Twenty oft-found Commission Junction and LinkShare affiliate violations
Benjamin Edelman and Wesley Brandi

Our automation continuously scours the web for rogue affiliates. In our query tool, we provide a basic sense of how much we've found.

Below, we report the ten Commission Junction affiliates and ten LinkShare affiliates most often seen by our automation. We focus on affiliates whose conduct violates the plain language of networks' posted terms and conditions, specifically spyware and adware, cookie-stuffing, and typosquatting. Click an affiliate summary for details about the violation, a packet log showing the network traffic that performs the violation, and, for many affiliates, screenshot or video confirmation.

We will update this page from time to time with additions, both as to CJ and LinkShare and as to other affected networks.


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Rule-breaking Commission Junction affiliates most often observed by our automation

Affiliate Id First Seen Last Seen Num. Obs. Selected Merchants Targeted
Viraltube toolbar, Ads-srv, CJ affiliate 5326280 claiming commission on organic traffic to via nested invisible IFRAMEs
5326280 2012-03-05 2012-11-26 960,,,,,, and at least 200 others
Viraltube toolbar, Ads-srv, Marketplaceguru, CJ affiliate 4202588 claiming commission on organic traffic to Aliexpress via nested invisible IFRAMEs
4202588 2012-03-05 2012-11-25 957,,,,,, and 53 others
Viraltube toolbar, Siaff, CJ affiliate 4121481 claiming commission on organic traffic to Guitar Center
4121481 2012-03-29 2012-12-19 684,,,,,,,, and at least 300 others, CJ affiliate 3316988 typosquatting on Northern Tool
3316988 2011-12-04 2012-12-16 556,,,,, and at least 30 others, CJ affiliate 5298772 typosquatting on Steep And Cheap
5298772 2011-12-04 2012-06-04 362,,,,,, and at least 20 others, CJ affiliate 5365408 typosquatting on HighBeam
5365408 2011-12-21 2012-12-16 335,,,,, and at least 70 others, Avenueshop, CJ affiliate 2450041 typosquatting on
2450041 2011-12-21 2012-12-19 218,,,, and 18 others, Universalgadgets, CJ affiliate 2202912 typosquatting on Bluehost
2202912 2011-12-24 2012-12-16 185,,,,, and at least 12 others
Melissasbargains, CJ affiliate 5355567 stuffing Groupon cookies in invisible (1x1) IMG
5355567 2012-08-11 2012-12-19 169, Cheap-kingdom/Cheap-universe, CJ affiliate 2968571 typosquatting on
2968571 2011-12-27 2012-12-19 175,, and 5 others

Rule-breaking LinkShare affiliates most often observed by our automation

Affiliate Id First Seen Last Seen Num. Obs. Selected Merchants Targeted, Newmdi, LinkShare affiliate F5lBUiZGJtA typosquatting on Hotwire
F5lBUiZGJtA 2011-12-04 2012-12-16 473,,,,, and at least 12 others, LinkShare affiliate oKAdLj4xXBs redirecting to
oKAdLj4xXBs 2011-12-04 2012-12-19 458,,,, and 20 others
Zango, Shoppingdealusa, LinkShare affiliate wBTeHnMpjr8 claiming commission on organic traffic to TicketLiquidator - via adware popup with invisible frame and decoy
wBTeHnMpjr8 2012-06-30 2012-12-19 375,,,,, and 28 others
Zango, Allamericansites, LinkShare affiliate s4ViB12wRJ claiming commission on organic traffic to Purinacare - via adware popup with invisible frame and decoy
s4ViB12wRJw 2012-02-27 2012-12-19 318,,,,,, and at least 40 others
Zango, Allamericandeals, LinkShare affiliate bxAK8akQS6c invisibly stuffing Drugstore affiliate cookies - via adware popup with invisible frame and decoy
bxAK8akQS6c 2012-05-21 2012-12-19 312,,,,, and at least 25 others
Zango, Usadollarsaver, LinkShare affiliate L01Cbk3QzNI claiming commission on organic traffic to Milanoo - via adware popup with invisible frame and decoy
L01Cbk3QzNI 2012-02-27 2012-12-18 220,,,,, and at least 25 others, Cheap-kingdom/Cheap-universe, Linkshare affiliate 7uqPrVRovcE typosquatting on Tigerdirect
7uqPrVRovcE 2011-12-20 2012-12-19 214,,,,, and 6 others, Linkshare affiliate dZB3ZbaOgZY typosquatting on
dZB3ZbaOgZY 2011-12-20 2012-12-16 172,,,,, and at least 35 others
Zango, Shopandbuy, LinkShare affiliate 3uv2KP*Bvww claiming commission on organic traffic to Yoox - via adware popup with invisible frame and decoy
3uv2KP*Bvww 2012-02-27 2012-12-19 167,,,,, and at least 20 others
Zango, LinkShare affiliate ViwbtLFssq0 promoting Beltronics in adware popup
ViwbtLFssq0 2012-03-06 2012-12-16 155,,,,, and 5 others


The duration of these practices

We are particularly struck by the longevity of many of these affiliates -- by all indications, escaping detection by networks' traffic quality systems. The tables above report many affiliates persisting for 6+ months, a bound resulting largely from when we setup the new automation that prepared this data. In fact quite a few of these affiliates have been engaged in similar conduct for far longer. For example, one of us (Ben) has tracked Usadollarsaver (LinkShare #6, an adware-using affiliate) since February 2009. Similarly, Ben first alerted clients to CJ affiliates 3316988 and 2202912 (#4 and #8, both typosquatters) in November 2010 and November 2009, respectively.

In our view, each of these affiliates unambiguously violates clear network rules. But by all indications, these affiliates remain in good standing in their respective networks. Reasonable network quality practices should have long ago uncovered these affiliates and excised them from networks in order to protect all merchants. Instead, it seems networks have allowed these affiliates to remain within their platforms -- continuing to target merchants who have no reason to suspect the affiliates' rule-breaking.


Scope of reporting

We mentioned above that we focus on clear violations. Specifically, we focus on spyware/adware, cookie-stuffing, and typosquatting.

What have we excluded? We intentionally removed "loyalty programs." On one hand there are good grounds for conern at these affiliates: They often provide browser plug-ins or toolbars that seek to charge affiliate fees even when users specifically request merchants' sites. Sometimes these plug-ins arrive on users' computers without consent or without the required disclosures. And these plug-ins tend to force clicks in ways that are clearly impermissible for ordinary affiliates. Because loyalty programs tend to promote hundreds of merchants, they trigger our automation repeatedly, so they would ordinarily appear in our top-10 lists. But we don't report loyalty programs here -- they're complicated enough to be a topic for another day.

We present the ten Commission Junction and LinkShare most often observed by our automation. We note that this may omit or underreport some sophisticated affiliates who take steps to conceal their behavior. For example, if an affiliate drops cookies at most once per IP address, we might not catch the affiliate sufficiently often for it to make our top-10 lists, yet the affiliate might nonetheless enjoy large earnings. We note that these tactics are increasingly widespread. Indeed, in civil litigation, eBay alleges that former eBay affiliates Brian Dunning and Shawn Hogan used exactly this method to avoid detection.


Last Updated: December 21, 2012 - Sign up for notification of major updates and related work.