How to Spot a Fake Online Survey

April 29th, 2009 by Jared Bothwell


A story came up recently regarding a survey scam which is doing the rounds. I was pleasantly surprised then when I also received the survey invitation supposedly from McDonald’s. Below is the text from the email I received.

Dear McDonald’s Customer,

We are planning big changes for 2009 at McDonald’s New Zealand chain of restaurants and because your opinion is very important to us, we invite you to take a short Customer Satisfaction Survey that will help us improve the quality of our food and services.

We know your time is valuable, so we will give you a $50 bonus just for taking our quick 7 question survey. The entire process will take no more than 5 minutes.

<survey link>

Terms and conditions apply. Click here to take the survey.

You can participate in this survey only once.

Visit our Privacy Policy and User Agreement if you have any questions.
© 2009 McDonald’s. All references marked with a â„¢ or © are trade marks of McDonald’s Corporation and its affiliates except where third party trade mark ownership is indicated. All rights reserved. 

While the email is effectively a spam email, there are two reasons why it drew my attention.

  1. The email purports to be a survey invitation
  2. The email has received considerable attention by the main stream press.

I thought then it would be useful to issue some guidelines on how to spot a fake online survey by critiquing the McDonald’s attempt.

The Email

The following are the key points that highlight the survey invite as a scam.

1. The survey invite ended up in my SPAM folder.

While I get a number of false positives in my spam folder, the fact that your mail client smells something fishy should set your alarms bells ringing.

2. I have never given McDonald’s my email address.

It can be hard to keep track of who you actually have given your email address to. But I was pretty sure that I had not given it to McDonald’s.

3. The survey invite had no unsubscribe

Under NZ email laws all commercial messages are required to enable recipients to unsubscribe from the mailing list. The fact that this email did not have this is a clear indicator of something fishy going on.

4. The survey invite did not have any one’s contact details.

When we send out a survey invite we always include the name of the survey manager and their contact details. This is to ensure that if anyone has any questions regarding the survey they can speak to someone about these.

I would advise that if you receive a survey invite out of the blue and it fails to meet the conditions that have been outlined above – just delete it!

The Survey

While the survey itself was full or errors (New Zealand was called New Zeeland), the most alarming thing about the survey was the fact that it asked for an incredible amount of personal details.

This included:

  • Credit card details
  • Date of Birth
  • Postal Address
  • Bank Account Details

The credit card and bank details were supposedly to be used to pay an incentive to the survey participant. Now I think you would have to have you head checked if you ever gave your credit card details in an online survey. But if you must remember one thing, never ever give your credit card details when completing an online survey.

Posted in Online Market Research Tools | Comments Off

Market Research in a Recession

April 21st, 2009 by Jared Bothwell

Market research has been identified as being key in a recession by a group of ‘experts’ in Singapore. In this article  published in The Strait Times it highlights the fact that when cuts are made in business it is often the marketing department that is targeted first.

Caution should be taken with such a strategy as it is understanding the customer which is most important in times where customers maybe becoming a scare commodity. One of the points raised was the move to engaging with customers in a digital environment i.e online surveys and the like.

It seems then that the use of online surveys will only increase during this recession as businesses look to engage and retain their customers.

Posted in Marketing Research | 1 Comment »

Market Research – Insurance for Start-Ups

April 16th, 2009 by Jared Bothwell


If you are considering undertaking a new business venture one of the questions you will hear most often is – Have you done your market research?  It stands to reason then that you should quickly run off and commission a market research company to conduct a full and comprehensive feasibility study to ensure the success of your new business – off course not!

Often people starting off in business interpret market research as being something that requires a market research company to conduct. While this is sometimes the case, very often the research required can be conducted by the entrepreneur themselves.  The biggest deciding factor I believe in determining your market research budget is how much capital is at risk for the new venture.

Say for example that the total start-up costs for your new venture are $10,000. It hardly makes any sense to spend $7,000 on a research project to determine whether or not there is a market for your product or service. My advice would be to try your luck and dedicate your $10,000 to the development of the venture.  This advice does not hold true for when the venture requires larger amounts of start up capital.

Now say for example that the total start-up costs for your new venture are $100,000 (or insert any larger figure that is appropriate). Spending $7,000 on a research project to protect your investment of $100,000 now starts to make sense. Why risk your all your start-up capital when it is likely that a small cost effective research project will be able to determine whether or not your new venture is viable or not. Hence the notion of market research acting as an insurance policy for your venture. Why put all your start-up capital at risk when market research can provide you with the insurance you need.

Posted in Marketing Research | Comments Off

Buzzdash Shuts its Doors due to Lack of Funding

April 13th, 2009 by Jared Bothwell


Online polling website Buzzdash has had to shut its doors due to a lack of funding. I received this email this morning.

Dear rockresearch,

We’re very sad to say that, due to lack of funding, BuzzDash will be winding down in 7 days.

We truly appreciate everyone’s involvement in creating a national forum where people can gauge and share opinions on everything. Over our two and a half year history, you’ve done just that, and we’re proud to have been a part of it.

From the entire BuzzDash team, thank you, and all the best!

David Gerken

Buzzdash faced stiff competition from PollDaddy whcih is owned by Automattic (who also own blogging platform WordPress ). PollDaddy is available as a WordPress plugin and it seems that this advantage may have sealed Buzzdash’s fate.

Posted in Online Market Research Tools | Comments Off