Online privacy is a big deal these days. A 2019 survey revealed that over a third of Americans felt that their personal information and data were extremely vulnerable to hackers. Another 47 percent of respondents presumed their information was definitely vulnerable to some degree. In fact, only two percent of people believed there was no threat at all.
These statistics represent a growing problem. With data breaches becoming more common than ever, consumers are worried that their personal data like files, photos, emails, chat logs, and other sensitive information could fall into the wrong hands. Concern about getting hacked is a primary reason many people avoid participating in online surveys for money, so should you be worried? Can you rely on your survey company to protect your personal data?
Cybercriminals are getting smarter all the time. In this post, we’ll discuss what (if anything) your favorite survey site is doing to safeguard your info. Plus, we’ll dive into how to protect your privacy online when doing surveys for money. Let’s get started.
Paid Surveys and Your Privacy
If you want to know how to protect your data when joining a survey site, it can help to understand how survey panels work. However, if you are entirely new to getting paid for online surveys, it might be a bit confusing. So first, let’s first cover the basics of paid surveys.
What Are Paid Online Surveys?
You’re probably already familiar with regular surveys. Companies use them all the time to collect information about consumers’ shopping and spending habits. They typically consist of a list of questions designed to gather data from a specific group of people. Often, they are conducted by mail, at a mall or public place, by phone, or online.
It’s all part of market research, and surveys play a vital role in helping companies develop strategies, set goals, stay competitive, and make financial decisions.
There is not much difference between standard surveys and paid online surveys, besides the addition of an incentive. Typically, sites will offer users cash for taking online surveys, but you can also take surveys for gift cards, contest entries, or something else of value.
Survey companies can get the feedback they need faster and more efficiently by offering cash to their participants. After all, people are more likely to take the time to respond to an online questionnaire if they are being compensated. Because of this, a whole incentivized survey industry has sprung up, and paid surveys have become an excellent way to make a little extra cash.
How Do Survey Sites Work?
Paid survey sites are fairly straightforward. Their primary purpose is that of connecting consumers to companies who are looking for specific information. It works like this:
- You find a survey site that appeals to you, and you provide some basic information upon signing up. After that, the process of joining is easy. You will usually only need to input your name and email address to get started.
- Once you confirm your email address, You’ll be considered a member of the survey site. The first surveys you will encounter on the site are usually “profile surveys.” These surveys are designed to gather more information about you, such as your age, what region of the country you live in, how many children you have, and other data.
Profiling is standard, and it is how survey sites match you with the correct questionnaires for your demographics. So if a snack company only wants information from mothers of teenagers, for example, this is how they can single out that particular group of people.
- After you have completed the screening surveys, you can then move on to regular surveys. These surveys are usually longer and are tailored specifically to individuals who meet specific criteria.
- Once a survey is complete, the participants are awarded their incentive. Often, this will be in the form of “points” that can be converted to cash or gift cards. Once the user reaches a certain level of points, they can cash out their earnings.
The process can usually be repeated indefinitely, so members have the opportunity to get paid to take surveys month after month as new opportunities arise.
What Kinds of Questions Do Surveys Include?
Depending on the company, survey questions could be multiple choice, on a ranking or rating scale, or you may be instructed to click a box or choose from a drop-down menu. Sometimes you will be asked open-ended questions, where you respond in your own words. You should always answer honestly and thoroughly no matter what style is used, so the information is as accurate as possible.
While there can be hundreds of different questions depending on the purpose of the survey, here are a few examples of the type of questions you might come across:
- How much money do you usually spend on beauty products each year?
- How likely are you to recommend a particular company to your friends?
- What is your favorite brand of apple juice?
- What brand would you choose if your favorite was not available?
- What is the maximum amount you would spend on a new pair of sneakers?
- Where do you live?
- How many times have you been to the supermarket in the past three months?
Naturally, there can be many variations of the above questions, but these examples will give you some idea of what to expect.
How Do Survey Companies Protect Your Personal Data?
When you join a legit survey site, there should be no concern about your data, which will be kept safe and secure. However, as you might have guessed, not all survey panels are legit. In a moment, we will discuss how to protect yourself from scam survey sites. But, right now, let’s look at some of the actions reputable survey sites take to protect your privacy online.
Legit Survey Sites Use Secure Networks
Reputable sites don’t scrimp when it comes to their networks. They invest in their own dedicated servers rather than sharing them. This action significantly lowers any risks that their customer’s sensitive information will be vulnerable to hackers. It also ensures they are not left open to ransomware attacks.
Legit Survey Sites Encrypt Everything
A legit site always uses the latest and best encryption technology to safeguard your personal information. When information is encrypted, plain text is scrambled into an unreadable code when it is stored or transmitted. This prevents confidential information from getting into the wrong hands.
Legit Survey Sites Use Excellent Anti-Virus Software
Just like you need the latest anti-virus software on your home computer, businesses also need to run their own commercial anti-malware, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect their platforms. Reputable companies invest in the best anti-virus programs and make sure they are updated regularly.
Legit Survey Sites Will Never Ask for Key Personal Information
Your eating habits, the money you spend on shoes, or your zip code are not considered sensitive personal information. These are essential questions that need to be answered for a paid survey to be effective. By key personal information, we are talking about things like your social security number or your bank account information. A legit site will never ask you for this type of data.
How Can You Avoid Scam Survey Sites?
The best way to protect your personal data is to avoid survey sites that only exist to scam their users. Do your research beforehand and use common sense. You really can outsmart the hackers and still make some extra money at the same time. You just need to take a few precautions.
Create a separate email specifically for your survey hobby. This way, you won’t risk having your primary inbox inundated with spam. Never offer up sensitive financial information like your checking account numbers, social security numbers, your mother’s maiden name, or your passwords. And speaking of passwords, make sure you create secure passwords that are not easy to guess.
How Can You Tell a Legit Site From One That Is Out To Steal Your Identity or Your Money?
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A real survey site will not promise you unrealistic earnings or imply that you can make a full-time living taking surveys. Instead, survey sites are designed to help you earn a little bit of spare cash. So beware of anyone making inflated claims about how much you can earn.
- Never pay to join a survey site. A legit site will never ask you for a fee to join, nor will they ask you for money at any point during the process. If a site asks you for money (even if it’s just $1.00), move on.
- Check Real User Reviews. Great survey sites will have excellent user reviews. Real users are an accurate gauge of a site’s legitimacy. For example, Branded Surveys has over 40,000 positive reviews on Trustpilot. This is the type of solid reputation you should look for when choosing the best survey site.