There are fewer easier jobs than filling out online surveys from the comfort of your home. Most retirees find it appealing to make money just from filling out surveys and giving their opinion on services and products, but first, you need to keey an eye out for paid online survey scams.
Surveys, in general, have been around for years. We are used to seeing them tucked in with our bill at the restaurant or mailed surveys after paying for service from a company asking how they did. People are so used to seeing surveys that few of us realize the possibility of a scam.
The internet has made life easier for everyone, including criminals, and one of the ways these scammers use it is hiding behind online surveys. Online survey scams are a convenient way for scammers to get into our wallets.
Some may take your money outright, whereas many others steal your information so they can hack into your accounts or set up fake accounts with your information. Whatever form they choose to set up their scam, the result is always the same: they steal from the unexpecting.
The good news is that though online scams may differ slightly from one another, there are significant red flags that will help you identify the legitimate companies from the scams. We cover examples of online survey scams as well as the top five ways to identify them. Identifying a scam early is key to avoiding it and keeping your money safe.
Examples of Online Scams
There are few different ways online scams work, and though knowing these systems will not aid you in telling the real from the fake, it will help you understand how these scams work.
Product or Service Renewal
This type of survey asks you to identify what magazines or services you subscribe to. Services they inquire about may include your internet, TV subscriptions like Netflix or DirecTV, or the name of your wireless carrier.
After sending the survey back, you put it out of your mind and move on with life. But then a few months later, you receive an email from the company you identified as your service provider stating your payment information requires updating. The email will appear to be from a legitimate company and will provide a link to where you can go to fix this issue to avoid interrupting your service.
The website they send you to will appear real, but you may see inconsistencies if you look at the web address. The address may have the number zero in place of the letter o, or it will not reflect the company name.
Also, if you look at the sender’s email address on the original email it will look odd. Instead of a name or title followed by the company name it will be a string of random numbers and letters.
Some surveys may offer a free trip in exchange for you giving a few minutes of your time to fill out a survey. The survey will often be questions regarding your vacation preferences. The free trip offered in this scam could be anything from a free cruise for two or a weekend trip to a local resort.
The survey will ask a series of questions about where you like to go on vacation and other travel preferences. At the end of the survey, they will tell you that your trip is all set, but they need your credit card number to hold the reservation or your bank account to credit you for the trip’s value.
The Free Trip scam is straightforward and the scammer is simply looking to steal your account information.
Many internet scams are tied to phishing. It is a simple way to attach spyware software to your computer without your knowledge. Spyware sends your personal information such as user names, passwords, account numbers, and social security number back to the scammer.
Phishing scams come in the form of an email requesting you fill out an online survey or computer pop-up offering easy money for your opinion. Once you click on the ad or link tied to the scam, the criminal is in and can start downloading the malware onto your computer.
Unfortunately, unless you run an anti-spyware software on your computer, there is no way to detect the malware. Plus, even if you request a new credit card or account information because you receive erroneous charges, the scammer will continue to get your new information until the spyware is removed.
The best way to avoid phishing scams is to avoid clicking links sent in unfamiliar emails or pop-up ads.
Ways to Identify a Paid Online Survey Scam
- Big Bucks
- You Pay Them
- Non-Business Email Addresses
- Company Name
- Your Information
One of the key ways to determine a company is legitimate, or a scam is what the company is promising for payment. Online survey scams offer grand amounts, like $250 for 15 minutes of your time.
In truth, legitimate online survey scams usually pay around $5 or less per survey. In-person surveys pay more usually between $50-$300 for a few hours of your time.
Scams use the large payment amount to entice seniors to sign up for their survey. Remember, legitimate survey groups offer smaller amounts per survey and often pay in the form of online gift cards not cash (you’ll need to watch out for gift card scams too).
So, if a company offers big bucks it is likely a scam, and the folks running it are looking to steal your personal information.
You Pay Them
Several online survey sites state that they will give you access to a long list of paid online surveys for a small membership fee. Though this may sound like an excellent deal and easy to make your money back, most if not all of these surveys are free to take if you access them directly.
If you just use your search engine you can access a list of online survey groups that do not charge you.
Some of the online survey databases that charge for membership will contain other survey groups that also charge a membership fee. So not only will you not be getting a list of legitimate surveys but you will instead receive links where you will have to pay even more money.
Also, be wary about giving out your personal information so they can pay you directly. Most online survey groups prefer using PayPal or eGift Cards, these are the safer ways to receive payment because you don’t need to give them your credit card or bank account information.
Non-Business Email Addresses
If you receive correspondence with an online survey company, you should check the email address. Legitimate companies include the business name and do not use free email addresses such as Hotmail or Gmail. Though not all scams come from email addresses from well known free email sites, there are several email addresses that scammers can obtain for free that are untraced
Instead, emails addresses should have a person’s name, title, or department as the first part of the email address like:
It should not look like:
The company name is also a way to determine the company’s legitimacy. Some of the ads offering money for your opinion will not list a business name. If an ad does not contain the company’s identity, you can almost be sure it is a scam.
And if there is a name on the ad, be sure to take the time to run it through the Better Business Bureau and check out what other people are saying about the company. Additionally, put the business’s name in your search engine, followed by the word “scam”; this is another way to determine if the company and their claims are real.
Taking a few minutes to research a company before you set up an account is the best way to avoid being caught up in a scam.
Surveys ask a wide range of questions about you, some of which are legitimate, and others have less honest intentions.
It is critical you know which questions are valid and which are shady. Here are examples of real topics that legitimate surveys use for marketing research: age range, gender, ethnicity, and marital status.
And here are questions that are red flags:
- The name of your bank
- The name of the credit card company you use
- Your birthdate
- Your bank or credit card account numbers
- Your social security number
- Type of bank accounts you have
If you are taking a survey that asks questions from the second group it is best you stop taking the survey. The red flag questions are ones used to steal your identity.