How To Recognize Online Survey Scams

Does it sound too good to be true? Can you really make money from home doing nothing? Almost nothing. Only answer some questions, press some buttons, or fill some checkboxes.

Although businesses won’t pay you for no reason, they may pay you for your opinions. Doesn’t it make sense? Advertising is expensive, and you don’t know whether people will respond to your ads (plus potential click fraud attacks). If you’re going to spend money on lead generation, would you rather show ads to some strangers or pay the people who want to hear from you?

Marketers may look at paid surveys as an inexpensive way to get leads. However, they ignore the reason people consume their content and visit their sites: money rewards.

How about users? They sign in, complete a few surveys, and make money. Sometimes, you make $100, others you make $2, depending on the company’s needs and qualifications.

If you look for easy money, do not assume that zero skills involve zero qualification. That’s perhaps why results change so greatly. If you find promises of 100s of dollars a week, every week, you’d better look elsewhere.

Online Survey Scams: Do Surveys Pay?

Why would someone pay for your opinion? For the same reason that a company wants to buy your data. Customers’ data helps to improve their marketing, reach more people, and boost conversions.

When you look at bogus survey sites, you may find a different story. 

“100s of highly paid surveys every hour. Make money from home, anywhere in the world, anytime!”

The truth? If you don’t qualify for the sellers’ interests/demographics, you won’t see it. 

Dishonest survey websites often over-promise what you can achieve, so you can justify spending hours filling their forms. Or a paid membership.

You’ll make some bucks, but probably not as much as you’d expect. Some sites may use their tokens to make it seem you’re earning, but then you can’t cash them out.

Beware Of Fake Survey Sites

Survey sites do pay to hear your voice. But they don’t mindlessly give it to anyone who fills up a form: that’s unrealistic. 

With a good promise, however, some money chasers would fall for it. Go to Youtube and search “make money online.” Go to the overhyped, popular videos: it won’t be surprising to find spam comments of people recommending fraudulent sites.

“Try this website, I just made over $725 this week with them!”

“Another successful transaction with Spirithackworld1 on IG”

“Ꮪꭼꮮꮮꮩꭺꮮ is another easy way to earn money with your computer for free.”

“I was on the verge to live on the street and this system saved me”

Apart from social media, you’ll find these spamming promotions as junk emails, fake freelance jobs, or Google Ad campaigns.

Why Do Scammers Succeed?

A con man only needs to play with confidence and emotions to make you do what he wants. You’ll find four main reasons people get into scams:

  • They need money fast. If you urgently need money, your emotions may block rational thinking. When being pressured with time, people make mistakes. They can’t make decisions.
  • They have no skills. You may have tried many other methods and still nothing. You may rationalize: if it takes no skills to succeed, then there’s no way something I can fail at this opportunity.
  • They listened to fake promises. Can you make money fast and easy? 99% of the time, you can’t. Because it’s attractive, people may still go against the odds because they want to believe it’s real.
  • They found fake social proof. “If everybody is making money, I could make it too.” You don’t get paid in the market by finding a “hack,” but by solving problems. If everyone has already solved the problem (aka competition and saturation), there’s no opportunity by the time you join. If you’re still committed, be ready to share a piece of the cake with the thousands of people doing the same task you do.

Warning Signs Of A Survey Scam

People get paid for surveys all the time, which means it’s possible. But it’s not as easy as they picture it. For example, it’s not easy to find the right company to trust. You should check whether the site is worth it before you devote a single minute to it.

#1 You Can’t Cash Out Credits

Survey sites get paid for companies to bring users and answer their surveys. But how do you make money? The real question is: How do you make it real?

You may have some hundreds sitting on your account. But if you can’t get it out, it counts as if you never earned it. Imagine the site goes down forever. What will happen to your credits?

Most likely, the credits you earn on survey sites will exchange for other offers, not real money. Not even Paypal. It doesn’t necessarily make it a scam, but you should know it before you join.

#2 Beginner’s Luck

When you first join the survey site, you start filling forms with excitement. Soon you’ll be making big bucks!

Most sites implement credits which you can exchange for dollars later. Just by opening an account, you earned twenty credits. Then, you connected your social media accounts, five credits each. You referred to a friend, ten more credits. You may also find a profitable survey: another twenty credits. 

Well, that’s the exception. You made money, but you can’t get it out unless you reach the limit. You may need at least $100 to cash out your earnings, and this initial stage earned you 50% of that within one hour.

It creates a false expectation that you’ll always be making money fast and easy. The real average efficiency is about $0.40 per hour. Those welcome gifts may have lifted your mood, but you’ll never get the money unless you’re ready to grind.

#3 Paid Registration

“Why do I need to pay to get paid?”

Survey sites are full of people looking for easy money. Aren’t paid memberships a great idea to reduce that load? That means less saturation and more money for those users.

Unfortunately, it’s a scam. If you only need a credit card to qualify, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll make a return. That’s like buying a “working kit” to complete a bogus online job.

Mind that they may use the other two tricks. You pay $20 to join, earn $20 back within one hour (beginner’s luck), but then need $100 to cash out. And you can’t exchange for real money.

