Online Surveys – Legitimate Earning or Ponzi Scheme to Steer Clear Of

I came across this Twitter page of Survey Compare India which offers people the means to earn money and gift cards by participating in competitions, surveys and other small tasks. Substantial amount of money is promised for seemingly easy work that takes a few minutes. It sounded too good to be true. Is it?

“Sign up for free”

The site claims that thousands are earning rewards for doing online surveys. It invites people to sign up and start earning some money today; all easy online work. All you need to do is enter your gender, name, email address and date of birth. The company promises not to spam users and to keep information confidential.

Survey Compare

This is a screengrab of the website www.surveycompare.co.in which operates in India but is based in “North London (3 Wilkin Street, London, NW5 3NL)” according to the website. There is also surveycompare.net that operates in other regions. The site claims to offer legitimate surveys via their associations with market research companies that they recommend as well as via “donations”. The say that “paid surveys can earn you up to $50” and inform users that their earnings would depend upon how many survey panels they sign up for.

Is this a scam?

The website claims that it is completely legit and that there is nothing scam-like about the business model; but then they are bound to paint themselves in a good light. However, since this is a free website and there is no ‘investment’ being asked for up front, it is likely not scamming people in this respect.

Are they overpromising?

If as website says, they are supported by market research companies and also receive donations, it is likely that this is a workable business model. However, it is important to remember that the payouts and ‘rewards’ are meager. If they promise “up to ₹500” for paid surveys, the operational words here are “up to” and “surveys”; by this we can infer that surveys (plural) will pay up to (i.e. less than) ₹500. In other words, if you do ‘earn’ anything it will literally be peanuts. If you get ‘gift vouchers’ they will be similar to the discount voucher you walk out of KFC with or which Shoppers’ Stop may offer for X rupees worth of purchase. In short, you cannot give up your day job – to be fair they aren’t asking you to do this either.

Beware the scam sites

Maybe survey compare is not trying to scam users. But there are scamsters out there; make no mistake. Various online operators promise to pay ten dollars for ten minutes of work; promise to pay more if you make more members. If they are asking for an ‘investment’ of any sort or if they are asking you to rope in more ‘members’ these are red flags to watch out for. Absolutely steer clear of any such scheme – it is a ponzi scheme that has no revenue generation potential and which will ‘make money’ for members only till such time as new members are making ‘investments’. Also known as a pyramid scheme, this one makes money for people at the top of the pyramid and the ones at the bottom will only lose money.

Remember the SpeakAsia scam?

Some years back, the SpeakAsia bubble blew up in the face of millions of trusting Indians; some of whom were so delighted by the easy money making scheme that they gave up their jobs! When a complaint was filed by a user against the company for offering big returns, the huge spread of the scheme came to light. 6 people were arrested in a Rs 2,276 crore cheating matter involving 24 lakh so-called panellists or investors.

Is there any hope?

Following the Speakasia scam, message boards and chat sites were full of discussions about poor people who lost their money. After arrests were made in the case, there was some hope of recovery of money from them. For a while there was some news that members who lost the most in the scheme would be compensated, but that was just hopeful conjecture. Those who lost money lost it forever with no hope of recovery.

If it’s too good to be true…

…It possibly is. This is a good rule of thumb to follow. The legit sites are not going to pay you anything much. If you have absolutely nothing better to do sitting at home, it may be nice to get some discount or free sample and so on. But remember these online surveys are very much a case of no pain, no gain. If the offer you great returns for ‘investment’ be very, very suspicious – this is a scam. If they don’t ask for money but promise a lot, be extremely skeptical of those promises; have very, very low expectations. So long as you're clear about the whole concept of online surveys – if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is - you're probably safe.

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