Are online surveys legal and safe?

Online surveys and contests are everywhere on the internet. The reasons are simple: it is easy and inexpensive to create such a survey, it takes little time for respondents to complete, and it is easy for experts to interpret the survey results. This is why they remain a popular marketing tool for businesses.

online surveys

"Many of these surveys are actually legitimate, and participants can actually be paid, entered into a prize draw, or receive other benefits in exchange for their time and information," says Phil Muncaster from the digital security company ESET. “However, it is just as easy for fraudsters to imitate these types of surveys. In such a case, how do you distinguish a normal survey from a fake one?”

Either scammers seek to steal passwords, The your credit card details or other information, yes install malware on your computer or another device or get added to spam lists, it's good to know what the risks are and how to "separate the chaff from the wheat," says its expert ESET.

Signs to spot a survey scam

Fraud campaigns are a growing business for cybercriminals. A study recently revealed that a single criminal network was making US$80 million a month from victims worldwide – using surveys and gifts from 120 well-known brands to lure its victims.

Such scams often start with one email or a message/text which has probably been sent to countless other victims. It is essentially one message Phishing designed to entice the recipient to click through.

Fraud often involves the involvement of a well-known brand to lend a sense of legitimacy and encourage the victim to participate. In December 2022, a popular survey scam used for this purpose the trade name of the chocolate industry Cadbury, promising recipients the chance to win "an exclusive Christmas Magic Basket of Chocolates" if they took a short quiz.

Fraud can include a themed lure – like her Christmas offering Cadbury or the supposed "40th anniversary" of the company Costco which was used in a campaign in June 2022 in South America.

Participants are offered money, or gift card, or one gadgets (B.C. iPad/iPhone), entry into a raffle, a discount on their next purchase or any other non-existent prizes if they participate in the survey. But …

Scammers may ask the would-be victim to pay a “handling fee”, “tax” or a “shipping/handling” charge in order to receive the… non-existent prize.

By clicking on the message, the user will not go to the official website of a company, but to one fake website.

Often, the user redirects multiple times en route to the fake survey, as happened with a scam, which promised victims a gift card Ulta Beauty worth of 500 dollars.

Many times the... "organizers" of the online survey ask victims to post the survey/giveaway offer on social media or share it with their other contacts, which spreads the scam even further while adding legitimacy in the eyes of the recipients.

What are the dangers of survey scams?

If you are unlucky enough to fall victim to a scam, there are several possible outcomes. It can:

  • Being asked to fill in personal information that criminals then use to add you to a list spam.
  • Being asked to fill out personal and financial information that leads to identity fraud and/or further attempts Phishing.
  • Unknowingly install malware on your system by visiting the fake website. Malware can steal your bank or cryptocurrency account credentials, encrypt your files to blackmail you into paying a ransom (ransomware), to join your computer in a malicious network botnet etc.
  • Being asked to pay some money for nothing, such as to join a group that will share details of paid surveys with you.
  • Fall victim to a scam where you are asked to pay a small deposit in exchange for a prize you will never receive.

The bottom line is that survey scams lead to loss of money or data – not to mention the emotional pain of trying to get your money back and canceling your bank cards.

How to protect yourself

Based on the above, it makes sense to understand the telltale signs of a survey scam, what to do to stay safe and what to do if you fall victim.

They 16 steps which is suggested by Phil Muncaster from ESET to spot suspicious searches:

  1. Watch out for any offers that seem too good to be true. It could be a large cash prize for a few minutes of work or an expensive gift.
  2. Watch out for typos or bad grammar – can be a sign that things are not quite right.
  3. The abbreviated addresses URL they may also indicate fraud.
  4. Offers valid for a limited time it's another way for scammers to increase the pressure on their victims.
  5. Sometimes it may not be clear who is conducting the survey – without a “contact us” link.
  6. If the sender is using a free account webmail, then the survey is likely to be a scam.
  7. Also, take the following steps to stay safe and protected:
  8. Don't blindly trust survey offers, even if they are sent by a friend or family member.
  9. Research the contest to see if it's been reported as a scam or if it's legit.
  10. Install a security solution from a trusted vendor on all devices and computers.
  11. Keep your operating system and applications up to date on all computers and devices.
  12. Only trust official app stores, As the Google Play and App Store.
  13. Get informed about current threats – will provide a useful early warning system.
  14. Use strong and unique passwords in combination with multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all important accounts. Even if fraudsters steal your passwords, they're less likely to access those accounts with 2 enabledFA.
  15. Be suspicious of the arbitrary emails or arbitrary calls.
  16. Never pay to get money later - it's always scams.

If the worst happens, notify your bank immediately and cancel or block the cards through your banking app first. And change any passwords that may have been compromised.

Surveys can be a useful tool for companies, but they often have limited value for consumers. Better to avoid them altogether unless you have a very good reason to join.

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online surveys

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