by : Aashiya Mittal
May 19th 2023

Every business wants deeper and more accurate insights into the market to analyze competitors’ and customers’ understanding. And, effective market research is the one and only way to achieve those goals. Among different methods of market research, surveys are the most preferred method due to their ability to have a significant impact on customers and gather essential information to drive business decisions. 

The look and feel of the surveys have evolved over the years with the same purpose of getting the required information. But today marketers and customers are facing a daunting challenge, that is, online survey fraud. Despite the fact that technology and innovation have revolutionized market research, the industry has been plagued by a surge in online fraud, which is jeopardizing data integrity and quality. 

Fraudsters such as malicious individuals, click farms, bots, and competitors have seized this opportunity to participate in online surveys and submit fake responses, thereby undermining the mission of survey providers. This has been a persistent problem for many companies. It’s clear that online survey fraud poses a serious threat to the integrity of market research and the businesses that work on intense data. This is why companies are emphasizing strongly to have effective fraud detection techniques in place to make each survey worth investing in.

If you are new to market research and have no clue why your results are non-promising then you might be a victim of survey fraud. To help newcomers, we have highlighted what survey frauds are, how survey frauds have progressed over the years, their impact on businesses and customers, ways for detecting potential survey frauds, and the best tips to avoid fraudsters with smart surveys.

Let’s start with survey fraud, leading our way to fraud detection techniques.

What is a Survey Fraud?

Survey fraud refers to any deceptive or dishonest activity carried out with the intent to manipulate or distort the results of a survey. It involves the deliberate submission of false or misleading information in response to survey questions, leading to inaccurate data and compromising the validity and reliability of the survey results. 

Over time, with the advancement of technology, frauds are also evolving which can significantly impact the data quality and alter the results. For those, who are not aware of how far survey fraud can go, go through the evolution of survey fraud.

Evolution of Survey Frauds

The evolution of survey fraud has seen significant changes over time, driven by advancements in technology and the increasing prevalence of online surveys. Here’s an overview of the key stages in the evolution of survey fraud.

  • Traditional Survey Frauds

Before the digital age, survey frauds primarily involved face-to-face or telephone surveys. Fraudsters would manipulate responses by falsifying information or misrepresenting themselves as legitimate researchers. This type of fraud was relatively limited in scale and reach.

  • Online Survey Frauds

With the rise of the internet, survey frauds expanded their scope. Online surveys became popular due to their cost-effectiveness and wider reach. Fraudsters started exploiting this medium by creating fake survey websites or spamming unsuspecting individuals with fraudulent survey links. They would trick respondents into providing personal information, such as their email addresses, credit card details, or social security numbers.

  • Survey Scams and Prize Drawings

Another evolution in survey frauds involved scams disguised as legitimate surveys offering enticing rewards or prize drawings. Fraudsters would claim that respondents could win expensive prizes or cash rewards upon completing the survey. In reality, these surveys were designed to collect personal information or extract money from unsuspecting individuals.

For example-

Example of Survey scams

Image Credits: pcrisk

  • Bot and Automated Response Fraud

As technology advanced, survey frauds began leveraging automation. Bots and automated scripts were employed to flood surveys with responses, often generating fake data. This practice distorted survey results, undermining their accuracy and reliability.

  • Click Farms and crowd workers

In recent years, the rise of click farms and crowd workers has posed a significant challenge to survey integrity. Fraudsters pay individuals, either in low-income countries or through online platforms, to complete surveys on their behalf. These participants often provide false information, leading to biased data and compromised survey results.

  • Mobile and App-Based Surveys

With the widespread use of smartphones and mobile apps, survey frauds have adapted to target this platform. Fraudulent mobile apps or advertisements lure users into completing surveys that promise rewards or discounts. However, these surveys often collect personal data for malicious purposes or generate revenue for fraudsters through ad clicks.

  • Data Breaches and Unauthorized Data Collection

Survey frauds have also evolved through data breaches and unauthorized data collection. Fraudsters may disguise their activities as legitimate surveys to gather sensitive information or exploit vulnerabilities in survey platforms to access user data. This data can be used for identity theft, targeted phishing attacks, or sold on the dark web.

To counter the evolving nature of survey fraud, researchers, survey platforms, and regulatory bodies have implemented various measures. Survey fraud is having a significant impact on businesses and their brand.

Impact of Survey Fraud on Business

Survey fraud can have a significant impact on businesses in several ways.

  • Misleading Data

Survey fraud involves the submission of false or inaccurate information, which can lead to the collection of misleading data. This can be detrimental to decision-making processes within a business, as it may result in erroneous conclusions or misguided strategies.

