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:

venturebeat affiliate fraud

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:

  1. Advertiser buys advertising space from Venturebeat
  2. 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
  3. Venturebeat starts running the ad
  4. 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:

venturebeat-affiliate-fraud_0

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)

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15 Comments

  1. Bill
    June 11, 2013

    Interesting find!Been a while since ur last post and am sad to here this kind of thing is still rampant!We honest affiliates are the ones losing hard earned commisions and something surely must be done about this!Anyway was curious to see the flash code this fraudster was implementing in hes scheme,mind sending it to me?Thanks and good job!

    Bill

  2. wesleyb
    June 11, 2013

    Thanks. SWF sent to your gmail address.

  3. Bill
    June 11, 2013

    Thanks!

  4. Mario
    June 12, 2013

    Hi Wesley, could you please send me the Swf , I really would like to inspect it. Thanks

  5. wesleyb
    June 12, 2013

    Done

  6. john
    June 14, 2013

    I think who need this swf, just want learn and CS themself.

    so, this is funny

  7. Bill
    June 26, 2013

    Why are you making up your own assumptions?We want to get the .SWF so that we can better understand how to track this fraudsters and stop this malpractice!I for one have multiple websites with ads on them and can not risk the reputation of either one of them due to some scumbag trying to get a quick buck!

  8. Joshua
    June 27, 2013

    Wow,very Interesting,could you please send me the Swf too?Thanks

  9. Verde
    June 28, 2013

    Nice catch! Could you send me the swf too? I think we’re dealing with someone using something very similar…

  10. wesleyb
    June 28, 2013

    No problem

  11. Joe
    September 20, 2013

    Hi,
    Could you send me that swf please? We might just have the same problem at our website…:(

  12. wesleyb
    September 20, 2013

    Done

  13. Danie
    November 11, 2013

    Hi Wesley,

    Would you be so kind and please send me a copy of swf also.

    The services you offer, are they in high demand, and how do you
    price these?

    Thanks

  14. John
    April 24, 2014

    Hi Wesley,

    Can you please send me the SWF? One of our clients seem to have a rouge affiliate too.

    Thanks!

  15. Daniel
    August 22, 2014

    Hi, can you send me the swf? I have a website and I rent an space for any advertising and I would like to prevent cookie stuffing