How to Spot Fake Online Data Entry Jobs

#4 Promising consistent, easy money

A survey site can’t promise you a consistent workflow unless they pay it from their pocket. They can’t predict when demand will increase. At the rate users are joining, they don’t know whether it will be sustainable in the future.

$20 for a survey makes a lucky day. Even if you wanted to sit eight hours straight, there’re not enough surveys to complete, most of which you won’t qualify.

#5 High Affiliate Commissions

Think of this scenario: You page $50 to register on the site, and you earn an average of $0.36 per hour. BUT you earn $25 per referral.

If I were you, I’d spend my time promoting the site, not filling up forms. The question is: why would someone pay so much when the site is worth so little?

That’s like referring people to a company with no product: they are the product. If you find such deals, you may have stumbled with a pyramid scheme that poses as a survey site.

Comprehensive Guide on Pyramid Scheme Scams

Once the platform is popular, everyone except the inner circle is losing money.

Types Of Online Survey Scams

What’s the best way to make money? It seems that creating survey platforms is more profitable than joining them, especially for scammers. They have no problem making bold promises as long as you believe it: here are five examples.

#1 Surveys And Prizes

“Register on the site and complete a short survey to qualify for a prize.”

Or perhaps:

“Congratulations! You won the prize (for a contest you didn’t participate)! Fill up the information, and we’ll deliver it to you.”

They want you to share your sensitive data, or maybe pay a shipping fee. Right below, you find dozens of Facebook comments: “Got my new iPhone. Super excited, not a scam!”

You’d lose money on a confidence trick and perhaps your identity. The survey has no use other than distracting you from the trap.

How To Spot a Lottery Scam with Fake Lottery Prizes

#2 Survey Software

If you join a survey platform, you may need to install an app before making money filling forms. UserTesting, for example, makes you download a screen recorder for the video survey. 

But fraudulent platforms make you download malware files disguised as tools. You might get a recorder after installing, but the package also included spyware applications.

By the time it’s too late, you find the problem:

  • Your computer can’t unlock the screen without paying hundreds for a fee (ransomware).
  • Your bank account shows unrelated expenses. Someone tracked your data from your device (spyware).
  • The malware has disabled your other security software, and you can’t delete it.

What Is Adware & How To Get Rid Of It

#3 Survey Phishing And Imposters

You get an email from a well-known brand. It says you can win an attractive prize if you complete a quick survey. If you click on it, you may appear on a cloned site designed to steal your identity.

What Is Identity Theft and How To Prevent It

After the test, you find the message that you qualified for the prize and can collect it. But to do so, you need to provide your ID information. “Processing the prize may take three to ten business days.”  You never receive anything.

One flag to consider: has that brand ever emailed you in the past? If not, why now?

What Is Phishing And How To Protect Your Sensitive Data With Examples

#4 Survey Pyramid Schemes

Beginners make money at first, so they believe the system works. How much? Around $20, which is the average cost per lead for a marketer. They pay you lower than their break-even point and pocket the difference.

However, you may find them spending outrageous numbers. For example, they promise to pay you $50 for every person you bring. The catch? Every new member has to pay a higher entry fee (i.e., $100). 

If you set the goal to refer to as many people as possible, you’re getting paid to scam. At least, pay off the initial $100. Ironically, you’d be making more money from referrals than surveys. Wasn’t that the reason the platform exists? Not as a Ponzi scheme.

#5 Survey And App-Hack Scams/Jailbreaking

In-app purchases motivate users to search for tricks and avoid paywalls. Some of them offer unrealistic results, like unlocking the whole app by just entering your login information.

Well, that’s the easy part. After you click on the Generate button, you’ll see a few lines of fancy code, as if the website was hacking the app in realtime.

When the process completes, surprise! You need to prove that you’re human: you have to complete a survey before completing the process (which never does). Along the way, you may give personal information to fraudsters. 

Preventing Survey Scams

What do all these scams have in common? They hook you with easy money traps. What you don’t know is, your privacy may cost you more money than what you expect to win.

These Devious Get-Rich-Quick Scams Will Keep You Broke

Here’s a simple guide to avoid fraud:

  • Be more cautious when the platform asks for registration fees. You don’t need to pay to make money. Completing surveys will consume a lot of your time: giving money on top of that makes no sense.
  • Read reviews first. Some survey platforms work, but there are too many people joining. How to make extra cash on a saturated website? If you find a platform a few people know about, it may be tempting to get there first. But until you check other people’s reviews, you won’t know whether it’s the real deal.
  • If you look for extra cash, don’t rely on survey websites exclusively. Few things are more time consuming than trading hours for pennies filling up forms. If you consider the potential scams, it makes sense to look for other income sources like arbitrage. The best way to avoid fraud is to not join those sites

The Bottom Line

Before you join another survey platform, check whether it’s legit, and set realistic expectations. Try joining InboxDollars, Swagbucks, SurveyJunkie, UserTesting, or Validately. If you qualify for the interests and demographics, consider focus groups.

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