Are Paid Surveys Legitimate or Scams?

online survey
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There are many different side gigs you can do to earn extra money, and surveys are often mentioned as a way to earn a few extra dollars fast. Are paid surveys a legitimate way to make money though - or are they scams? The answer is that it depends on the survey and the company you are doing them for.

Marketing research firms still do pay consumers to participate in in-person surveys and focus groups.

 However, the internet 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.

There are also many questionable "middleman" third-party paid survey sites that hype 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. Those are the sites you didn't to avoid. If you’re going to do some surveys, do them directly on the site that is seeking feedback.

The Cost of Paid Surveys (Don’t Pay)

There are sites that 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 searching online.

Many of these sites actually just compile a list of the surveys you can easily find for free online.

Then they 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 trick 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 an 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. Most surveys "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 sites range from $5 - $200 in cash or goods, and drawings are only occasional. Here are some of the most reliable sweepstakes sites.

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. Others may give you a gift card, discount, or another token of appreciation for participating. 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 do pay relatively well in cash. However, many 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 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.

More:​ Top Survey Sites to Try Out

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.

By joining a membership site, you might have allowed 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 limits unsolicited telemarketing calls and consumers can sign up for the national Do Not Call Registry. Ask yourself if a few extra bucks, iffy sweepstakes, ​and other token rewards are worth the aggravation of dealing with potentially dozens of privacy invasions that offer nothing for your time.

Before you sign up, review these tips for protecting your privacy online, so you don’t jeopardize yours for a little bit of extra money.

Find Online Survey Sites That Pay

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 third-party sites. Look for real paid surveys online that don’t require you to invest money. 

More About Surveys: Get Paid to Take Surveys | Best Paid Survey Sites in Canada

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