Exposing paid survey scams while shining the spotlight on legit online panels is something I do here at Survey Satrap often.
But that’s usually about specific sites with their names mentioned. But what if you come across a new site that you haven’t heard about? How do you know whether to trust it or not?…
To navigate this murky waters that is the paid survey industry, you need to know a few things. In this post you will learn how to spot paid survey scams, the signs you should be on the look out for, steps you can take to protect yourself, as well as how to report a site in the event you do fall victim.
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Are All Paid Surveys Scam?
The reality today is that there is no dearth of scam survey sites. However, discrediting the whole industry as scam is not sensible either.
For those in the dark, online surveys are just one part of the exercises that are market research studies. Now no one can deny that these studies form the bedrock of all consumer products/services creation in all the countries around the world.
Companies and manufacturers learn many important things from these studies. They get information on how their products or services are used by the average consumer, what are the opinions generated by their products and services, and what kind of changes do consumers want in future versions of these products and services. These are a few examples only.
To gather this kind of information, market research companies have no option but to incentivize their surveys to attract people. This is the genesis behind the term ‘paid surveys’.
Paid surveys are an excellent opportunity for people wanting to make some useful cash with the internet. This has led to a lot of people desiring to take part in such studies to earn some quick and useful cash. Sites like SurveySpot and NPD Research are excellent for that.
Try Swagbucks, the famous rewards program that pays you for watching videos, taking surveys, shopping and more.
Unfortunately, this is also the point where scammers step-in and exploit such overeager people. It’s also perhaps why there exist more scam survey sites today than genuine ones.
Needless to say, anyone desiring to make some money via online surveys needs to know the difference between a scam survey site and a real one.
Before you decide to join a particular survey site, it’s never a bad idea to conduct some research around it. This is because every company is different and has its own set of standards for functioning.
However, there are certain methods you can adopt in every scenario to help identify a rogue survey site with the least effort.
- Payment Required
This is the first and most obvious tell-tale sign. If any survey site asks payment for things like subscriptions, start-up kits, account activation or anything else, make sure to steer clear of it. Genuine survey sites never ask you for money.
- Too Much Personal Info Asked
Of course, a certain level of personal information will be required to get you started with any survey site (it’s also used to decide the right surveys for you). However, there’s a limit to how much you are asked to share.Never go further with a survey site if it asks for details related to your social security number, credit card and the likes. A genuine survey site will rarely ever ask for details other than your name, email ID, mailing address, gender, age and some other innocuous ones.
- Unspecified Emails
Whenever deciding to register with any survey site, make sure you do it directly on the site, through referral links from legit websites, or from referral links provided by friends. Do not click on links sent with unspecified emails. More often than not, these emails are sent by phishers to bait you into parting with sensitive personal info.
- No “About” Page
Any legit and real company is eager to tell their visitors who they are, where they come from and what they do. That usually comes in a page appropriately named “About Us” or “About”. But scam sites usually don’t have anything to show for. They are there to take your money without giving you any value, so in most cases, you will not see an “About” page on such sites.
- Seems Too Good to Be True
If there’s a website or email offering a $100 Amazon gift card as compensation for taking one short survey, you can be absolutely sure it’s a fraud. Yes, there are quite a few surveys that pay high. However, these are also very rare and are anything but short and sweet. So, if you come across something too good to be true, it most probably is a scam. Also remember that the average compensation for taking a survey hovers around $2 to $10. Any figure too high than this should ring the alarm bells.
Now, let me be clear here, the above set of rules are not set in stone. For example, not every site without an “About” page is a scam. There are rare instances where a site may pay you $50 for an hour long survey. Or not every site that asks for a payment is a scam. There are a few sites that do require a membership fee, and while they are not real market research companies, they are not scam either. They provide you a list of real survey sites.
Although, I don’t like the way they present themselves to unsuspecting people (as a site that conducts its own surveys when clearly they don’t), I wouldn’t call those scams either.
The point is, you need to open your eyes and you need to do your research thoroughly before labeling a site scam or legit. Don’t take everything I say word by word. Like many other things in life, this issue has its complexities as well.
How to Avoid Survey Scams?
Before we get to avoiding scams specific to paid surveys, let me mention a quick thing here. There are lots of different kinds of scam on the web. If you do any kind of activity online, I highly recommend you read this article by the FBI. It has lots of great tips for avoiding all kinds of online scams.
Back to the topic at hand. The points outlined below will help you stay on the right side of paid online surveys. As such, pay close attention to them.
If you spot some testimonials on scam sites, they are most likely to be written by ropers and shills rather than real satisfied customers.
Although quite a few legit survey companies use these testimonials, it’s also a fact that scammers do so to. That’s why you need to look closely at a site’s testimonials and if something appears weird (like fake author names of the testimonials), it’s time to turn away from the site.
2. Documented Proof
A few shady survey sites might put up pictorial proof of paid checks or other similar documents supporting the site’s authenticity. However, it doesn’t mean you too will get money simply because someone did earlier.
That apart, with the kind of technology and software available today, it’s pretty easy to counterfeit almost any document out there and give it an authentic appearance.
The only guarantee that a genuine survey site can give you is that they will pay you for every study you qualify for and complete successfully. But scam sites have a tendency to grantee certain amount of income.
There is a site out there that right on its home page has a big old text reading “Make $500 – $3500+ per month”. Yeah right! Let’s get this clear, no one and I mean no one can make $3500 a month or anywhere near that for that matter, with surveys.
4. Read the fine prints for whoever’s sake
You’ll often find that the ‘fine print’ at shady survey sites tends to contradict most of the hype they espouse (this is also a tactic to insulate themselves legally). But do not let this hype consume you in anyway.
Go over the entire fine print and pose queries wherever you think information is either vague or not understandable.
Also, make sure to go through all terms, disclaimers, conditions and other types of fine print. If a paid survey site doesn’t answer your question in a quick and satisfactory manner, avoid it.
Sites that publicly provide only PB box addresses or email IDs for questions or other matters are most certainly scammers, so beware of them.
5. Perform ‘whois’ lookups
You should perform a ‘whois’ lookup to see if a survey site has registered via proxy. If that is so, be careful when dealing with it. This is because owners of such sites tend to hide their contact information as their entire operation is a scam and find proxies perfect for this purpose.
A ‘whois’ lookup also informs you if a single owner has launched multiple sites (unless the registration was done by proxy). If that’s the case, then it’s time to be wary.
The intention of owners creating multiple sites is to have you believe in their legitimacy or lure you into paying for the same surveys multiple times.
6. Lookup the BBB
Lookup the BBB to see if complaints have been filed against any specific paid survey site or its owners.
However, don’t take the absence of any complaints to be a green signal. This simply means that the BBB hasn’t YET received any complaints regarding that site.
7. Browse forums dedicated to busting scams
There are forums on the web (like RipOffReport.com and Scam.com) where customers share their experiences of being duped by paid survey site scams.
However, again, some degree of common sense and caution is necessary here. This is because there are quite a few messages authored by ropers and shills on these forums aiming (or rather pretending) to ‘help’ people duped by these paid survey site scams and those wanting to avoid them.
For instance, these posters might talk about how all paid survey sites are scams with the exception of those ‘wonderful opportunities’ they encountered. What they don’t talk about is that they are paid to recommend these so called ‘wonderful opportunities’.
Although moderators of such anti-scam forums remove comments and messages by such posters, there is no denying that they can influence people till their removal.
7. Never blindly trust every site review
This also holds true for sites that provide screening services to weed out scam sites, or the ones that rank and rate different paid survey websites.
You need to be vigilant about any display ads or even middleman sites working for a fee as these are signs that the survey site is trying to corner referrals and commissions by duping you.
This also enables survey sites to pay their way to high rankings/ratings. Some sites even to go to the extent of putting up fake award logos, phony star ratings and the likes.
You can obtain more information on avoiding scams in the consumer advice sections of the BBB and FTC sites. However, take note that although both organizations have issued official warnings against Get rich quick schemes (like internet business and work from home scams), at the time of writing this post neither had come out with a warning specifically about paid survey sites. This is mainly because paid survey sites are fairly new additions to easy-money scams.
However, I am absolutely certain that it won’t take too long before the BBB or FTC has enough complaints to work with and issues warnings on the same. In fact, as per reliable web-based sources, local offices of the BBB are awash with complaints regarding paid survey sites.
If you are a victim of any online paid survey scam, you can:
- File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau
- Report to the Federal Trade Commission
- File a complaint with federal government’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center (also known as IC3)
- File a complaint with your state Attorney General’s office
When you talk of online surveys, let’s get one thing absolutely straight; answering surveys (even all day long) will not make you a millionaire.
However, that also doesn’t mean you can’t earn anything of note by taking surveys. The key here lies in learning to differentiate genuine panles from scam ones. This will definitely help you earn a decent amount of money from the comforts of your home while avoiding paid survey scams.
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