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How to Kill HostGator Affiliate Spam

gator-targetHonestly I thought the whole affiliate spam thing died a well deserved death a decade ago, at least for any business that considers itself reputable. Hell even Vistaprint has cleaned their act up in this area.

But no, today I got a message to one of my role accounts (role accounts are things like sales@, support@, accounting@ and so on). As regular readers can probably guess the role accounts I use aren’t particularly easy to guess, but at the same time they’re for use by actual people, so they don’t have the same random characters I use for tracking addresses. Someone could have picked this address up from a variety of places.

The bottom of the email contains this text:

You are receiving this email because you subscribed to HostGator promotional newsletters.
5005 Mitchelldale Suite #100,
Houston TX 77092 USA
+1 (866) 964-2867

This is followed by a link with the label “Unsubscribe”. Here’s when the bullshit starts: it’s not an unsubscribe link. It’s an affiliate link. Here’s the target (with the affiliate ID obscured to stop the asshole in question from getting any traffic).

http://secure.hostgator.com/~affiliat/cgi-bin/affiliates/clickthru.cgi?id=asshole%20

Now check the mail headers, and sure enough the DNS tracks back to members.linode.com, which is most certainly not HostGator. So I’ve opened a ticket with HostGator, and sent them a full copy of the message, which will give them enough information to find the asshole. It’s my hope they’ll be terminating the affiliate account without paying out a cent.

If I hear back, I’ll post an update.

Update

That was quick, about 90 minutes later I got this message:

Thank you for contacting us with your concerns. We are taking the necessary steps to remove this affiliate from our program as this is a violation of our TOS. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.