How to Determine Whether a Paid Survey Panel is Legitimate

Posted on February 28th, 2013

by Megan Flemming

Survey panels are attractive for end users because just about anyone can make money Image of Paid Survey Scams
using them. They take no training whatsoever, unlike other online moneymaking
ventures (like freelancing). They’re also believable, partly because most people knows someone who has
made money using such sites, and partly because the claims of payouts are not
unrealistic.

Unfortunately, that very believability, coupled with the fact that survey sites require the
entry of end-user information to match users to appropriate surveys, makes
survey panels a major target for scammers. Scams are abound on the internet. By one
estimate, there are at least sixty scams for every legitimate online moneymaking
opportunity, and surveys are no exception. Following the tips below may help
avoid paid-survey scams. Use the information, and any suggested companies, at
your own risk. Always do your own legwork to make sure that any organization
you interact with on a financial basis is legit.

Don’t Respond to Emails Touting Survey Sites You Haven’t Joined

First and foremost, your goal should be to avoid obvious scams and phishing.

Unfortunately, the fact that surveys for money sites necessarily collect user information
including basic contact info but also more in-depth, usually private
information, makes them a target for traditional scammers as well as phishing
attacks (i.e. attempts to get user information illicitly, often by presenting
illegitimate web links or attachments as legitimate). Survey sites which are
legitimate don’t usually market themselves by sending mass spam emails. If you
do get an email claiming to be from a paid-survey site, follow good basic
security practices.

Don’t follow any links embedded in the email. Instead, if
necessary, search for the company name online to begin reading what others
think. Never, ever click on email attachments. Any survey site which is worth joining (or not) should have a substantial
web presence, which you should investigate thoroughly before deciding to join.

Avoid Scam Submission Services

Some phishing emails targeting would-be survey takers claim to have an
“in” with the best paid survey sites. Such emails direct one to a
site where, supposedly, if you enter your personal details, you will be sent valuable
information to join multiple survey sites, or even auto-registered on those
sites. Don’t fall for it. Legitimate survey sites universally offer free
sign-ups, and are usually not owned by the same parent companies. You are best
off simply finding sites to join and joining each one individually.

Read User and Expert Reviews

Visual Representation of User Reviews

With a business model that includes convincing thousands or millions of people to take
online surveys, an established survey panel is the quintessential example of a
business which should have scads of user and possible expert reviews available.
Run, don’t walk, from a site which has few or no reviews, or which is
consistently indicated as a scam. Also, use sites such as ScamBusters in conjunction
with web searches, using the name of the company with terms such as
“scam” or “legitimate” to weed out scams.

Learn About Survey Companies Using Industry Info

Like any other industry, market-research survey companies have their own standards
bodies. Information can be treated as more reliable if it comes from the American Assocation for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (http://www.casro.org),
the Council of Marketing and Opinion Research (http://www.cmor.org), as
well as ESOMAR (http://www.esomar.org)

Stick To Survey Sites Known To Be Legitimate

Survey panels change branding very rarely, and new ones that are worthwhile to join don’t
come along very often. For that reason, it might make more sense to take a
top-down approach, focusing on sites proven to be legitimate rather than
guessing at the merit of unknown sites. Highly reviewed sites include
GlobalTestMarket.com (pays even for screened-out survey responses),
GreenfieldOnline.com (pays for surveys plus sweepstakes entry rewards),
HarrisPollOnline.com (point rewards plus cash sweepstakes entries),
MySurvey.com (rewards include PayPal cash transfers and Amazon gift cards), NPDOR.com
(mostly sweepstakes rewards with some cash payments), OpinionOutpost.com
(points rewards, covertible to cash), SurveySavvy.com (paid surveys plus
SavvyConnect browser-tracking software), and SurveySpot.com (cash sweepstakes
entries plus points rewards redeemable at Amazon and elsewhere).

Don’t Pay. Ever

This tip is very simple. Any site that claims to have the best, most valuable surveys
but needs a signup or any other fee from you is almost certainly bogus. Survey
panels and similar sites make money by matching them up with
qualified consumers and other users, not by forcing users to pay for the
privilege of providing valuable consumer info. With the low payouts
typically offered by survey sites, it would make no sense to pay to join.

Never Install Anything

Any site that tries to convince you to install software locally on your machine may
also be a scam. There are a few sites with market-tracking software which can
be installed locally, SurveySavvy.com being one example. However, it’s best to
avoid doing so unless you know exactly what you’re doing. The software from an
unknown company may contain malware, and even if it doesn’t, it may compromise
your privacy. Remember, survey-taking is an activity that fits perfectly into webpages loaded into a common web browser. There should be no need to install anything locally.

Use Safe Methods of Payment

Survey panel sites generally pay in cash, points rewards, sweepstakes entries and product
samples. Only cash rewards should require any sort of payment gateway or direct
financial transaction for you to get your money. In addition, legitimate cash
survey sites such as Opinion Outpost generally pay using secure online payment
gateways such as PayPal. Never, ever give your credit card, bank account or
similar information directly to a survey site.

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