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Fraud alert: Don’t panic but be aware

Be aware that some people fraudulently use the name of online panel companies to commit swindles and get money from their victims.

As reported on their websites by online survey panels such as iPoll, Globaltestmarket or Universal Survey (owner of Opinionsite), some people or groups of people pose as market research companies and ask individuals to cash a fraudulent check. Online survey panels are not responsible for these scam attempts and encourage you to report them to authorities if you ever receive such an offer.

Who can be the victim of these scam attempts?

ANYBODY. Those scams are not specifically aimed at panelists like us. Anyone can receive a letter fraudulently using the name of an online survey company, even if he never registered for this company, or doesn’t even know what an online survey is. Also, if you registered for an online survey company, you are NOT a particular target. Because of the strict privacy policy of survey companies, nobody can know that you are a member of an online panel unless you tell them. So you don’t have a higher risk of receiving a fraudulent letter.

It seems that such scams are particularly targeted towards US residents but the same kind of swindlers can potentially occur in any country.

How do they obtain your money?

    Fraudulent letters are accompanied by a check which you are asked to cash. Here are the two main strategies to obtain your money:
  • The swindler claims that you were selected for a "mystery shopping" project. You are supposed to cash the check, use a part of the money and wire what's left to a different account. Of course if you do this, you'll learn that the check was fraudulent and that you'll never see your money again.
  • Another strategy is to make you believe that you won a very important sum of money thanks to a sweepstakes organized by a survey company. The check represents a small advance on this money (often several thousand dollars though) which is supposed to help you to pay your taxes on the total sum. Of course, you are asked to pay your taxes on your gain as soon as possible by sending a payment directly to the swindler's bank account.

There could be other ways to ask for your money but the two described above seem to be the most common ones. You can also be contacted by email or by phone.

In any case, these swindlers receive money BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE SENDING MONEY TO THEM.

How can I avoid being the victim of a scam?

That's easy and that's the #1 rule concerning online survey companies: NEVER PAY for anything!

There is NO reason why a legitimate survey company would ask you to pay anything. Never give your credit card number. Never wire money to anybody.

    Also, here are several hints that could make you realize that you received a fraudulent letter:
  • If you are not a member, or never heard of the survey company mentioned in the letter, there is no reason why you should receive money from them. Legitimate online survey panels only send money to THEIR members. They don't choose people randomly in the world to ask them to be a "mystery shopper", "survey agent" or "customer service rep" (some of the terms used in these letters).
  • The sum of money fraudulent letters ask you to cash in exchange for your participation in "mystery shopping" is too large to be real. And if the letter claims that you won a sweepstakes from an online consumer panel, your name should appear on the website of this panel. Also, you should have been notified by an email coming from them. In this case, check that the email address is similar to previous emails you received from them.

What to do if you received a fraudulent letter? What if you already paid?

If you are not sure whether the letter you received is legitimate, try to contact the company they claim they are. Do not use the phone number provided in the letter. Instead, try to find the website of the company and look for the “contact us” button. Companies of which the name is used for scams are often already aware of the situation and will immediately tell you what to do.

On this page, you can find 3 examples of fraudulent letters received by victims of scams (thanks to Universal Survey for providing them to the public).

If you realize the letter you received is a scam, and if you have already sent money, we suggest you to contact law enforcement authorities and your bank in order to eventually recover your money.

If it hasn't been already done, you can contact the company mentioned in the letter to let them know that somebody is fraudulently using their name.

Why are names of online survey companies used in those fraudulent letters?

As of recent years, online survey companies are more and more famous and are perfect targets for swindlers.

    Here are some of the reasons why:
  • Many people know that some companies offer money in exchange for completed surveys. They also know that it is sometimes possible to test products or participate in paid phone interviews (which is true). So why would they be surprised to receive money to be a mystery shopper?
  • It is also known that online consumer panels organize sweepstakes. The fact that those sweepstakes are organized for their registered members only is forgotten when people are told they have won a huge sum of money.

What is the consequence of fraudulent letters? A bad reputation for legitimate online survey panels!

Those scams are of course harmful to people who end up losing money, but also to legitimate online panels and to the principle of paid surveys in general: victims are often convinced that the company mentioned in the letter is the real culprit for their losses. Many posts in forums or articles in websites wrongfully warn people against online consumer panels, claiming they are scam companies. Many confuse the real activity of these companies - providing you with paid surveys - and the scam attempts people are receiving.

In addition, since real members of these companies are sometimes disappointed with the number of surveys they receive, or because they think they are not earning enough money, they start thinking, "Of course, I read somewhere that this company is a scam! Some people received fraudulent checks from them!" and end up writing poor reviews, themselves perpetrating the idea of such "scams".

At, we only present legitimate companies. Those companies have no link whatsoever with fraudulent letters people may receive and we would be ashamed to recommend you those companies if it was the case.

If you have already registered to a web paid survey panel and have been disappointed with the money you earned or encountered problems, we encourage you to leave us a review (the same thing if you have never had any problem, of course!). But please avoid using the word "scam" since there is a huge difference between being disappointed and been robbed thousands of dollars by a real scam!

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