Gift reward or offer-based surveys need warnings; 4 fine-print points to read

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

While trying to get access to the BBB’s YouTube site, you are invited to take a survey and win an iPhone 5, Apple iPad 2, or a $1,000 Visa Gift Card. youtube

For completing a 30-second questionnaire, I qualify for a prize. But, to get the prize, I had to give up my email, title, name, address, phone, and birth date.

With that much information, I considered identity theft. However, after reading the small print at the bottom of the offer – yourgiftcenter, a subsidiary of Bravata LLC, of Boca Raton, Fla., wanted me to register for the offer-based survey. Bravata has 104 websites representing companies from across the country that use “offer-based” surveys to sell their products.

The fine print on this “survey” requires me to register, answer the survey, and complete 10 company-designed offers. These offers, not specified directly in the fine print, will require me to buy something. It goes on to say I’d get my check, only after I fulfill the program requirements.

These types of ‘surveys’ collect consumer leads which are generally sold for marketing purposes – they sell your registration to (in this instance) to companies that try to sell you stuff.

Market research companies use surveys to gather consumer opinions on products and concepts. Some research firms give rewards or compensation for you time. Most keep your data private unless you sign a waiver.

Registration (Silver, Gold or Platinum offers) for product trials should be an indication that it is not a legitimate survey site. “yourgiftcenter” falls into this category. Some sites have a 180-day stipulation for completion of the 10-12 trials offers to qualify for the prizes. Added requirements include — refer a friend,

Be warned that “offers” sites require you to buy the products to qualify for rewards. Some offer a reimbursement. If the product or merchandise is not returned in exact condition or by a specified deadline, you may forfeit the opportunity for reimbursement. Complaints on these companies too include slow – up to 8 weeks – turnaround.

BBB says remember these points, compiled from Survey on offer-based survey:

  • Bare-bones first-page registration – A site asking for a first and last name and e-mail address is usually a scam site and not a market research panel. If the intital signup page looks overly simplified, be weary – most online survey companies collection additional information so they can better target panellists for available surveys. Be cautious with these ‘bare bones’ websites and watch for these next signs.
  • No ‘About Us’ – Similar to a 1-page registration, many survey scam websites do not provide information about their business. Marketing research companies willingly disclose information –  headquarters, company history, survey panel information, etc.
  • No privacy policy – Similarly, a website with no privacy policy is likely not legitimate. Survey panels will list panelist information uses in a highly visible privacy policy.
  • Too-good-to-be-true promise –  Joining or registering for an online survey offer that promises expensive gifts or money may be too good to be true. The offer’s rules or requirements may invalidate any effort you put in to get the iPad or $1000 gift card. Most verifiable market research firms want opinions that may influence the products and services of tomorrow. Reasonable compensation is usually awarded, but taking surveys is not a huge money-making endeavour. Websites promising otherwise should be thoroughly investigated.

Bottomline: Offer-based marketing firms can use your information from the time you complete registration and submit and it may be in ways your might not agree with. If you still feel the need to complete the survey, set up an alternate e-mail address. This way, if your judgement is incorrect, the spam you receive will be to a less important e-mail account.


1 Comment

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One response to “Gift reward or offer-based surveys need warnings; 4 fine-print points to read

  1. Mark Burrows

    These things are and have been a plague for a long time. Here is the solution. If you want an iPhone, or an iPad or any such device. Simply save yourself the effort of thinking you are going to win one and just buy the darn thing. Contests, whether or not they are legitimate are simply tools to make you a target for mass advertising. It is not difficult to imagine that such information can fall into the hands of those capable of hacking those sites that gather the information, then sell it to black market con artists.
    If you have to purchase anything to get the opportunity to win something free, that is like an oxymoron. I’ll shorten it for you, “Buy, this free gift, maybe, if you are lucky.” Trust me, if you did all that was required, they would still make you jump through hoops and make you run the gauntlet to obtain your prize. If you think you should involve a lawyer, think again. By the time a lawyer sends a few documents back and forth on your behalf to the company before deciding whether to threaten them with small claims or class action, they have already worked up a fee exceeding the value of the said gift or prize.
    It really is a no win situation.

    Mark Burrows

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