Lots of consumers think they can make money or get valuable prizes by taking surveys. Others, well, they just like to answer questions or want to contribute something to the world of marketing.
Unfortunately, surveys can wind up being very expensive. They're sometimes an identity theft ruse. Other times, they're a means of signing you up for something you didn't know you were buying.
"Member's Edge LLC put charges on my phone bill saying I filled out a survey that gave them permission to do so," Lynn of Penfield, New York, said. "I started to fill out a survey and when it asked for a credit card number I stopped and got out of there."
"It was supposed to be for a FREE $250 gift certificate if I filled out this form. I called when I got my phone bill and told them to get this off of my bill and again this month there are MORE charges. They said it is for some email service which we NEVER ordered or wanted. They get your phone number and charge it to your phone bill," Lynn said.
The same thing happened to John of Cheektowaga, N.Y.
"I called to inquire why my telephone bill had been charged $15.40 a month. It happened twice and apparently a 3rd charge is in transit. I was told that when I was completing a survey for a chance to win a $50 merchant gift card that I was automatically enrolled in Members Edge - an email service. The representative told me that she would cancel my account but that there are no refunds," John said in a complaint to ConsumerAffairs.com.
"When I explained that I had never been to the website nor activated an Email account, the representative told me that I was SOL (shit out of luck - her words). I regularly take surveys online and have never had an experience like this before."
Some survey scams start with a telephone call. "Nick called and asked if I would like to take part in a survey. For my participation, he would send me two free DVD's," said Chris of Portland, Oregon.
"Once the brief survey was completed he told me that he would be sending me two free copies of 'Girls Gone Wild' and all I had to pay for these 'free' DVD's would be the shipping. He said that he would have to verify my age and this is done by credit card. I hung up."
"I asked him, 'Do you really think I would give my credit card to some stranger who calls me?' He replied, 'Yeah, people do it all the time.'"
"I received a "survey" from Columbia House through the mail. The cover letter reads that you can get 5 DVDs for 49 cents apiece with free shipping," said Kay of Enid, Oklahoma. "Nowhere in this letter does it say that you must join the club and be obligated to buy more DVDs."
"There is no 'reward' for filling out the survey. The offer is the same for everyone, survey or not, even though the front of the packet reads, 'As a result of your participation [in the survey], you can choose 5 dvds for just 49 cents each,'" Kay said.
"This packet is so misleading it's maddening. It's trickery of the worst sort. I wasn't stupid enough to fall for it, but many people might be."
Sandra of San Antonio ordered textbooks from TextbookX.com. "Then I received a bill from Simple Escapes in the amount of $29.85," she said.
"I do not recall ever signing up for this service, but did do a survey about my purchase that may have been the cause of this charge. I never authorized this charge. The only company that had my credit card number was Textbookx.com."
Pam of Batesville, Indiana was booking at the Bed Bath and Beyond website when she came across an offer for free $50 gift card just for filling out a survey.
"I thought, wow I love their store, that would be great," Pam recalled. "The so-called survey was a hoax! It was nothing but questions about if I would be interested in this credit card or that insurance company, or books or sunglasses and everything under the sun."
"To top it off, I keep getting calls from salesmen on a daily basis. We have a unlisted phone number. Guess it's not unlisted anymore because Bed Bath and Beyond sold my personal information to who knows! I'll never shop in that store or trust them again!"
Debra of Commerce, Georgia, says she takes Internet surveys everyday, sometimes as many as 50 surveys a day. Her luck ran out in May. "I was doing a survey, I was led to believe that this Sprint cell phone was my gift for finishing the survey, that all I would have to pay was shipping and handling," she said.
"UPS delivered this phone to my house. I made a 16-second call and the next day I received a bill for $84.44. Now I have received another bill for $50.67 which totals $135.11 for a phone that I believed was free."
John of Chicago thought he would get a free computer for answering a few questions. "Freegiftworld said to answer a few survey questions and get a $500.00 gift from Dell. Then it wants me to buy into four other companies for monthly prescriptions," John said.
Marie of Laurel, Maryland, had hoped to become an author with the Dell laptop she hoped to receive.
"I received an email from Incentiverewardcenter that if I participated in their survey and signed up for offers from two of their sponsors that they would send me a Dell Laptop as a gift and that all I needed to do once I received it was to answer a survey for Dell and the laptop would be mine to keep," she said.
