrer and if you load onlinespy.net without the demilitarized zone as the referrer then you simply get a WordPress site, nice!
I give this scammer a 5/10
- 1 point for basic Cookie-Stuffing
- 1 point for using the Flash Bandit (that’s how he displays the ad AND does Cookie-Stuffing)
- 1 point for the demilitarized zone
- 1 point for cycling through multiple Amazon affiliate id’s
- 1 points for investing a fair penny into his scam
Recall from above that it takes $1,500 a week to run this ad. Assuming the scammer took the cheaper monthly option, that means it’s costing him at least $4,500 a month. If the scammer runs at a profit (why else would he be doing this?) then it’s safe for us to assume that Amazon itself is losing at least $4500 a month to this guy (they are paying a commission when none is owed) and honest Amazon affiliates are losing as well (remember that the nature of Cookie-Stuffing is such that the scammer may be overwriting the cookies of Amazon affiliates that compete for the same traffic)« The Botnet BluesAffiliate Fraud Through Adult Advertising Networks »