Online Survey Scams

Identifying Survey Scams

Man holding magnifying glass
Written by SurveyPolice

If you’re looking to participate in online surveys, it may seem that you are faced with the daunting task of figuring out which online survey panels are legitimate and which are survey scams.

Sometimes the decision is easy – a website where a bikini-clad model holding a laptop with “win me!” flashing on the screen is clearly not run by a legitimate provider. In these types of situations, a shady marketing company is usually behind the website and is looking to collect personal information that will be sold to third parties.

Example Survey Scam

Perhaps you’ve seen claims of earning thousands of dollars per week? Check out this ridiculous proposition, clearly posted by a scammer:

$30k per week taking surveys

The proposition by this individual is ludicrous on its own, nevermind the link accompanying it; this is quite obviously not something anyone should click on.

Sometimes, however, distinguishing between a scam and a legitimate paid survey site, is not so obvious. Here’s what to look for when you’re unsure of whether or not a survey panel is actually run by a legitimate company.

Bare Bones, 1-Page Signup Forms

Simple registration form
A website that simply asks for your first and last name and e-mail address could be a scam site and not an actual market research panel. If the initial signup page looks over simplified, be wary – most online survey companies collect additional information so they can better target survey takers for available surveys.

Be cautious with any ‘bare bones’ websites you encounter, and keep these next red flags in mind.

No Company Information

Similar to a 1-page registration website, many survey scam websites do not provide any information at all regarding their business. Marketing research companies willingly disclose information regarding their company headquarters, company history, survey panel information, etc. not only in order to demonstrate that they are credible, but also to attract clients who are looking to conduct studies.

A website lacking a basic ‘About Us’ page may potentially be an online survey scam website. And one missing a contact page is definitely one to run away from!

Want to know which survey sites you can actually trust?
These survey sites have excellent reputations on SurveyPolice and are certainly not scams!

Missing Privacy Policy

Similarly to not providing background information, a website that does not list a Privacy Policy is unlikely to be a legitimate online survey site. Legitimate online survey panels will list the ways they use respondent information and will at the very least, explain this in their Privacy Policy. Any website missing this important page of information should be completely avoided.

Ideally, a Privacy Policy is paired with a Terms of Use, or Terms of Service agreement. Both of these are very important, as one outlines how your privacy and personal information is handled, and the other explains the details of the relationship that you’re forming with the website/panel when you decide to join.

Too-Good-To-Be-True Promises

Some online survey websites will make claims and suggestions about making exorbitant sums of money. For example, a claim stating that earning $150 a day is typical when taking their online surveys, is most likely fraudulent.

Most verifiable market research companies encourage survey takers to take online surveys because their opinions are valuable and they can influence the products and services of tomorrow. Reasonable compensation for surveys is typically offered to respondents, but taking surveys is not a huge money-making endeavor. Websites promising otherwise should be thoroughly investigated.

If there is any question in your mind that a website you visit is not that of an online survey company, but is instead an online survey scam – do not complete the registration form! Once you hit ‘submit’ on a form, you are agreeing to having your personal information used in ways that you might not agree with.

If you’re still feeling adventurous, before completing the registration form on these types of websites, set up an alternate e-mail address and provide this address as your contact e-mail. This way, if your judgement is incorrect, at least the spam you end up receiving will go to a less important e-mail account.

Common Survey Scams

There are a number of survey scams that people have fallen victim to over the years.

The first is a fake check scam which involves being sent a cashier’s check for a large sum of money. You may receive a check like this in your mailbox, out of the blue. It will come with a letter that will instruct you to complete what’s usually a ‘mystery shopping assignment’ where you are instructed to write a report on what you’ve observed at the store, and to purchase a set amount of gift cards there (or you’ll be asked to wire money to an account). The check is supposed to cover the cost of these gift cards or money transfer and you’ll be left with the remaining amount of the check. The only problem? The check will eventually bounce and you’ll be left holding the bag, with money now forever lost to a mystery wire account, or gift cards whose pins you’ve shared with the scammers.

pinecone research fake check
Similarly, the legitimate survey site Pinecone Research (which is an invitation-only survey panel) has been targeted over the years where scammers have used their logos on unsolicited emails, in order to get people to complete survey assignments in exchange for money that first needs to be paid before being received! You can find out more about this Pinecone Research scam here.

