Everyone has opinions, and there’s no shortage of people seeking to tap them, from corporate marketers to political pollsters to friends on Facebook. But exercise caution when you get a survey solicitation — it could be crooks aiming to cash in on your views.
Survey scams take many forms. You get a call, email or text, or see an online ad or social media post, inviting you to participate in a poll or consumer questionnaire. Con artists might impersonate big-name retailers or familiar service providers (say, your bank or wireless carrier) gauging customer satisfaction. They might try to pique your interest by soliciting your take on celebrity doings or candidates in an upcoming election.
Of course, many legitimate companies and organizations, including AARP, conduct surveys for research purposes or to improve products and services. But survey scammers don’t really care about your opinion. Their goal is to get you to call a number or click on a link to a phony survey website, often dangling a “free” reward like cash, gift cards, tech gadgets or travel as bait.
Amid questions about the supposed subject, sham surveys solicit personal or financial information, such as a credit card number to pay a shipping fee for your prize — something a legit survey will not do. They might trick you into signing up for a “free trial” offer that’s actually a costly subscription for a dietary supplement or other product.
Clicking on the link might also launch malware that can scrape sensitive data from your device. Either way, the scammers get information they can use for identity theft or sell on to other bad actors.
Some major retailers, including Amazon and Walmart, do offer gift cards as prizes for customers who complete online surveys about their shopping experience, but those companies say they will never ask participants to provide sensitive data.
As with many long-standing scams, there’s now a pandemic twist on survey cons, with crooks sending out emails and texts in the guise of COVID-19 vaccine makers Pfizer, Moderna and Astra Zeneca seeking feedback on the shots, with a free prize like a new iPad as an enticement. As with older versions, it’s a ruse to pry loose credit card or bank information.