Survey Scams: How to Protect Yourself and Avoid Them

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Each day I get a handful of online survey offers. They usually try to lure me by offering cash. It may seem like a fun and quick way to make some extra money. But it can be hard to figure out which are legitimate companies and which offers are only scams.

It’s not as easy to spot a real survey from survey scams as you might think. Fraudsters are becoming better and smarter at creating scams that convince you otherwise.

Since I’ve been conned by a survey scam or two, I decided I’d write down the seven best tips on how to avoid being scammed.

The Seven Top Tips on How to Avoid Survey Scams

Legitimate research firms never suggest that anyone can make a living by simply filling out online surveys. But most survey scams entail lucrative promises. Yet they’re just ruses and ploys to get you to give up something they want.

Here are some telltale signs that can tell you whether a paid survey is real or a scam.

They Ask for Money

You should be wary of anyone who asks you to send money anywhere. They can be conniving about it, so you have to be on the lookout for anything that seems suspicious.

They may ask for money to be wired or deposited anywhere. Or they may even ask for an application fee.

Some survey companies ask you to pay a membership fee to a non-existing organization or club. Others may offer a training kit, e-book, or any other form of online product.

Then once you pay, all you get is a small pamphlet full of URLs that can be easily obtained with a quick Google search. It’s completely useless.

The bottom line: Don’t ever pay money upfront to a survey site.

They Make Promises That are Too Good to be True

Some surveys promise money or items that may be too good to be true. It could be they’re offering too much money, products, vacations, and other high returns.

Some websites claim that you can make $25, or more, on a survey. Some also claim that you can take up to 10 surveys each day.

But if you take the time to think about it, you’ll realize that you can’t make real money taking surveys. You won’t be even able to support yourself on what you make taking online surveys.

Legitimate marketing companies reward only $5 for each completed survey. It’s only useful for those looking to make a little bit of extra money. It’s not meant for those looking to make lots of quick money.

While these offers may be tempting, you must use your common sense on this one. If it sounds too good to be true, it sadly probably is.

They Ask You to Share Personal Details

You should never be asked to share any personal information or details. This is doubly true if it’s someone who can’t validate who they are or why they’re doing this survey.

Also, don’t be goaded by any unsolicited emails that promise you money in return for taking a survey. This is referred to as a ‘phishing’ scam.

Phishing is when scammers try to obtain your personal information. This personal information can be your credit card numbers, phone number, bank account numbers, or your Social Security number.

Unfortunately, scam artists try to get your personal data, so they can use it to steal your money or your identity.

They can do this in a number of ways. One way is by getting you to install malware on your computer. This malware is embedded in the email link or online ads you clicked on.

They Ask Too Many Questions

It’s okay for any survey to ask a couple of questions before qualifying you for their survey. But sometimes you get too many pre-qualifying questions. If you get more than 3 -5 questions, that should raise some red flags.

What happens is that some online surveys will give you a questionnaire that consists of tens of pre-qualifying questions. Then once you’ve finished it, they claim that you’re not qualified for their survey. The truth is, you’ve probably just taken their survey without knowing.

After that, they use your personal information, place it on a spam email list. Unfortunately, some even use this data to commit identity theft.

They Don’t Have a Privacy Policy

Before participating in any survey, make sure you check out the company’s privacy policy. You should also take a look at their ‘Terms of Use’ agreement, which is also sometimes called ‘Terms of Service’.

These important features are part of any legit website. They clearly outline how they handle your personal information and privacy.

Fraudsters who set up online survey scams won’t waste their time and resources. That’s why they don’t set up a privacy policy that protects you and your personal information. What they do, however, is focus their energy on getting as much user information as they possibly can.

Then they take this data and exploit it. They may even sell it to other companies.

So if you see a link to a privacy policy, click it to make sure it’s valid and doesn’t just lead to a dead end.

They Don’t Provide Trustworthy Company Information

Legitimate survey companies usually have a LinkedIn profile. They also have an email address that’s consistent with their company domain.

Any marketing research company that’s well-established has an ‘About Us’ page on their website. It’s their way of disclosing their history, their survey panel data, in addition to other relevant information.

You should stay away from any survey site that doesn’t provide an ‘About Us’ page. Also, any survey website that provides vague contact information, in the form of a mobile number or a PO box, can mean they’re not legit.

Who to Go to For Assistance

Many sites and organizations offer support to those who’ve been scammed by online surveys. They also help shut down suspicious sites.

If there’s an online survey site that seems suspicious to you, you can visit a survey-takers forum or blog. These act as a sort of community of those who take surveys regularly.

Visiting these forums can help you find out whether or not a certain survey site is suspicious or not. If it is, it will appear blacklisted on one of these survey communities. One great forum to try out is on surveypolice.com.

You can also see if they’re associated with the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO). It’s the nation’s leading market and survey research organization. If the survey site is legit, then their name will be on it.

If you find yourself a victim of an online survey scam, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) organization. Even if you find that others have already written up reports about the same survey website, you should write your own report. It adds credibility to the complaints.

The BBB collects reviews and complaints as a way of maintaining consumer confidence. 

You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It may not be able to enforce the law on its own, but it does report all fraud complaints to actual law enforcement agencies.

Other helpful sites you can check out are:

A Final Note

Online surveys, if done right, offer great benefits to companies and organizations. For starter, they’re great marketing tools.

They also provide valuable insights into user behavior and attitudes. And they allow you to voice your opinion and get a small sum of money in return for your participation.

Now that you know what to look out for, you can safely try your hand at survey-taking. Maybe even make a few extra bucks on the side. The important thing is to protect yourself from cunning survey scam websites.

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