Scammers are using online surveys, offering gift cards, cash payment or deep discounts, as a way to steal identities or elicit payment for worthless goods. At first, the surveys may seem normal and innocent enough. As the survey draws you in with easy, harmless questions, it builds momentum toward personal and potentially harmful questions.
In some online survey scams, the questions never get too personal, but the promised gift card is “out of stock.” Instead you are offered some other product or service, such as wrinkle cream, diet pills or life coaching. In these cases, there never was a gift card, only these alternatives.
The Better Business Bureau offers the following advice for steering clear of online survey scams:
• Beware of survey sites that copycat a legitimate brand or company by using logos and colors. If the official website doesn’t link to the survey, then it is most likely a scam.
• Never pay to take surveys. A membership fee or a training kit is a sure sign of a scam with no chance of payment down the road.
• Research the survey site. Alerts and complaints from participants are clear warning signs. However, a lack of complaints doesn’t mean it’s legitimate. Use caution when you see testimonials with photos of survey payouts. These payments might be based on referrals from the very website with the proof. Payment for survey taking is usually much less.
• Never share personal details, including Social Security number, bank accounts and credit card numbers.
If you receive a check from an online survey company, beware of overpayment and requests to wire the difference. The check is likely fake, and banks need time to detect it. The scammer is counting on you to wire the money before the fraudulent check is detected.
Survey scams also occur offline. Use caution when approached by survey takers at the mall or in other public locations.
If you have questions about online scams, contact the BBB at www.bbb.org or call (509) 455-4200. To file a complaint about online survey scams, visit the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov and the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor