Guide to Online Survey Scams

Online surveys can seem like a great way to make a quick buck, with various marketing agencies or pollsters seeking your opinion for a bit of cash. Unfortunately, not all surveys are legitimate, and choosing the wrong one could result in dire consequences. When it comes to survey scams, it's always important to look out for the warning signs of potential fraud and avoid them whenever possible.

online survey scams

What Are Survey Scams?

A survey scam will begin with some form of outreach, usually through an email, online ad, or social media post. Sometimes, you may receive a text or call on your smartphone. Once contact has been made, a scammer will ask you to participate in a brief survey with the offer of compensation. This compensation can be a direct cash payment, gift cards, or credit on some form of marketplace.

The subject of these surveys can vary greatly. Questions may be related to popular culture, specific branches of science, a current political situation, or your opinions on a recent tragedy. Many scammers will choose something that has recently been in the headlines, increasing the chances their victims will have an opinion on the situation.

Different Types of Online Survey Scams

There are many ways scammers will try to steal your money or information through online surveys, most utilizing standard fraud techniques.

#1: Phishing Survey

A phishing survey can often be found in display or social media ads, offering some grand prize for answering only a few simple questions. Once clicked, these ads will direct you to a fake form asking for all manners of personal information. This information can include:

●      Full legal name

●      Phone number

●      Address

●      Social security number

●      Social media password

●      Credit card number

●      Bank information

This one should be easy to identify because no legitimate survey will need this information. At maximum, a survey will ask for your name, email, or phone number. This is so they can separate your answers from other participants and allow the company to send you some sort of small compensation.

#2: Fake Email

An email survey scam will appear as a company you may know or trust and offer you a link to download a survey. They may also make it seem like the email is coming from someone within your company or an individual you trust. Once clicked, this link will begin to download some form of malware onto your device. This malware can steal your data, give scammers access to your bank accounts, and show them a complete list of your passwords.

There is an easy way to search through email records and find whether or not the person emailing you is a scammer. A reverse email search can give you the name, address, phone number, social accounts, and any other public records about the owner of a specific email address. This can help you verify the sender's identity and report them to the appropriate authorities.

#3: Spoof Websites

Survey scammers may use spoof websites to increase the legitimacy of their fraud schemes. A survey scammer can make it seem like they directly represent a particular company by taking the layout and appearance of popular websites like Amazon. This also gives them more opportunities to have you enter your account information. For an online marketplace like Amazon, this can mean thousands of dollars charged on various pieces of merchandise, along with direct access to any credit cards linked to your account.

#4: Impersonating Recognizable Companies

Even if a scammer does not create an entire spoof website, they will likely still impersonate companies you know and recognize. Remember, these individuals are criminals; they have no qualms pretending to be representatives from any number of legitimate companies. This type of scam can be used in conjunction with email, phishing, and spoofing tactics. The more time a scammer spends creating their fake company persona, the more opportunities they'll have to trick victims into providing sensitive information.

How to Identify and Prevent Survey Scams

You'll want to be wary of any online poll that begins to ask for personal or financial information. You may be offered a free trial, gift card, or some type of prize; these are tricks to get you to enter your credit card information. If a company wants to legitimately offer you compensation for taking a survey (which many large companies do), they will never ask you to provide information about your bank account. You should also never provide your social security number; no real survey will ever ask for this information.

Another red flag is the quality of the copy used to create the survey. It is most likely a scam if a survey is riddled with grammatical errors or misspelled words. Major companies will have professionals create these surveys, so the chances of them containing errors are low. You should also watch for any survey that offers exorbitantly expensive prizes. No company will give each participant a free trip to Hawaii or a flat screen T.V., as that would end up costing them far more than the gathered information is worth.

Online Survey Scams Can Be Dangerous

It's always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to online surveys. While getting a free credit card or some extra money in your account would be nice, you should always check the legitimacy of any survey before you begin. Contacting the company that a survey claims to represent is one good step to accomplish this, as they can confirm whether or not they have any active surveys.

Most importantly, do not provide any sensitive data! Giving your information to scammers can result in identity theft, which can drain your bank accounts and permanently damage your credit score. Surveys will never ask for your credit card information or social security number; if one does, you should avoid it at all costs.