In both cases, you are dealing with fraud and potentially instances of phishing. Be careful and never respond to any sort of solicitation where you’re asked to wire money!


Online surveys are actually a great way to voice your opinions and be compensated for doing so. They are fun, addictive, and really do make an impact on the products and services companies decide to develop, modify and discontinue. SurveyPolice is at your service to help you differentiate between online survey scam websites and true marketing research companies, wanting and needing your opinion for legitimate purposes.

How to Find Legitimate Online Surveys

Not all survey sites are scams, which is precisely why SurveyPolice exists – to point you to the ones that you can trust. Simply click the button below to be connected with online survey panels who are looking for new members in your area.

» Find legitimate surveys on SurveyPolice


About the author


SurveyPolice is the world's largest online survey reviews website. For over 15 years we have provided ratings on top online survey panels. Compare the best online survey websites and see which are worth joining!

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  • Doctors, please beware of a company called “Phoenix Data Innovation” or PDI with an address in the United Kingdom. I did a survey for them and I Never received my payment. I made multiple attempts to reach them with no response. I believe that I have been a victim of a survey scam. Avoid Phoenix Data Innovation/ PDI

  • Received a letter from Nevada Opinion Survey, a subsidy of Sequoia Research LLC. Offered me money for additional surveys. Checked online and Sequoia Research CORPORATION is a legit company, but not the LLC. Bizapedia says the LLC is a foreign company registered in California. Checked the local address given and it is the parking lot of a nearby shopping mall! Empty lots nearby but no office buildings anywhere.

  • Is the SSRS opinion panel legit? I got a letter and it contained $1.25. It says I can earn $5 or more for each survey I complete and that there’s no fees, plus I will never be asked to buy anything and there’s no cost to me. If I join I can instantly be paid $5.

  • I received a similar letter with $1.25 enclosed from SSRS opinion panel. I have not pursued it further upon trying to find out if it is legit.
    Thank you,

    • I just got the same letter. I actually went ahead and did the initial survey (though maybe I should have done more research first). None of the questions raised any red flags for me—they do ask for personal info like gender, income range, are you Hispanic, etc., but nothing like SSN, and you were allowed to leave your name blank (which I did). I did get the promised $5 in the form of an Amazon gift card.

      So, I may live to regret this, but so far it seems above board to me.

      • I’ve been taking ssrs surveys for a couple of years. Not all are paid but the longer ones are. Most are political and current affairs surveys. It is legitimate.

  • I recently almost got scammed by Feedback Survey Inc. I received a cashier’s check (looked legit with the holograph security sticker and everything) for $2,920 under a “mystery shopper” assignment. The instructions indicated that I was to purchase 5 money orders in the amount of $495.00 from the postal service totaling $2,475, fill out the survey concerning the customer service from the postal workers, Fedex the money order to the address that I have listed below, and I would keep $300 as compensation. In addition, I was to purchase 2 cashier’s checks made payable to The American Red Cross in preparation for my next assignment. On the surface, it appeared legit. If it weren’t for the Federal Express security office in Chicago already keeping an eye on these rats and intercepted the package, I would’ve lost $2,475 since the bank reversed the check that I had received since it wasn’t real. Thank God I got my money back but I’m sure lots of people weren’t as lucky. Here are the culprits involved in the scam:

    Patricia Coleman, PdD
    Senior Research Analyst
    Feedback Survey, Inc.

    Paul Madu
    6146 N. Rockwell St, Apt 1C
    Chicago, IL 60659

    • Hi Leslie,

      We’re sorry to hear about your experience, but are also very relieved that your money was refunded and that you didn’t lose almost $2,500!

