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Paid Surveys - Are They Legitimate?

The Truth About Paid Surveys

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Man holding dollar bills, close-up of hand
Walker and Walker / Digital Vision / Getty Image

Paid surveys are not new, despite all the recent hoopla about them. Marketing research firms have been paying consumers to participate in surveys and focus groups for awhile now. But the web has granted them a more efficient way to collect data. So, many firms now conduct legitimate online paid surveys and other types of paid online marketing research.

But many questionable "middleman" paid survey sites are poisoning the well by hyping easy money for participating in online marketing research from home. When there's competition for selling an easy-money scheme working from home, you can bet that there's also exaggeration, if not outright scams.

The Cost of Paid Surveys

Many questionable middleman sites charge "membership" fees for lists of marketing research firms that conduct online paid surveys, despite the fact that you can find many of these surveys free by simply search online. This writer found over 60 surveys to review for this article without having to use a middleman site.

Many of these sites actually just compile a list of the surveys you can easily find for free online. Then, try to dupe you into believing their lists are special; but, according to messages on scam forums, their lists are essentially the same as all the other middleman sites.

Worse, some also list other membership sites, trying to dupe you into buying essentially the same list over and over again. They include sites that seem to be their competitors, because they earn referral fees when you buy memberships. A couple mentioned in scam forums even try to dupe you into buying the same list at other membership sites they own under different names. So, naturally, these sites have incentive to exaggerate how much you'll earn from online paid surveys.

What You Can (and Can’t) Earn

If anybody is earning a living from online paid surveys, it's considerably more probable to be the middleman-site owners, not participating consumers. Of the 60+ paid survey sites reviewed, most "pay" only token rewards in the form of goods, services, coupons or samples.

Many pay cash only through sweepstakes drawings. Even if you're lucky enough to win a few sweepstakes, it likely won't lead to early retirement. Prizes at most reviewed sites range from $5-200 in cash or goods, and drawings are only occasional.

Some pay with points that are redeemable for cash or goods and typically you must rack up a bunch to redeem them for anything of significance. Most pay nothing or only sweepstakes entries for completing screening surveys that determine your eligibility to receive certain paid surveys. A few don't pay much of anything, unless you recruit others, as in a pyramid scheme.

A few paid survey sites reviewed do pay relatively well in cash. But questionable middleman sites hype hypothetical, best-case scenarios that can't possibly apply to each and every consumer for each and every hour of participation. In the real world, the likelihood that you'll often earn the higher of the hyped amounts is slim. Besides the reality that most online paid surveys simply don't pay much, you must be invited to complete them. To be invited, you must fit targeted demographics. That alone limits your earnings right off the bat, as you can't possibly fit every demographic.

Subsequently, despite what questionable middleman sites imply in their "dream job" hype, it's unlikely that you'll earn a living from paid surveys and other marketing research. You will, however, likely earn or win some extra spending money, or free or discounted goods or services.

Paid Surveys and Your Privacy

Most reviewed paid survey sites effectively promise not to share personally identifiable information or not to share it without your consent. It's an industry standard by which legitimate marketing research firms are bound. But many membership sites reviewed don't make either promise, or do so only in a limited or wishy-washy way. Unauthorized go-betweens don't have to honor marketing research privacy standards.

So, by joining a membership site, you might have also rolled out the red carpet for it or its "marketing partners" to solicit you. Your personally identifiable information is worth a small fortune to direct marketers, especially since the U.S. Federal Trade Commission pushed for legislation in 2002 to stop unsolicited telemarketing calls. Ask yourself if a few extra bucks, iffy sweepstakes and other token rewards are worth the aggravation of dealing with potentially dozens of pestering privacy invasions that offer nothing for your time.

All things considered, it's no surprise that some of the legitimate marketing research sites reviewed disclaim any connection with membership sites.

In Conclusion: What to Do

Ultimately, it is very unlikely that participating in online surveys will provide you with a steady, livable wage. However, if you enjoy participating in online surveys (especially if you enjoy the prizes, coupons, and other more typical non-monetary earnings), be sure to avoid  questionable middleman sites. Look for real paid surveys online that don’t require you to pay money. 

Read More: Paid Surveys - Are They Legit | Get Paid to Take Surveys | Best Paid Survey Sites in Canada

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