  • Wasted Resources

Conducting surveys requires time, effort, and resources. When fraudulent responses are included in the data, these valuable resources are wasted on analyzing and interpreting unreliable information. It diverts resources away from genuine respondents and hampers the overall effectiveness of the survey.

  • Damaged Reputation

If a business is found to be involved in survey fraud, it can damage its reputation and credibility. Customers, partners, and stakeholders may question the integrity of the company, leading to a loss of trust. This can impact customer loyalty, brand image, and future business opportunities.

  • Inaccurate Market Insights

Surveys are often conducted to gain insights into consumer preferences, market trends, and customer satisfaction. Survey fraud can distort these insights, leading to incorrect assumptions about the market and customers. Inaccurate data may result in misguided product development, ineffective marketing strategies, and missed opportunities.

  • Financial Loss

Businesses invest in surveys to make informed decisions, develop effective strategies, and enhance their competitive edge. When fraudulent responses are included in the data, it can lead to poor decision-making, inefficient resource allocation, and financial loss. Investing in fraudulent data can waste money and hinder business growth.

  • Legal Consequences

Engaging in survey fraud can have legal implications. Depending on the jurisdiction, fraudulent activities such as falsifying data, manipulating results, or intentionally misleading participants may be subject to legal action. This can result in fines, penalties, and legal battles, further impacting a company’s financial stability and reputation.

Impact of Survey Fraud on Customers

Survey fraud can have various impacts on customers. Here are some ways in which customers can be affected by survey fraud.

  • Decreased trust

Survey fraud undermines the trust that customers have in the surveying process and the organizations conducting the surveys. When customers become aware of fraudulent surveys, they may question the authenticity of all surveys they encounter in the future, making it difficult for genuine surveys to gather accurate feedback.

  • Privacy concerns

Some instances of survey fraud may involve the collection of personal information under false pretenses. Customers who unknowingly provide their personal data in fraudulent surveys could become victims of identity theft, spam emails, or other privacy breaches.

  • Missed opportunities

Genuine surveys play a crucial role in understanding customer needs and preferences. Survey fraud can distort the results and prevent organizations from accurately identifying customer requirements. This, in turn, may result in missed opportunities to improve products, services, or overall customer experience.

To protect businesses and customers from survey fraud, it is crucial to implement measures to detect and prevent survey fraud, such as utilizing data validation techniques, implementing strict response verification processes, and employing trusted survey platforms or providers. 

By ensuring the integrity of survey data, businesses can make better-informed decisions and maintain their reputation in the market.

Effective Fraud Detection Methods to Detect Survey Frauds

To detect fraud, one must understand fraudsters’ tactics and perform quality checks during registration, as they often use multiple accounts or change IP addresses. This is a common issue for market researchers.

An effective Market Research solution offers fraud detection facilities that can serve a dual purpose to help manage survey responses and also prevent survey fraud. 

Below are some proven methods to find out frauds who are entering the survey.

  • Enabling IP tracking for respondents

Enabling IP tracking for respondents for fraud detection

Image Credits: Surveysparrow

To ensure quality responses, it’s helpful to keep an eye on your respondents’ IP addresses. By enabling IP tracking during the Configure step, you can see which networks respondents are using to access your survey. This could be a personal WiFi network, a shared public library network, or a university dormitory.

If you suspect fraudulent behavior, watch for multiple respondents coming from the same IP address. This could indicate that one person (or a group of people) is repeatedly taking your survey and skewing your results. However, don’t be too quick to assume foul play if you see a few duplicate IP addresses. It could simply be a group of individuals using the same shared network.

  • Disable “multiple participation”

You must have a feature that prevents the respondents from applying for the same survey multiple times. Rewards make them greedy and to make more rewards, respondents go to different heights and try to fill out surveys in all possible ways. 

As per GDPR, businesses cannot track people and save their data without their consent. Thus, businesses use a small cookie file in their browser’s cache memory that will only identify if that specific browser has opened the same survey link. 

  • Reviewing time stamps 

The time taken by respondents to complete the survey is crucial information. To get a sense of how long it takes for them to read and respond to each question, you can give the survey to a few people and time how long it takes them to finish. This will give you an average time for completion.

When reviewing the data, it’s normal to see some longer participation times, as respondents may have taken breaks or been interrupted. However, be wary of very short completion times that fall significantly below the average, as this may indicate rushed or dishonest answers.

Additionally, keep an eye out for multiple submissions with similar start and end times, which could be a sign of spambots. Checking completion times ensure the quality and accuracy of your survey responses.

