Paid survey scams on the Internet are everywhere these days. Scammers prey on people's gullibility or desperation to access either their money or sensitive personal information. With the right knowledge, however, these scams are easy to detect and avoid
This article covers everything you need to know about survey scams, their characteristics, and how to spot and report fraud. Continue reading to learn how to protect yourself and others you care about from this crime.
What is Survey Fraud?
A scam is when an individual or organization uses deception to steal money or personal information from its victims. Typically, the scammers pose as a legitimate business or organization in order to earn trust. Fraudsters promise large sums of money, prizes, or other benefits in exchange for an initial investment or personal information. The victim does what's asked but never receives what's been promised.
In a survey scam, a fake survey promises prizes or money to those who complete it.
Survey scams vary. They may call, text, or email you, or they may appear as an enticing internet ad or social media post urging you to complete a survey for gift cards, cash, trips, or electronics.
Scammers don't care about your opinion. Fraudsters who commit these types of crimes pose as a well-known institution (such a bank or healthcare company) to gauge customer satisfaction through a fake survey. These are the most common types of scams:
Stealing money. Fake surveys request personal or financial information (such as a credit card number) in order to pay for the alleged prize's shipping fees. They either steal money from their victims' bank accounts or make card purchases on their behalf using the stolen details.
Identity theft. The scammer can steal or sell their victim's identity by having them complete bogus surveys and supply sensitive data such as Social Security numbers. This can also happen if you click on links provided by the surveys. If you do this, you risk downloading a rogue program that steals sensitive data from your phone or computer.
Involuntary subscription to products and services. Some phony surveys attempt to persuade the victim to sign up for a website in exchange for access to a free trial of a service, but in reality it’s a paid subscription to a product.
6 Signs That a Paid Survey Is a Scam
Fake surveys frequently possess qualities that set them apart from the real deal. Let's have a look at them.
1. They look legitimate
Many scammers pose as agents of well-known companies to gain the trust of their victims. One such scam began circulating during the pandemic, known as the COVID-19 vaccination survey scam. It operates as follows: the potential victim receives an email or text message inviting them to complete a survey about the COVID-19 vaccine they received (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, or Johnson & Johnson). The victim is promised a significant prize upon completion of the questionnaire, but must pay shipping charges. The victim then provides their credit card information and is charged, but never receives the promised prize.
2. They ask for personal or financial information
A fake survey will ask you to provide sensitive data, such as your:
Credit card number
Bank account information
Social Security number
Keep in mind: A legitimate survey will never ask for sensitive information as the results collected are anonymous.
3. Sense of urgency
Fake surveys include phrases like, "only available for a limited time" or "today is the last day to win fantastic prizes!" These messages are designed to generate a false sense of urgency and entice victims to complete the phony survey quickly and without hesitation.
Keep in mind: A credible survey site would never do this. Real survey sites always allow you to complete it at your leisure, or at the very least, give you plenty of time.
4. They promise big prizes
A simple way to identify survey scams is by the prizes they promise. In general, survey scammers offer significant sums of money, expensive electronics (such as a computer), or lavish trips. Clicking on the URL that leads to these prizes can cause viruses or other software issues on your computer. Legitimate surveys offer significantly more modest rewards: a small amount of cash or a gift card for a low amount.
5. They contain spelling and/or grammatical errors
Fake survey websites frequently contain grammatical mistakes and/or misspellings. In contrast, the website of a legitimate company or institution that conducts surveys and research will be well-created and meticulously edited.
6. Absence of privacy policies
8 Tips to Avoid Survey Scams
When you receive a survey via email or text message, or see an advertisement for one online, be mindful before completing it. To spot survey frauds and avoid them, follow these tips:
1. Pay attention to what they’re offering
Be suspicious of surveys that promise large sums of money or expensive gifts in exchange for completing a questionnaire. Keep in mind that paid surveys are not a way to become wealthy, but a source of supplemental income. Also, be wary of any survey that requires you to pay for a shipping fee or other similar charge. Legitimate surveys will never ask you for payment information or bank details.
