Survey scams are almost as old as the internet. They’re so prevalent, you can hardly spend an hour online without running into an ad for a “super quick” survey promising a reward for just a few minutes of your time.
What actually happens, though, is that the scammer walks away with a free survey, or worse, your information and/or your money. The alert consumer can spot a survey scam easily, but fraudsters are unfortunately becoming more sophisticated at luring innocent victims into their schemes.
Don’t get caught! Here are eight ways to spot a survey scam:
1. You’re asked to pay to participate in a survey.
Authentic survey companies need you—you don’t need them. There’s absolutely no reason to pay to take a survey of any kind. If you’re targeted by an ad asking you to take a survey and to pay for the privilege of doing so, don’t respond.
2. You’re asked to share sensitive information before you can take the survey.
They’d really appreciate it if you could take this quick survey for them. They just need some information from you first, like your Social Security number, date of birth and maybe even your checking account number. If a survey company asks for anything more than basic information from you, sign out as quickly as you can.
3. They advertise on Craigslist and similar sites asking for your email address.
“Survey companies” that advertise on sites like Craigslist asking you to share your email address are usually fronts for scam rings. They use the bogus surveys as bait so you will share your email address. Once they have this information, they’ll use it to spam you with scam emails, phishing schemes, malware or worse. Alternatively, they’ll sell your email address to another scam ring to be used for similar purposes.
4. They offer too much money.
If a survey is offering you $100 for a 20-question survey that shouldn’t take you more than five minutes to complete, you can be sure you’re looking at a scam. No legitimate survey company is that desperate. The pay for authentic survey-taking is generally on a much more modest scale.
5. You’re directed to download attachments.
Any time an unknown contact asks you to download attachments to your device, be super-suspicious. More often than not, these are scams and the attachments are loaded with malware. Don’t respond to the offer, and if it was made via email, be sure to report the email address as spam.
6. They advertise aggressively.
If the same solicitation for survey participation keeps popping up across your screen, you may be looking at a scam. Scammers tend to flood their targets with ads in the hopes that one of them will actually work. Similarly, if the survey offer is full of unbelievable testimonials of past participants, you’re likely looking at a scam. Legitimate survey companies don’t need to try so desperately hard to get people to take their surveys.
7. They give you an hour to pre-qualify for the survey.
Often, a survey company will want you to answer a few pre-qualifying questions to see if you fit their desired demographic. Scammers exploit the prequalification by having the target answer dozens of questions and then informing them they’ve run out of time and cannot participate in the actual survey. This is false, of course, and the questions the scammer just answered actually were the survey questions, only now they won’t be getting paid for it. Check to see if a survey has a time limit on the prequalification before you start answering questions.
8. They require an outrageous minimum before payment.
Most legitimate survey companies require the survey taker to complete a minimum number of surveys before the first payment. However, scammers require their targets to take an unrealistic number of surveys before they receive their first paycheck. Often, the victim will just quit before they qualify for a payment and the scammers now have these completed surveys without paying anything for them.
Survey-taking can be a great way to earn some pocket money, but remember that scams are rampant. Stay safe!