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Dealing with self-referrals
Dealing with self-referrals

What to do when a customer appears to have referred themselves.

Kyle Fox avatar
Written by Kyle Fox
Updated over a week ago

A self-referral occurs when a customer signs up using their own affiliate link. This creates the scenario where someone is earning commissions from their own payments. Sometimes these referrals are legitimate or accidental, but occasionally it's someone trying to earn a commission from their own payments.

When is it legitimate?

Some merchants have agency partners that act similar to a reseller, and these agency partners use their own affiliate link when signing up new customers.

For example, a web hosting company might offer a web design company a commission for each customer they send. The web designer will sign the customer up for a web hosting account using their own affiliate link in order to get credit for the sale.

In this case the self-referral is legitimate because the web hosting company (merchant) and the web design company (affiliate) have an agreement under which the web design company signs up new customers using their own link.

When is it accidental?

This most commonly happens when someone signs up to be an affiliate before signing up to be a customer. Let's say Alice just discovered a new web hosting company she'd like to use, but would also like to promote to her audience. Alice might choose to sign up for the affiliate program first and then test her own link to make sure it's working.

Then Alice decides to sign up for her own web hosting account, without realizing that she's inadvertently attributing herself because she followed her own affiliate link earlier. In this case she'll get credit for unintentionally "referring" herself.

When is it fraudulent?

If neither of the two scenarios above apply, the referral is likely someone who joined your affiliate program in order to give themselves a "discount" on your service. If Bob plans to buy a $100/month subscription from you but then notices your affiliate program offers a 30% commission, he may sign up to be an affiliate and use his own link to sign up for your service. This means he's "earning" a $30 commission each time he pays you $100, effectively receiving your service for only $70/month.

How does Rewardful detect self-referrals?

We use several methods to automatically identify potential self-referrals, but for security reasons we do not disclose details. We are constantly making improvements to our self-referral detection algorithm.

How should I handle self-referrals?

Rewardful will email you when we identify a potential self-referral and allow you the opportunity to review and confirm if it's legitimate/accidental or if it's suspicious/fraudulent.

Referrals that have been identified as potential self-referrals will show the following notice:

If the referral looks legitimate, click the Looks good button and everything will work as expected. If the referral looks fraudulent, click the "Looks suspicious" button and the referral will be deactivated. You may also choose to permanently delete the referral.

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