      The scam you’ve outlined is highly unlikely to have actually originated from Feedback Survey Inc. In fact, we’re 99.999% positive that it originated from scammers using the Feedback Survey brand as a guise to conduct this scam. Unfortunately, this sort of thing is relatively common, and we’ve written about it here: and here: (this article specifically discusses how Pinecone Research, a perfectly legitimate survey site has had their brand misused by scammers over and over again).

      Unfortunately these scams are very difficult to stop; in this day and age especially, scammers are using more and more sophisticated tactics in order to masquerade as people and companies they completely unrelated to, in order to scam people out of money. We’re very relieved to hear that your experience ended well and that the next time you receive an unexpected ‘mystery shopper assignment’, you’ll be cautious before participating!

  • i got a call from twice in 30 seconds it’s a scam i caught on to the scammers trying to get me to take a survey for a $200 gift card they called my number before beware of this so called website the main office is galway ireland

  • If you joined MyPoints or Swagbucks, here’s some survey’s that give you the run around and don’t give you points:

    – Survey Savvy

    I’ve literally spent about half an hour going in circles with these company’s and they didn’t give me any don’t quality points or just became a dead end page.

  • I am inquIring about the 2016 Pennsylvania option study that said it would send $5.00 for completING the survey. It looked legit so I sent in , then 2 weeks later received the money along with another request for another survey. Does this seem legIt ?

  • Mind! and
    these websites are proven scam sites. I have been working with then for 02 months and filled more than 400 surveys but in return no money versed in my papal ount. For those who want to trace them here are some informations i gathered about them.
    General IP Information
    Decimal: 3641494644
    ASN: 15626
    ISP: ITL Company
    Organization: ITL Company
    Services: None detected
    Type: Broadband
    Assignment: Static IP
    Geolocation Information
    Continent: Europe
    Country: Ukraine ua flag
    State/Region: Kharkivs’ka Oblast’
    City: Kharkiv
    Latitude: 49.9808 (49° 58′ 50.88″ N)
    Longitude: 36.2527 (36° 15′ 9.72″ E)

  • Denise, I am looking into starting the Survey business but have been inundated by the number of scammers. Can you provide a good list of survey companies for me to look into. I don’t want to waste valuable time wading thru all the hoaxers. Thanks, Edd.

    • Hi Edd,

      What you’re looking for is exactly why SurveyPolice exists! We only list legitimate online survey sites on our website and they are ranked by user reviews. The top rated survey sites listed on our websites have dozens, if not hundreds of positive reviews, which is an assurance of their legitimacy. You can find the top rated survey panels on our site here:

  • I’ m on 47 Survey panels, and have been for years, but recently one survey got me! I took a survey and it was a hour long, (which I’ve done before), at the end as a THANK YOU for taking their survey, they said you could pick among a assortment of items and all you pay is shipping of 5.99. Well, they were nice items, and this was December 16, 2015, close to Christmas, and there was a man’s watch, nice one by ONMX, I googled the brand and watch and it valved at $205.00, so I thought, a nice gift for 5.99. Well, after Christmas I noticed in my bank statement, that $98.00 was taken out from this company. The company was: Theshoeinfinity! I contacted them and they said, I signed up for a trial of men’s watches, then after the trial it would cost me $98.00 a month! NO WHERE, after the end of the survey, did it state, once you choose an item, please read the terms of agreement, because this is a trial program. They will not refund my money, and they said that I checked the terms of agreement,(which I did), but it was about the shipping, nothing about entering a trial period of a program. So I did a survey company a favor, and it cost me $98.00!

    • The same exact thing happened to my husband. How do you go about stopping this from happening to others, I’m gonna have my husband call the bank

      Same thing happened to me. My new cable company ( I thought) sent a survey. Did it for a gift of italian sunglasses for just 5.98 shipping.
      Unbelievable. I got a $2 pair of fake sunglasses and they said they were going to charge my account $98 a month when I called the number that came with the box. Never a word about shoes or any company but my cable company!!!! scam! scam! scam!

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