How to Avoid Survey Scams

Four Methods:Looking out for Red FlagsInvestigating Suspicious SurveysReporting Scams to the Proper AuthoritiesSpotting a Phone Survey Scam

Filling out surveys can be a great way to make some extra money, but there are nearly as many scam survey sites as there are legitimate ones. Should you want to try your hand at taking surveys to make extra money, you need to know how to spot the red flags, investigate suspicious sites, and report a fraudulent site to the proper authorities. Thousands of people have fallen prey to these types of scams in the past, so it’s important learn how to protect yourself from shady operators.

Method 1
Looking out for Red Flags

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    Don't pay to play. A legitimate survey site won't ask you to pay them to take a survey--so they can pay you. That's just passing money back and forth, and it's not a legitimate business model.[1]
    • Even if it seems like an obvious point, it needs to be made. People fall for this type of scam every day. At best, the scammer will take your money and flood you with a deluge of 1000 question surveys you get paid a dollar to complete, counting on you to get tired and quit, never recouping your money. At worst, they'll just take your money and run.
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    Watch out for phishing. If you receive an unsolicited email inviting you to take a survey in return for compensation, don't take it. It's most likely a phishing scam.[2]
    • "Phishing" is a term for a scammer trying to get your personal information in order to steal your identity. They'll either get it by installing malware on your computer (the malware's embedded in the link you followed), or simply by getting you to enter it so you can take their "survey."
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    Look for a privacy policy. All legitimate survey companies have a privacy policy. If you can't find a privacy policy, you should assume the survey is a scam.[3]
    • If you see a link to a privacy policy, make sure to click it. Clever scammers will sometimes add what appears to be a link to a privacy policy, but when you try and follow the link, you find out it leads nowhere.[4]
    • The same goes for an "about" page. Reputable companies have no interest in keeping their identities a secret. If the site you're on on doesn't include an "about" page, stay away.[5]
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    Don't get tempted by outlandish rewards. Nobody's going to become a millionaire sitting around the house taking internet surveys. You probably won't even be able to support yourself on the proceeds.[6]
    • No one is ever going to pay you $200 to take an internet survey, and if anyone promises to, they're just trying to scheme a way to get your personal information, like credit card numbers, your Social Security number, and you bank account numbers.

Method 2
Investigating Suspicious Surveys

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    Visit forums and blogs. The small but vibrant community of internet survey-takers should serve as your first line of defense against suspicious survey sites.If you suspect a survey you're about to take isn't on the up-and-up, then look around on some of the larger forums and blogs to see if any have been blacklisted by the survey community.[7] The folks on are a great place to start.
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    Check with the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is an organization that collects complaints and reviews of all types of businesses in order to maintain consumer confidence. The BBB also rates member businesses according to their standards for best practices.
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    Perform an internet search. In addition to the BBB, there are other sites, such as, and offer ratings and listings specifically for survey sites.
    • This is another area where you need to exercise caution. One scam detection site in particular,, has a very poor reputation for flagging scams. Some commentators claim they fail to catch obvious scams, or allow companies to pay to have negative information removed.

Method 3
Reporting Scams to the Proper Authorities

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    Notify the Better Business Bureau. If you do run into a survey scam, let the BBB know. Since the BBB is the premier organization in establishing best business practices, it is usually the first place someone will go to check into a company's reputation. Therefore, you should report to the BBB right away.[8]
    • Even if other people have already reported the same company, go ahead and make your own report--it makes all the other negative reports look more credible. After all, one person calling a survey a scam might be a crank. If fifty people call the same survey a scam, they're probably not all cranks.
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    Report it to the FTC. While the FTC doesn't act as a law enforcement agency, it does collect complaints of fraud from consumers and distribute them to law enforcement agencies. Report a scam at
    • All you’ll need is your personal information, some details about the scam, and as much information about the company as you can get, including email, web URL, and telephone number and physical address if possible.
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    Contact your local attorney general. Each state also has a consumer protection agency, which are run from the office of each state's attorney general. If you'd like to file a complaint with the state office of consumer protection, simply perform an internet search for "consumer complaints to [your state's] attorney general" or go to and find the listing for the attorney general in your state.
    • Although each state is going to have different rules and procedures, you’re going to want to have the same kind of information for a state consumer protection agency as you would want to have for the FTC. In addition, it’s best to try and make sure you know how much money you lost on the scam, if any. If applicable, add in the money you would have made while you were being swindled .
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    File a complaint with the FBI. The FBI has a dedicated section dealing with internet crime. If you feel the scam you dealt with rises to the level of criminal activity, as it would if the site were a veiled attempt at gathering personal details for the purposes of identity theft, then you should report it to the FBI.
    • File your complaint at You should gather as much information as possible, including the details of how you were victimized, your address, telephone, an email, and any financial transaction information relating to the scam (like dates, amounts, and account numbers.)
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    Look for comparable agencies outside of the US. If you live outside of the US, you'll need to find a comparable consumer protection agency in your home country.

Method 4
Spotting a Phone Survey Scam

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    Watch out for election survey scams. Election survey scams are another innovation in the scammer's toolbox. Don't fall for them. They're really just a thinly veiled attempt to harvest your personal information.
    • In an election survey scam, the "pollster" claims to be administering a poll about an upcoming election or about a hot-button political issue. The major red-flag is that the pollster will offer you a prize like a vacation if you complete the survey. They "only" need your credit card information to credit you the money for the vacation.[9]
    • Not only is offering a prize to complete a poll likely to skew the results, no pollster could afford to compensate everyone who takes the poll to the tune of several hundred dollars.
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    Look out for the two-step scam. Oftentimes, a telephone survey scam will actually be composed of two steps. Since most consumers expect a scam to be one discrete event, these can be very tricky to spot.[10]
    • In a two step scam, the scammer calls your number asking to you take a quick survey. The survey will ask questions about spending habits and finances. If you subscribe to your local newspaper, for instance. Once you've completed the survey, the call ends.
    • It is only a week or two later that the scammer goes in for the kill. They'll call you up posing as a representative from the newspaper, claiming your subscription is about to expire. Then they get your payment information, completing the scam.
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    Do your best to avoid cramming scams. A "cramming" scam occurs when your cellphone account is billed for numerous unauthorized charges. These can be among the most difficult to avoid, and the best course of action is to call your phone company and place restrictions on how new services (like ringtones and apps) can be billed to your account.[11]
    • In a cramming scam, the scammer is only calling to see if your phone-line is active and get basic personal information. They may ask you a few short survey questions to get your name and address, which is sometimes all they need to charge your account.

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