2. Take a good look at who’s sending the survey
If a survey is sent to your email, take a good look at who the sender is. Legitimate companies will always use emails with a company domain. For example, Microsoft will always send you any message from an account similar to this: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you receive a survey from a free email provider like Gmail or Yahoo, beware.
3. Check for a related scam
Before completing a survey you receive via text message or email, confirm through an online search whether it's a legitimate survey or a scam. Many companies communicate to the general public if bogus surveys are circulating using their name. If you see a post about the survey you received, it’s probably a scam.
4. Block unwanted calls and text messages
Blocking unwanted numbers can help you prevent scammers from calling and messaging.
5. Beware of suspicious links, emails, and texts
Avoid clicking on links or attachments in suspicious-looking emails or text messages.
6. Protect your personal and financial information
Remember that a legitimate survey will not ask you for private information such as your Social Security number or bank account information. If an alleged company asks for these details to conduct a survey, don’t share them with anyone.
7. Check if the survey is legitimate
If you have doubts about the legitimacy of a survey, check the official website of the company that is supposedly conducting the survey. In general, you can contact them through a customer service number or an email address listed on the official website. In any case, do not use the contact information included in the questionable survey message, as it may connect you to someone who is part of the scam.
8. Update antivirus programs on your digital devices
These programs are designed to prevent malicious software from collecting information without your consent. Most devices have an antivirus program that updates automatically. If your operating system does not offer free protection against malicious programs, you can find inexpensive options for downloading on the Internet. Only install programs from trusted sources.
How to Report a Fraudulent Survey?
If you’ve been the victim of a survey scam, remember that you are not alone. There are federal, state, and local resources available to you to report and receive advice on how to proceed. Here are the places you can turn if you’ve participated in a fraudulent survey.
Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is one of the leading U.S. agencies that receives complaints about fraud and scams of all kinds. You can file an online complaint with the FTC about a survey scam at reportfraud.ftc.gov. The FTC will enter your report into a database used by U.S. authorities to investigate and prosecute scams and frauds, among other crimes.
Despite its extensive investigative work, the FTC does not solve individual cases; rather, it uses the information provided by victims to find criminal networks and organizations, educate the public, and communicate what is happening in each community. In addition, when the FTC brings cases, it tries to recover the stolen money to return it to the affected individuals.
On the other hand, the FTC also has a website called identitytheft.gov where you can report if you’ve been a victim (or suspect you have been a victim) of identity theft. This includes, among other situations, that a scammer has information about your:
Credit or debit card
Social Security number
Internet username and/or password
The FTC will use the information you submit in your report to properly investigate the scam and will offer a specific action plan to help your identity theft issues.
National Disaster Fraud Center
The National Center Against Disaster Fraud (NCDF) is a U.S. government entity that works to prevent, investigate, and detect fraud related to natural and intentional disasters, then prosecute those responsible and defend the victims of such fraud.
Keep in mind: If you were a victim of the COVID-19 vaccination survey scam or suspect one, you can complete this online form or report it to the disaster-related fraud hotline: 866-720-5721.
Report at the local and state level
The above reporting sites are federal in nature. You can also report at the local level by visiting your area’s police station, or at the state level by visiting your state's consumer protection office. These offices provide a wide range of functions:
Mediate complaints and conduct investigations
Prosecute those who violate consumer protection laws
Issue and regulate professional licenses
Deliver educational materials
Defending consumer interests
Keep in mind: Find contact information for your state's consumer protection office here.
Internet Crime Complaint Center
If you came across a bogus survey through a fake email or an imitation of an official website, this is not only a survey scam, but also a crime known as phishing. In this case, you can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). You can also report to the IC3 a malicious computer program or malware of which you have been a victim.
Keep in mind: Phishing involves using emails, text messages, or a fake website to gain the trust of a victim before stealing money or personal information such as credit card numbers, bank details, debit card pins, and passwords, among others.
Where Can I Take Reliable Paid Surveys?
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Learn about more reliable paid survey websites
We created a SABEResPODER guide where you can learn more about paid surveys and other digital platforms that provide this type of earning opportunity.
Share, Educate, and Empower Others!
It’s possible to earn extra money by completing surveys, but remember to take into account the tips in this article before doing so! We hope that this information will provide you with the tools to recognize and avoid paid survey scams.
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