Recently, I read about unscrupulous companies charging consumers astronomical amounts to build a useless, cookie-cutter store essentially with a bunch of Amazon.com widgets and banner ads with no real content of any value.
If they do include any content, such as a handful of poorly written reviews, it is very poorly written and generic, resulting in little or sadly most likely no sales. These sites are generally worth no more than the cost of registering a domain name.
Upon doing some research on this I discovered that these companies are bilking unsuspecting victims out of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Sadly, the victims often are the vulnerable in society who do not have a lot of money to begin with; people who are disabled, unemployed, old age pensioners.
Before I go on about this scam and its victims I want to emphasize that the Amazon Associates program is not a scam. It is 100% free to join and a legitimate way to make money online. At the bottom of this page I give you some resources on how to make money online with the Amazon Associates program.
The Phone Call
Some of these companies will even go as far as to say that they are Amazon.com or at the very least affiliated with Amazon.com. As I just said, Amazon.com is a reputable, well established company who has no affiliation whatsoever with these scam companies.
Over inflated price for a useless website worth no more than the cost of the domain
From the information I gathered on the Better Business Bureau site and various online complaints boards, these unscrupulous companies will pressure the scam victim into purchasing one of these useless copy and paste cookie-cutter websites typically anywhere from $149-$499 US.
These companies make thousands of these websites that are all virtually the same. Often, but certainly not always by any means, they’ll just be a shell website, requiring the victim to spend hours copying and pasting code for widgets and banner ads linking to Amazon.com.
Signs that your website has been build by these scammers
Often with these scammers you’ll be paying an exorbitant amount for hosting, such as $25 to $30 a month, where you should be paying at most $100 a year for web hosting. My web hosting company has a promotion right now, for instance, where you pay as low as $3.96 per month for web hosting.
Another trait that many of these scam companies share is that they claim to actually be Amazon.com or in the very least affiliated with Amazon.com. Nothing could be further than the truth. Amazon.com does have the Amazon Associates program but it is 100% free to join. Amazon has no affiliation whatsoever with any of these scam companies.
Many of these scam companies are interestingly based out of Arizona and Nevada.
Scam companies often exaggerate commission paid to Amazon Associates
Another theme shared by many of these scam companies is that they highly exaggerate the commissions that the Amazon Associates program pays. For instance, on of these scam companies told a scam victim that they would be paid a whopping 15% commission from Amazon.com for any sales made through their affiliate links.
The truth of the matter is that the Amazon Associates program pays a 4 – 10% advertising fee to the affiliate for products shipped or downloaded that were purchased on the Amazon.com website through their affiliate links.
The vast majority of Amazon referral fees paid to Amazon Associates are performance based though from 4 – 8.5%, depending on the volume of items purchased through your affiliate links.
These websites convert very poorly making very little money, if any at all
These websites, which are basically just filled with widgets and banner ads for individual items that are sold on Amazon make very little money, if any at all, for a variety of reasons.
Why these websites don’t do well for traffic or profit
One of the reasons that these websites make so little money is because why would you shop from one of these sites when you can click onto the Amazon website in the first place?
I know that if I had a choice to shop at one these amateur hour websites versus going to the Amazon.com website I’d certainly choose the later. I am almost certain that 99.9% of consumers would do the exact same thing.
Another reason why they convert poorly is because they have very little actual content. Because of this they rank very poorly or are even de-listed from search engines, such as Google. Sites that do well with the Amazon Associates program have a combination of how-to articles, reviews, etc. In other words, actual content that is helpful and useful to people.
These companies attempt to sell you advertising, marketing or training often for thousands of dollars
After, for the reasons discussed above, the scam victim discovers their website has no traffic and makes virtually no sales they get high pressure calls trying to convince them to purchase advertising, marketing or training, often what amounts to thousands of dollars.
It is not uncommon to hear from a different company for advertising, marketing or training than the one that sold you the website. The companies may or may not be affiliated with each other. From what I have read typically the cost of these useless services is anywhere from $500 upwards to $15,000.
In return for your investment you get useless traffic that doesn’t convert to sales
Often, all you’ll get in return for spending all this money is a bunch of useless traffic. I call it useless because it is likely from black hat SEO techniques, such pop-ups and pop-unders as well as comment and forum spam. Not only will this traffic not covert in sales, it could get the site de-listed or outright banned from Google.
These companies often promise a full refund but only after six months. From what I’ve read, more often than not these companies do not honor that promise.
A common theme that I have read is that once you start demanding your money back, these companies will cease communication with you, not returning your phone calls and/or emails.
