Are Online Surveys Safe?

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With all of the sketchiness that goes on online nowadays it is perfectly reasonable to wonder if paid online surveys are safe.

After all, surveys are all about providing lots of personal information which is exactly what scammers want from you.

That being said, legitimate survey sites are perfectly safe. They are reputable businesses that really do pay you to take surveys, although the amount online surveys pay is not as much as is often promised.

The real problem is there are a lot of spammy survey sites that try to pretend to be a legitimate survey site as a way to trick you into trusting them. Those are the sites you should be wary of.

What Are the Risks?

Some of the risks involved are having your personal information sold to spammers, receiving lots of spam email, having your computer infected with malware and spyware as well as the biggest threat of all to young people today: identity theft.

Identity theft is when someone finds out all of your personal information and uses it to sign up for credit cards and other accounts in your name. They then make all kinds of purchases with these accounts, never pay them and ruin your credit rating.

Identity theft is a growing problem in the U.S. and around the world. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, identity theft is the number one property crime in the country.

To make matters even worse, according to the Better Business Bureau, teens and young adults are currently the number one target for identity thieves. Their lack of credit history makes it much easier for the thief to get approved for new accounts.

Once the fraudulent purchases are made and the accounts go unpaid, the creditors will start coming after the victim with a vengeance and it is often a lot of work to clear their name and to prevent the thief from opening new accounts in the future.

Often times, these thieves are people the victim knows in real life who already know all of their personal information. Other times, they are scammers who steal their information online. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from these online scammers.

How Can You Protect Yourself Online?

With the threat of identify theft and computer viruses it makes you wonder if online surveys are worth it. The answer is, they are still worth it because there are number of things you can do to protect yourself online. The following are a few ways to help identify spammy sites and protect your personal information and personal identity while doing online surveys.

♦ Never sign up with a survey site that charges a fee to join. This is a red flag and a definite sign that it is a scam. Legitimate survey sites are free to join and will never charge you a fee for anything.

♦ Research survey sites before you join. You can do this by checking out online reviews of the site or searching for reports of scams and fraudulent activity associated with that site. One such site where you can do this is www.consumeraffairs.com

♦ Only join Better Business Bureau accredited survey sites. You can find out it if a survey company is a part of the Better Business Bureau by looking for the bureau’s logo on the site or by googling the name of the survey company along with the words “Better Business Bureau.”

♦ Protect your personal email account by creating an email account exclusively for joining survey sites. Not only will this prevent spammers from getting your personal email address, which they can use to send you spam emails or they can hack it to find your name, bank info and all kinds of useful personal info, but it will also make it easier to receive survey notifications quickly because they won’t become buried in a long queue of personal daily emails.

♦ Only register with online survey sites that have a privacy policy. These types of policies will clearly spell out what the site does with the personal information it receives from you. If you can’t find a privacy policy at all, steer clear of that website all together. They are clearly hiding something and don’t care about assisting the people who come to the site.

♦ Join sites that are members of marketing associations like CASRO (Council of American Survey Research Organization) and the AAPOR (American Association for Public Opinion Research.) The survey site will usually mention that they are a member of these associations somewhere on the site or will display their logo on their site.

♦ Check to make sure that the survey company has contact information on their website. Also check to make sure a representative is available to answer your questions or concerns. Spammy sites will not have this type of information or the info will be incomplete or vague.

♦ Be wary of sites that offer rewards that are too good to be true. Reputable sites offer small, modest rewards for taking surveys so if the site you are on offers something that seems too good to be true, such as a free iPad or $100, it is probably a scam.

♦ Use virus protection software to protect your computer from harmful viruses and malware. Once these viruses get onto your computer, they can track the information you type on your keyboard, search your computer for your personal info and even hijack your computer to send out viruses. There are a number of free software programs you can download such as AVG AntiVirus Free, McAfee, or BitDefender.

If you follow our paid survey tips, you’ll stand a much better chance of protecting yourself and your identity online.

Sources:
The Guardian; 20 Ways to Keep Your Internet Identity Safe from Hackers; James Silver; May 2013:
www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/may/12/20-ways-keep-internet-identity-safe
Better Business Bureau: Teens and Identity Theft: www.bbb.org/wisconsin/programs-services/teen-tips/teens-and-identity-theft/

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