Use of the internet to conduct surveys has surged in recent years, and riding this trend are some dishonest or fraudulent research “pretenders”. These “companies” make empty promises of “earning high income as a survey respondent,” or worse, they may attempt to steal your money or your personal identity.
It is important to remember that the vast majority of online surveys are managed by legitimate companies and that your participation in these surveys is important – and they can also be a fun way to win prizes. The Insights Association offers the following guidelines to the public in an effort to help you recognize a legitimate and professional online survey and thereby avoid the potential risk to your money and your privacy from dishonest practitioners.
Legitimate Survey Research Companies Will:
- Have contact information on their website, and a representative available to answer questions/concerns
- Limit the number of surveys you can take
- Ask participants to answer screening questions to see if they meet demographic requirements needed for their research sample
- Value the time you take to complete a survey by offering modest incentives and “thank you” such as sweepstakes entries, coupons or a nominal monetary reward. Remember, if the incentive seems too good to be true - it probably is.
- Generally affiliate themselves with a trade group. (Most associations require members to meet certain ethical standards)
- Honor your request to discontinue sending e-mail invitations for surveys or to remove you from their online research panel
Legitimate Companies Won’t:
- Request credit card or bank account information or your Social Security number
- Try to sell or promote a product
- Request payment for anything
- Try to recruit you with a one-question survey (e.g., “What’s your favorite color?”) in a pop-up ad or unsolicited e-mail
- Contact or seek personal information from any child under the age of 13 without a parent’s prior, verifiable consent
Join a legitimate online research panel: Many Insights Association members operate research panels that you can join. By doing so, you can participate in online research without having to answer e-mail or pop-up invitations from someone you don’t know and ensure that you are always dealing with a reputable research company that will honor its obligation to give you a promised incentive, will not abuse your personal information and will not try to sell you anything.
Learn about the research company: Review their website. Type the name of the company/website and the word "scam" into an internet search and see if complaints or articles turn up. You can also obtain a reliability report on the company from the Better Business Bureau.
If you are typing in personally identifiable information on a web page: Be sure it is secure by looking for the "https" designator in the URL (web address).
If you decide to cancel your membership with a site: Ask that they delete your personal information and take you off their marketing list.
If you feel you have been a victim of fraud: First, complain to the company. If that doesn’t help, you can log a complaint with any of a number of organizations, including the Federal Trade Commission, Better Business Bureau, Internet Crime Complaint Center, or your state’s attorney general's office. If the company indicates membership in a trade group, contact the association.
Insights Association members are required to abide by a strict Code of Standards. For a list of member companies, click here.
Once you determine that an internet survey is being conducted by a professional and legitimate research company – please participate! Your opinions are essential in the important process of market research.