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Survey Scams: How to Protect Yourself and Avoid Them

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Each day I get a handful of offers from online survey websites. They might be offering legitimate surveys for me to complete in exchange for cash or gift cards.

Working with online survey companies may seem like a fun and quick way to make some extra money in your spare time. But it can be hard to figure out which are legitimate companies and which offers are online scams set up by con artists.

It’s not as easy as you might think to spot a real survey from a fake survey. Fraudsters, scammers, and crooks are getting better at creating fraud schemes set up by fraudulent surveys.

Some scammers use email scams, while other scam artists set up online ads and websites offering free gift cards or other gifts.

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.

Seven Tips on How to Avoid Online Survey Scams

Legitimate marketing research firms never suggest that anyone can make a living by simply filling out online surveys. Many survey scams will promise cash prize payouts and free gifts that appear out of the norm compared to what a legitimate company would offer. 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 online survey is real or a scam survey.

1. Online Surveys That Ask You for Money Are Scams

You should be wary of anyone who asks you to send money anywhere. A scammer can be persuasive about it, so you have to be on the lookout for anything that seems suspicious or appears to be a red flag.

They may ask for funds to be wired or deposited anywhere. Or the scammer may ask for financial information, like a bank account number or other banking information.

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

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 online survey site. A legit website will never ask for money.

2. They Make Promises That are Too Good to be True

Some online surveys promise huge amounts money or items that may be too good to be true. It could be marketing companies are offering too much money, products, vacations, and other high returns.

Some websites claim that you can make $25, or more, on a short survey. Some fraudsters 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 able to support yourself on what you make taking online surveys. Completing online surveys might give you some extra cash, but it won’t replace a full-time job.

Legitimate marketing companies reward only around $5 for each completed survey. It’s only useful for people looking to make a little bit of cash or a gift card. 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’s probably a scheme.

3. They Ask You to Share Personal Details

Survey participants should never be asked to share any personal information or sensitive data. This is doubly true if it’s someone who can’t validate who they are or why they’re doing this survey. It’s likely a scammer.

Also, don’t be goaded by any unsolicited emails, text messages, or phone calls that promise you money in return for taking an online survey.

This is referred to as a ‘phishing’ scam.

Phishing fraud schemes are when scammers try to obtain your personally identifiable information, also known as PII, via an unsolicited email. This sensitive information can be your credit card number, phone number, bank account information, social security number, or another account number.

Phishing Scam
Phishing Scam

Never give this private information to anyone. It’s a scam. Survey companies don’t need your Social Security number for any legitimate reasons. Unfortunately, scammers try to get your personal data so they can use it to scam you out of 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, phony survey you just answered, or online ads you clicked on.

4. They Ask Too Many Pre-Qualifying Questions

It’s okay for any legit 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 make you suspect that it might be a scam.

Too Many Questions
Too Many Questions

What happens is that some online surveys will give you a questionnaire that consists of too many 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 and place it on a spam email address list. Unfortunately, fraudsters and scammers often use this data to commit identity theft, steal bank details, and take over a victim’s bank account.

5. Scammers Don’t Have a Privacy Policy

Before participating in any survey, focus groups, or mystery shopper program, 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 and domain. The page will clearly outline how the online survey company will handle your personal information and privacy.

privacy policy
Privacy policies matter!

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 personal information as they possibly can.

Then they take this data and exploit it. They may even sell your email address and phone number 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.

6. They Don’t Provide Trustworthy Company Information

Legitimate companies in the online survey industry have a LinkedIn profile, customer service phone number. They also have an email address that’s consistent with their company domain information.

No About Us page

Any marketing research company that’s well-established has ‘About Us’ web pages on their website. It’s their way of disclosing their history, their survey panel data, in addition to other relevant information, like their email and phone number.

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

7. Where to Go to For Assistance

Many sites and organizations offer support and customer service if you’re a victim who’s been scammed by online surveys. They also help shut down suspicious companies and 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.

help
help

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 marketing 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 of company schemes as a way of maintaining consumer confidence and exposing scammers. 

Report it to the Federal Trade Commission

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

ftc

Other helpful sites you can check out are:

A Final Note On Survey Scams

Online surveys, if done right, offer great benefits to companies and organizations.

For starters, they’re great marketing tools. They also provide valuable insights into user behavior and attitudes. And legit online surveys allow you to voice your opinion about a consumer product and earn some rewards or gift card in return for your participation.

Now that you know what schemes 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.