"I participated in their survey, signed up for two of their offers (Book of the Month Club which requires me to buy 15 books at regular club price over the next 2 years and Simply White teeth whitener.) I had to pay in advance with my credit card to be eligible."
"I have rushed home each day since I completed this offer expecting to have my laptop waiting for me and have been constantly disappointed each day," said Marie. "The thousands of ideas that I have of things that I want to write about are trapped in my head and I have nowhere to put them because I have been lied to."
Philip of Mojave, California, had a similar experience: "I tried to earn a free iPod from freeipod.com. The initial deal was to sign up with three of their sponsors, complete a survey, and earn a free iPod. After doing this, I was then directed to sign up with two more of their sponsors."
"So I did, and to my surprise, there was ANOTHER survey, then a direction to sign up with two more or their sponsors, which I ignored. I went to the next page, and was informed that all I had to do now, was to have five friends sign up and complete offers, and I will get my iPod," Philip said.
"Last month I did a survey for Auto Advantage and they said thank you for doing the survey, and that I will get a card for my car, to use for either repairs, or whatever I need it for," said Deborah of Kansas City. "They also told me that would I get a package kit from them, including a $40.00 gas card to pay for the gas." She received nothing.
"Make Money at Home"
Patricia of Jacksonville, Florida, was unemployed when she saw a Gozings Survey ad promising she could be paid for taking surveys.
"First 30 minutes are free. Then they charge $2.97 for the next three days. Then if you decide to stay you would be charged $19.99 every month. I decided within 30 minutes I did not want this membership," she said.
"They charged me for two at $2.97 each. Very misleading. Thought I only signed up for one," she said.
Some consumers go so far as to pay for survey software, hoping it will guide them to lucrative big-buck surveys. It didn't work out that way for Ginger of Quinton, Alabama.
"I purchased the Opinion Paycheck online survey software for $25.00. When it was downloaded, half of the links they provided me were dead. They promise to pay you cash ranging from $4-$25 per survey. Most of the surveys don't pay cash, they offer you prizes. Also the surveys aren't completed until you sign up for trial memberships," Ginger said.
"I filled out a survey that promised $10.00. After I filled it out it asked me to sign up for a membership, I checked "no" and it said my survey payout was $0.00."
Danielle of San Francisco paid Survey Platinum $34.95 for access to paid survey websites. "Their policy was that if after 75 days you did not earn your $34.95 back from doing surveys that you would get a refund," she said.
"So on October 10, 75 days later, I emailed them for a refund because I only made $5. They told me to check their refund policy, which changed without notification. Now it says that after 90 days all sales are final," Danielle said.
Not all survey problems involve the Internet.
"Two young men came to my door in the early evening stating they were doing a survey," Dena of Spencer, Wyoming, said. "One was supposed to be an intern learning the ropes and the other the teacher. They asked if they could ask me a few questions to which I responded yes. They also asked if I would look at a product and give my opinion of the presentation."
"Much to my surprise, once they got in my house they began to set up a Kirby vacuum display! The '"teacher' left and the 'intern' gave his pitch." The pitch went on for more than an hour.
"After asking them to leave at least 3 times and saying I wasn't interested, had no money, and would not buy a vacuum, the price came down to a whopping $1100! I said no one more time and after taking 30 minutes to pack up they finally left."
The Jaguar Experience
Not all survey outrages involve supposed freebies, work-at-home scams or door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen. Some are aimed at upscale consumers who've just dropped tens of thousands of dollars for a new luxury car, like Todd of New London, North Carolina.
"After leasing a Jaguar, I was sent a customer satisfaction survey. As I was not very satisfied with the leasing experience, the survey reflected my displeasure. The next time I spoke with the dealership, Bob Dunn Jaguar, I was berated by the salesman for the poor marks I gave him on the survey," Todd said.
"Following the next service, I received and filled out another customer satisfaction survey. Again I gave them a below-average rating. Again I was berated by someone, this time from the service department. When I refused to spend time discussing the survey, I was told that they would no longer service the vehicle ... which is under warranty."
Wait, it gets worse.
"After contacting the Jaguar customer service center, I was then informed that the dealership would service the vehicle, but that I had been banned from their property. Now the only way to get my car serviced is to find a third party to drive it in to Bob Dunn Jaguar, or I could choose to take it to another dealership myself," Todd said.
"Obviously the results of my survey and my name went directly to Bob Dunn Jaguar. Moral of the story... don't fill out customer surveys, unless you plan to give out high marks."