I read of one gentleman though, who used what i thought was quite an ingenious tactic to at least be able to talk to people who worked for the company.
He would leave messages with these scammers saying that he wanted to invest more money. When they did this they apparently would call back after five minutes! He sadly had no luck getting his money back, even with this tactic.
What is really sneaky about having you wait for six months to request a refund is that by this point you usually have no recourse for getting your money refunded from the credit card company. This is because generally you can only file a dispute of a credit card charge within 60 to 90 days after the purchase.
Scam victims not even signed up directly with the Amazon Associates program
Another thing about many of these companies is that the scam victim is not actually signed up directly with the Amazon Associates program. The company signs you up for the associates program on your behalf, if at all.
Very often the victim will have no actual access to their Amazon Associates account, which shows your sales, earnings, conversion rate among many other things.
If the consumer does happen to luck out or some family, friends or co-workers take pity on them and purchase some items through their website they generally are not paid your commission directly from Amazon.com.
They are paid their commission from the company, though there is no guarantee that they’ll pay you.
The scam victim has access to data on your affiliate sales and your website through the “back office”, assuming they’re even able to access it. I’ve read stories of consumers who were unable to access their “back office” even after repeated phone calls to the scam company.
The tragic story of a pensioner robbed of $10,495 from one of these scam companies
On the Arizona Better Business Bureau website I read one story of a gentleman who had ultimately lost $10,495 from one of these scam companies.
How it started is he received an email from this company offering him a work at home opportunity with an investment of $399 (it was regularly $599 but on “special”).
In return he was promised an income of $1500 a month. Sadly, the man signed up for this “opportunity”. In reality in return for his $399 all he got was one of these useless websites filled with advertisements for Amazon.com products.
A couple of weeks later he was contacted by telephone by a representative of the company urging him to invest additional money for marketing. In exchange for the investment he was promised a return of investment of 125%, the more money he spent the greater the return.
He was given three options; to invest $10,000, 12,000 or $15,000. He declined at first but finally gave in and invested a further $10,000 after repeated calls with high pressure sells tactics.
Ultimately, over six months down the road from his initial investment he hadn’t made one single penny. Upon contacting the company after six months demanding a refund no one would return his voice mail or email messages and his number was blocked from being able to call customer service, the only ones who initially actually answered the phone.
He was now left with a$399 charge on his credit card and a $10,000 loan which he took out from the bank to pay for his “business investment.” He could not afford to pay either back so was left with paying compounding high interest rates, getting further and further in debt.
Disabled veteran scammed of over $10,000
I read a very sad story of a disable war veteran living on a pension, who was scammed out of over $10,000 by two of these scam companies. He was talked into paying an undisclosed amount to the first of these two websites for one of these overpriced websites with no real content where he was supposed to make money from the Amazon Associates program.
From what I’ve read it sounds like people typically pay this company anywhere from $100 to $499 for their website.
After getting virtually no traffic from to his site, let alone any affiliate sales, he was contacted by a second company promising him a 125% return of investment in exchange for an advertising package in the amount of $10,000. Sadly,he charged the $10,000, on top of his initial investment, to his credit card.
After still not making any affiliate sales, even after spending this large sum of money on advertising, he contacted the second company and was told that they do not give refunds for advertising and that they would re-run his advertising campaign, which I imagine was virtually useless.
I do not know if this man ultimately ended up being able to get refunds from these companies, but from the complaints that I have read on the Better Business Bureau website it is doubtful.
Is the Amazon.com Associate program a scam?
After reading this or perhaps being scammed yourself you might now be wondering if the Amazon Associates program is in fact a scam. As someone who has made money with the Amazon Associates program in the past I can ensure you that it is indeed not a scam.
It is completely free and a viable way to make money online. As I’ve said a few times now, the Amazon Associates program is no way whatsoever affiliated with these scam companies.
It is, in fact, one of the oldest affiliate programs on the Internet, starting in the early days of the world wide web, way back in 1996.
What to do if you think you have been scammed
- The first thing that you need to do is call your credit card company ASAP and, if at all possible, have the charges removed or at the very least stop future payments.
- The number two thing that you need to do is call the company that sold you their so-called services and request a refund. If requesting a refund doesn’t get you anywhere demand a refund. Tell them you’re going to take legal action and report them to the Attorney General.
- It is also important that you file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
I want to wish you the best of luck
If you are a victim of these scam companies I want to tell you that I am so sorry that you were taken advantage of this way and wish you the best of luck. I truly hope that you have found this page helpful.