Participating in legitimate surveys: What personal data is OK to give away?

Written by a NortonLifeLock employee


Companies of all sizes use online surveys to gather important market research, which they later utilize to direct product development and marketing initiatives. This critical step in the marketing process is appealing to some online users because they get paid to complete surveys, and earn rewards or special discounts from popular brands. Some surveys aren’t paid at all, offering consumers little more than the opportunity to participate in the development process of a product or service.

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There’s been a lot of hype about people allegedly making a living off of these online surveys, causing many to speculate and consider the potential privacy risks of participating in so many surveys online. While it’s yet to be proven that someone has made a competitive living from completing paid surveys, individuals can definitely earn some extra spending money or frequent flyer miles. If you’re planning on participating in online surveys, here’s what you need to know to keep your privacy secure and your identity safe:

What Are the Risks?

Internet surveys have become a playground for Internet scammers. Most company surveys (paid or not) will require some basic personal information in order to register your account. They do this for two reasons: 1) the company needs to know more about you (aspects like gender, race, income) to better analyze the survey results; and 2) it’s a way to limit survey takers from taking a survey multiple times. Scammers are looking for a lot of the same personal information about you that’s required to register an account. With access to this information, your privacy, as well as your identity, could be put at risk.

Advertisements that claim to provide outstanding incomes for survey participation are often scammers charging fees for an index of weekly survey requests in need of participants. These lists are actually available for free online from multiple sources. If you sign up to receive a third-party survey notification about available surveys online, know that many of these free services turn around and sell your personal information to spammers. Now that you understand some of the risks involved in taking online surveys, let’s examine a few ways that you can mitigate the risks.

How to Protect Your Privacy

If you’re considering participating in a legitimate online survey, make sure to find the website’s privacy policy or disclaimer and read it carefully. Always know what you’re getting into before you sign up to take a survey.

Do not register on any site that chargers the survey takers a fee to access the survey. This is a sure sign of a scam. The more a website tries to validate its trustworthiness or reassure you that the site is not a scam, the more likely that it is in fact a scam. Listen to your instincts. If something feels off to you, it probably is. You can research potential survey sites by checking out websites that review popular scams or report on fraudulent online businesses. Remember, if something doesn’t feel right, don’t engage with the website. Finally, if you do find a website that has legitimate surveys to take, create an alternate email account and use it exclusively for taking surveys. Doing this will help reduce excessive spam in your personal account.  

Are Surveys Worth the Effort?

The biggest consideration you’ll have to make regarding legitimate online surveys will be weighing the paid or reward-based benefits with the amount of time you’ll spend completing the surveys.

Most surveys can be completed in 20 and 60 minutes. Depending on your regular work schedule, the time it will take to complete online surveys will be far more significant that the return on investment.

If you do decide to participate in online surveys, do make sure to protect your privacy and your identity with the helpful tips listed above.

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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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