There are many risks associated with online paid surveys, both to the individuals who take them and the businesses that administer them. For businesses, one of the main risks of paid online surveys is you are giving extra incentives to people to fib and give false answers so that they can take more survey assignments [source: Marketing Research Society of America]. This is a form of consumer research, which if used incorrectly can damage your company’s reputation and brand. For parents, giving extra incentives for kids to fill out the survey forms could lead to some kids passing the survey forms out as favors for their parents rather than actually getting a chance to receive money. If this happens, this could be considered theft.
For market research companies, there are two major risks associated with online surveys. The first risk is market research companies who try to sell you their product before you have completed the survey. For example, a company might ask a question about which kind of vacuum cleaner is best, and then offer you their best selling model as a gift. In addition, market research companies might try to sell you other things (such as candles or chocolate) that are related to the topic of your survey. If you feel like you have been “short changed” by a market research company, report them immediately to the FTC.
Another major risk for survey sites is the possibility of you being a “spammer.” Spammers use online surveys as a way to obtain personal information from unsuspecting participants. For example, a market research company might ask you for your street address, email address, and phone number. Once they have this information they use it to send you advertisements for unwanted products.
There are two ways to prevent becoming a spammer. First, if you want to participate in online surveys in any way, always make sure to register with an online survey site that provides you with a free list of eligible survey participants. Second, always read the fine print of any online surveys you sign up for. Most reputable survey sites will provide you with detailed instructions and an optional privacy agreement. Read this agreement before signing up, and consider asking any questions you might have before completing any survey.
A third potential risk for taking online surveys involves companies who attempt to sell consumer information through online surveys. Multiple e-mail scams are prevalent, and can result in the creation of a large mass of unwanted spam mail. These companies can use your e-mail address to forward unwanted commercial messages, such as product ads. If you believe that you have received one of these commercial messages, report the e-mail to the Federal Trade Commission’s anti-spam division.
To help avoid becoming a victim of a survey scam, you should try to register for only legitimate online survey sites. You can do this by looking at the About Us and Staff lists on each survey sites’ home pages. If the site has no information available about itself or its staff members, or if the staff members are unwilling to provide you with contact information, you should register with another online survey site.
Finally, you should always look for certain items when evaluating a market research company. First, never take a survey for a marketing firm if the company has never completed any market research studies for that specific company in the past. Also, never choose a company because it pays a lot of money. Many companies that pay you a lot of money to complete online surveys may not actually be doing so because they have found that their target demographic is overpaying for products. If a company’s only real aim is to make more money, you will find it very hard to participate in their surveys.
If you are asked to participate in a marketing study or advertising campaign, always read the fine print before you sign up. Most people sign up for online surveys just to make money. Never sign up for a survey just to earn the most cash. To avoid being scammed, simply look for online survey scam alert signs. There are many websites that offer honest reviews of market research firms; you can use these sites to learn what to look for.