Does Your Research Company Look Like a Scam?

September 11, 2014
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here are hundreds, possibly thousands, of companies out there looking for people to answer surveys. Some of these companies are legitimate marketing research companies that truly want to hear opinions from people. Other companies are less than upfront and may  be more interested in marketing to people or selling products. But how do people know which is which?

here are hundreds, possibly thousands, of companies out there looking for people to answer surveys. Some of these companies are legitimate marketing research companies that truly want to hear opinions from people. Other companies are less than upfront and may  be more interested in marketing to people or selling products. But how do people know which is which?

In our survey, we asked people how they know whether a survey company is legitimate. Here are some of their thoughts.

  • “Do a search online to see if it has been reported as a scam.”
  • “Usually surveys aren’t scams. But offers like Entry For Sweepstakes Earn 1,500! are scams mostly.”
  • “Friends Share it on Facebook or Twitter”
  • “I check out all of their terms and conditions, see if they are accepted by the BBB, also read their policys, try to find comments about them from other people”
  • “I only participate in surveys sponsored by companies that I trust”
  • “If they’ve been in business for a long time and are still in operation-usually a good sign.”

We followed up by asking people to choose from a list of 10 specific ways that they know a survey company is legitimate. The top five reasons included:

  1. Credit card information is not required 53%
  2. They don’t have to pay to join 51%
  3. They aren’t asked to download something 44%
  4. The website doesn’t open a bunch of extra web screens 32%
  5. Tie for 27% between 1) Trust the originating website and 2) When I get the first incentive

Why do you need my credit card information?

Fortunately, legitimate marketing research companies  pass all of these tests. They don’t need credit card information and they don’t ask people to pay to share their opinions. However, things are a bit tricky when it comes to downloads. Though legitimate companies generally don’t ask people to download software to participate in surveys, they may offer a mobile phone app which does require a download. Companies should ensure that their panel members are not required to download mobile apps until the panelists have had sufficient time to get to know and trust the company.

Another tricky area concerns companies that research internet behaviors. Usually, this entails downloading software that will keep track of the websites people visit. Legitimate companies will always ask permission first but, again, people should be given the time to get to know and trust a company before being asked to divulge such personal information.

Why are you asking me to buy something?

Lastly, some people express concerns that scam companies try to get them to buy something. Fortunately, legitimate survey companies never do this. They may ask IF you would buy something or HAVE you bought something or when you PLAN to buy something as they truly are interested to know what you have done and plan to do. But they will never follow up by asking for a purchase now. To help people in this regard, survey companies should consider revising their purchase questions to assure people that they are not being asked to buy something.

In the end, it comes down to transparency.  We need to tell people who take surveys how we work and what we are doing. Honesty is always the best policy.