A reader asks:
"Can I really make $12,000 a year taking online surveys?"
Oh, you wanted to know why? Because the world isn't that stupid. No one values your opinion that much. And no one who is sampling opinion wants the opinions of someone who just takes surveys all the time.
So why are there multiple sites and links out there that claim you can make money by taking an online survey? Because there is no shortage of stupid people who think so, and they can be easily fleeced.
There are even websites that promise, for a $50 fee, to steer you toward the "highest paying online surveys" and are full of testimonials from people who said that paying the $50 was "so totally worth it".
And if you believe that, well, I can't help you.
And that is the first con with online surveys - the sites that promise, for a fee, to steer you to all these lucrative online survey sites. But in most cases, you'd have a hard time earning back the $50 fee, if ever. And the survey sites themselves are a gag.
So what is the gag with these online survey sites?
Many of them pay little or nothing. And if they do pay, there is, of course, a catch. You have to agree to all sorts of trial subscription services, which of course are "free", but unless they are canceled, in writing, before the 30 day trial is up, your credit card (which you have to give them) is billed, often for a year's service, which is non-refundable.
Or, they try the old "negative option" gag and say "gee, we didn't get your cancellation letter!"
Another gag on these surveys is to ask for your cell phone or phone number, and then "slam" a bogus telcom calling package on your line (the Barbados calling package). The fine print that you skimmed over when you "click here to accept!" gave them permission to charge your phone $9.99 perpetually. And good luck getting those off-shore providers to stop the service. Likely you will have to disconnect your phone to get it to stop.
Yes, there are legitimate surveys and market research organizations. I was asked to join a "focus group" at one time (I declined, as my time was more valuable than what they offered to pay, which illustrates the fallacy of focus groups - they tend to generate a group-think of what poor people want. And yes, the US Automakers love focus groups, which is why they sell such ugly cars. The Pontiac Aztec was the result of a focus group).
But.... and this is a big but... even the worst market research company realizes that legitimate market research requires a sample that is not skewed. And sampling opinion data through "surveys" online, filled out by people who desperately want to make money is not really sampling general public opinion.
So no marketing agency worth its salt would resort to such surveys, as the data would be relatively meaningless.
The same warning applies to "secret shopper" offers online. Yes, some companies use "secret shoppers" to test their own businesses (and even competitor's) to see how they work. But out of a nation of 330,000,000 people, maybe a few thousand at most are chosen for this work. The odds of being hired as a "secret shopper" approach lottery odds.
Most of the come-ons to be a "secret shopper" are in fact, gags to get you to send in money to "train" to be one. And yea, they take your money and then say "thanks for playing!"
As in any endeavor, when someone promises you wild riches "if only" you'd send them a few bucks, chances are, it is a con. They make a lot of money this way by getting just a few bucks from millions of clueless people, worldwide.
Believing in something-for-nothing is never a good idea. And yet many people are tempted to do it - even "smart" people - even middle class people - even RICH people.
My neighbors asked me the other day whether they should attend a "free seminar" to get "two free airline tickets!" Smart people who should know better, and yet they were tempted to go, until they saw the look on my face.
Heck, Chelsea Clinton's Father-in-law just got out of jail (hence the delayed wedding) after he stole from his clients to pay a Nigerian Scammer. Smart guy - wealthy guy - and yet he got taken in. We ALL DO IT, too. We want to be told what we want to hear.
I have to say, when I got my first Nigerian Scam letter (by FAX, back in the day) I thought to myself, "Gee, a million dollars!" and then reality (fortunately) kicked back in. For some folks, reality doesn't kick back in.
IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT