Here’s how to figure out if that ad for a paid survey is too good to be true.

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You’ve probably seen online ads promising a lucrative side income or one-time easy cash for taking paid surveys on everything from shopping habits to social issues or food and entertainment preferences.

Maybe you’ve even considered putting your opinion out there by answering a few questions for a quick $50. Don’t be too quick to begin typing answers to paid surveys, though.

“Very few of these schemes are legit, and those that are don’t offer a get-rich-route to success,” according to Scambusters, a public resource on internet scams. Want further proof? Type in “paid survey” on a Better Business Bureau (BBB) search and scroll through all the “F” rating results.

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1. The survey promises big bucks

The survey promises big bucks

If an ad offers to pay $250 for completing a survey that takes 15 minutes, hold up before you start answering questions. Marketing companies typically pay people anywhere from $50 to $300 for in-person product and social issues focus groups that last a couple of hours or more. Even legitimate online surveys typically pay less than $10 an hour, says Scambusters.

Beware of surveys that promise easy money, a steady flow of cash or a stream of free products simply for taking the survey.

2. There’s no company name

If a marketing or survey company is legitimate with a good reputation, you will likely find its name on the ad or survey. At the same time, a company name is still no guarantee of legitimacy. However, when the ad shows no name at all, that’s a huge red flag that the survey could be a scam.

Look up the company’s BBB rating, if one exists. Type the company and/or survey name in a separate online search that includes the word “scam” for other people’s experiences with the company or specific survey.

3. You can’t find contact information or an “about” page

You can’t find contact information or an “about” page

Legitimate companies offer a means of contact beyond a generic e-mail address. If there is no “about” page with the company’s history, address, phone number and other information you can easily verify, there may be a shady reason for that omission.

Just as bad as no “about” page is one that tells only how great the company is and how much money you can make without explaining how that will happen. If you can’t call and ask questions, move on to a paid survey from a company that’s well-known and has a good reputation.

4. The domain is new

If the paid survey company’s domain name was created within the last year or just a few months ago, that doesn’t mean the survey is a scam, but it should give you reason to investigate further.

That’s because scammers like to move around and may change domain names when their scamming ways catch up to them. You can find out who owns a domain with a free search for domain name owners, creation date, update and other information on

5. The site has no privacy policy

The site has no privacy policy

When you complete a pre-screening form asking for your e-mail, phone number, address, shopping habits, age, number in household and other pertinent information and never hear back, that doesn’t mean those facts went unnoticed. Scammers collect this information and sell it to marketing companies that bombard you with phone calls, e-mails or spam.

Always carefully review the survey company’s privacy policy on its website. If no privacy policy exists, keep your information to yourself.

6. The company uses a free e-mail account

Not every company with a Gmail address is bad news. At the same time, a survey or marketing company without its name in the e-mail address or on the survey can’t be checked out for legitimacy.

That’s the way scammers like it, so stick with paid surveys with real companies you can look up on the BBB site.

7. The survey asks for private personal information

The survey asks for private personal information

It’s one thing to ask your age range and whether you use a bank or a credit union. However, when survey questions delve into your bank and credit card company names, types of bank accounts or account numbers, those inquiries are flapping red flags.

Supplying financial accounts information, your social security number, birth date, health insurance ID or related information to an online survey makes you an easy target for identity theft. Don’t go there.

Find out: How to Prevent Identity Theft.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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