Pay Per Call Affiliate Blackhat… ‘Boiler Room’

The ‘Boiler Room’ is an intermediate blackhat tactic.

The tactic uses the Rotating CallerID tactic, (discussed in another article), but is somewhat more sophisticated.

While the Rotating CallerID tactic simply rotates the callerID, making it slightly more difficult to detect non-unique callers, the Boiler Room takes it to another level.

A ‘Boiler Room’ is an outbound telemarketing operation. The term is most often used to describe high-pressure, outbound sales of investment products. E.g. Buy this stock before there is no more left! And more often than not, the term is used to describe those shady operations which skirt around laws and take advantage of unsuspecting widows and orphans.

However, any outbound telemarketing room can be considered a boiler room. So the term is universal and not necessarily used to describe fraudsters and crooks. But in the context of this article, the term ‘boiler room’ is most definitely outside the moral box.

As the definition implies, pay per call affiliates utilize this blackhat method by organizing numerous people to make calls on their behalf. The callers are paid by the hour or on commission and are coached to impersonate legitimate callers.

The fake buyers are given a script to follow, with the intention of keeping a call center agent on the phone until the call reaches the minimum duration necessary to be qualified for payout. Great pains are taken in sculpting the scripts to make them sound natural.

In our day and age of outsourcing, callers need not be contained within a physical ‘room’. But the concept of the boiler room is still very much alive. Callers are given lists of people to impersonate, and as long as they don’t call the same advertiser too often, picking up on the voice-match can be difficult for the affiliate manager and their compliance teams, which is why other identification methods are necessary. For pay per call affiliate managers seeking to identify patterns of fraud, the most tell-tale signs are usually a series of questions. One question after another will be asked and compliance teams must be trained to spot these questions. What is it you do? How does your service work? Do you do this? Can you do that? Ok, if I decide to move ahead I will call you back. Click.

In a further effort to mask their tracks, the more far-thinking boiler rooms will actually impersonate real prospects who have previously made inquiries online. Lists of aged electronic leads are purchased for pennies on the dollar and their callerID is pushed through to the advertiser. That way, when the advertiser tries to contact that person, there might be some recollection of having previously requested related information, extending the time that this scheme may go undetected.

There are several other variations of the boiler room tactic, and needless to say, the variations will continue to proliferate into more and more elaborate programs.

Affiliate managers must always be on their toes!

By Benny Traub

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