Over the last week Steve and I have posted about the AARP hiring affiliates to send spam on their behalf: starting with the poorly done email message, moving through the process of identifying the responsible entity and then walking through the details of how we tracked the spammer.
Why spend a week writing about the AARP spamming? I initially posted about the AARP spam because it was such a horrible example of email marketing. Not just that it was spam but it was careless spam. Plus, in a lot of my interactions with marketers, clients and delivery experts I hear a lot about how “real” companies don’t spam, don’t support spam and wouldn’t ever let someone spam on their behalf. This isn’t true, not even a little bit.
The post actually came to the attention of the AARP and someone from their national headquarters commented that it was “just spam” and had nothing to do with AARP. I’ll be honest, I was annoyed with their reaction. I did my homework before calling the AARP out and was convinced this mailing was authorized by them.
Over the next 2 days Steve investigated the spam and reported on his findings. He only documented the full investigation on one of the emails I received (yes, there were multiple emails sent to the same address, most of them coming from different domains owned by the spammer). We did this to document that yes, mainstream companies do hire spammers and that trail can sometimes be tracked. We also wanted to show the lengths spammers and their customers will go to in order to get through filters and spam blocks.
A lot of mainstream groups do support spam and hire other people to send it on their behalf. Many of these same companies expect ISPs to hurry up and let mail through because “we’re a legitimate company” when their mail is blocked.
To be fair, some companies may not initially intend to support spam, but when they see the money rolling in they can’t stop. Some may pay lip service to no-spam policies, but deliberately turn a blind eye to spam advertising their company. Some hire spammers, but with enough distance between themselves and the spammer that they can deny they knew about the spam.
Every company using email for acquisition without actively managing the email program is at risk of spammers being hired on their behalf. There are some things that can be done to lower the risk of spammers being used to send spam, but the spammers are clever and if the payouts are high enough they will spam on your behalf.
There are things a company can do to minimize the chances that an affiliate program will attract spammers. Check back tomorrow for some processes that have proven effective for my clients.