Cheating on consumer surveys

Arriving in today's spambox was another consumer survey promising “free” gifts for completing the survey. This one came with a new twist. It seems possible to cheat! While you're only entitled to a single “free” gifts for completing the survey, the survey company made a mistake, and you can actually sign up for all of them. That fact is revealed by comments left by other users that already have completed the survey and have left comments. For instance “Tony Biskup” writes:

Thanks for the gifts! I sold the skin care cream on eBay and made $100 on it. Oh by the way, nothing is stopping me from signing up to all the gifts listed, which I did, lol. Just letting you know.

Looks like a great deal, doesn't it. Or maybe not?

The above quote is supposedly from “Tony Biskup” and posted as a user comment on a New Zealand consumer survey site. As is appearent from the screen dump below, a person bearing the exact likeness to “Tony Biskup” has also completed the same survey on a Norwegian consumer survey site, made the same accidential discovery, and made roughly the same profit on eBay. But he is no longer named “Tony Biskup”, but “Karl Svendsen”.

A single face, but multiple names. Screenshots from the same “consumer survey” with Kiwis and Norwegians, respectively, as targets.

I think it is safe to conclude that the user comment thing is a rather obvious ploy to make greedy people believe it is possible to cheat, and therefore lower their guard.

As it turns out, not even the first gift you sign up for is actually free.

The screen shot below shows the form you need to fill in to sign up for your “free” gift (in my case, I picked an unbranded Android tablet with a supposed market value of 60 dollars):

The screen you need to complete in order to receive your “free” gift.

Will I really get a tablet for 4.99 (including the posting and handling charge)?

Not really. The real deal is in the fine print. Notice the pre-checked box with the terms and conditions you accept (at the bottom of the screen). The facsimile below shows a larger version.

The fine print.

The key sentence is this:

By accepting the prize you agree to purchase 100 bid credits per month valued at 1 US dollar each from our penny auction site.

So by clicking the big, blue “Confirm” button, in order to receive your “free” gift (supposedly worth 60 dollars) you actually sign up for a subscription where 100 dollars is going to be automatically charged your card every month until you figure out a way to cancel the subscription (which, I have been told by an actual victim, is not an easy task).

As always: Read the fine print before signing up for “free” stuff.