How? Here's how it works in three kinds of survey subterfuge.
Invitation to a burglar
In one recent phone survey, supposedly by a well-known computer company, people were asked what type of computer equipment they owned and were promised free software in return for their answers. It would be installed by a company technician who would come by their homes at their convenience.
In reality, the goal was to determine where the home was and when the people wouldn't be there. As in a victim saying: "Come by at six — I'll be home by then."
At least one respondent who provided address and appointment time for the faux freebie returned to find his home fleeced of its valuables.
Another variation of this scam, aimed at New York state residents, opened with a soothing disclaimer that "this is not a sales call but a survey."
Questions followed: Does your home have smoke detectors? Fire extinguishers? Seems innocent enough. Then: Does your home have a security system?
That's obviously not info you should share with a stranger who may be trying to find out if your doors and windows are unprotected.
The ruse has prompted warnings by local police.
Information for financial fraud.
Telephone scammers promise easy money for answering a few questions about the merchandise, service or quality of your favorite stores.
After responding to innocuous questions — Was the food good? Did the cashier smile at you? — you're asked for your bank account number so your $100 payment can be directly deposited.
Or you're promised a gift card for a "shopping spree." Just give us a credit card number to pay for the card's delivery by courier.
The result: You get nothing for your efforts, the scammers get your prized financial account info.
Now, it's true that legitimate merchants do sometimes pay for your opinion, but the surveys generally take place in their stores. Companies rarely, if ever, offer rewards for answers given over the phone or online, and neither they nor their market researchers ask for bank or credit card information.