As per SurveyMonkey, the average time taken to complete a survey is as below.

average survey completion time for fraud detection

Image Credits: Surveymonkey

  • Reviewing respondents’ device information

Another piece of information that a business must review is the respondent’s system information. When the same device and browser produce identical responses, it could be a red flag for potential fraud. So, it’s important to be alert and take action if you notice this happening. Don’t let scammers get the upper hand!

  • Browser Fingerprinting fraud detection technique

Fingerprinting is a tracking technique that gathers sufficient information to distinguish an individual user across browsing sessions, even when they are in incognito mode or using a VPN.

Unlike cookies, which can be easily cleared or disabled by users through methods like ad blockers, fingerprinting is considered a more effective tracking method. When a browsing session does not match a specific cookie, companies resort to browser fingerprinting to identify the user visiting their website.

Every time you visit a website or use an app, your device inadvertently discloses a significant amount of data. This is inevitable due to the unique combination of your device’s hardware and software architecture. 

Some examples of the fingerprints left behind include timezone, screen size, device model, installed fonts, installed drivers, operating system, language settings, and browser extensions. There are countless more signals that companies can collect, and the more signals they gather, the easier it becomes to pinpoint a specific user. Some companies use FingerprintJS, an advanced open-source JS library, that detects fraud by hashing unique device/browser features for a distinct identifier.

It helps you to check if the user is again registering and completing the survey.  This has been the best and most commonly used Fraud Detection technique available.

  • Mobile verification method

Another way to check the authenticity of the respondent is to verify their mobile details by sending an OTP and making sure that it has not already been registered as a respondent. 

  • Address verification method

Sometimes respondents create false addresses to enter the survey from different locations to earn rewards. But it can significantly impact the result of the survey. So companies can simply verify the address of the respondent to check if they are a genuine respondent and you can rely on their responses for better decision-making.

If the address matches with the respondent who have already completed the survey, you can terminate their screening process and take them off the survey page.

Other than these methods to detect fraud, you can implement some internal checks on your survey to keep the fraudsters away.

Tips to Trick Fraudsters with Smart Survey Creation For Fraud Detection

Cheating while completing and registering for surveys can be a major problem, but technology can only do so much to prevent it. To make sure your survey results are accurate and reliable, there are additional steps you can take to discourage fraudsters from skewing your data. 

While creating surveys, the designer must have the below goals in mind to ensure smooth fraud detection.

Goals for survey designers for fraud detection

Image Credits: Qualtrics

Let’s explore some effective strategies that can help you maintain the integrity of your survey results and ensure the insights you gather are trustworthy.

  • Using psychological tricks

Don’t let cheaters ruin your survey! You can scare them off right from the start by letting them know you have a foolproof way of catching them. Even if you don’t have fancy monitoring tools, you can simply ask for a valid email address at the beginning of your survey. 

This will validate their identity. Plus, adding a required email question and a page break ensures that they can’t move forward without providing one. So, protect the integrity of your survey and make cheaters think twice with this simple but effective fraud detection tactic.

  • Ask for the respondent’s commitment

Cheating in surveys can lead to inaccurate results and compromise the brand’s reputation. To prevent this, it’s crucial to ensure that respondents provide genuine opinions and information. 

According to research, one effective method is to ask a question that requires a specific positive response, like “Will you commit to answering truthfully?” This creates a behavioral commitment that increases the likelihood of honest answers. So, to obtain honest responses in your surveys, use this technique and encourage your respondents to commit to truthful answers!

  • Implement extra validations using logic flows

Adding logic validations in your survey can improve the quality of your data. By creating screening paths with multiple conflicting response options, you can identify if respondents are rushing through or answering randomly. If they don’t meet your criterion, the logic flows will prevent them from proceeding, resulting in a drastic decrease in unqualified responses. So, you must add tailored logic validations to drive accurate and reliable data.

  • Implement panel sampling instead of river sampling

River sampling and panel sampling are two different approaches to collecting survey data. River sampling involves mass-inviting people to take the survey through online ads and promotions, but researchers have no control over who will participate and can’t follow up after completion. On the other hand, panel sampling involves inviting pre-screened individuals from an affiliate site who have already expressed interest in participating in surveys. 

Panelists can be reached again, and researchers can target specific demographics for more reliable data. While river sampling can be complementary, panel sampling provides a more dedicated and trustworthy data source. However, overly selective panel sampling can result in rigid data. Without double opt-in verification, river sampling can attract anyone with any intention, making it less precise.

  • Open-ended questions

Incorporating an open-ended question into your surveys is a smart move to deter any sneaky cheating. To ensure every respondent can thoughtfully answer this question, consider placing it at the end of your survey and marking it as ‘required’.  this has been an interactive way for survey fraud detection.

But beware, not all participants will give meaningful answers, some may even type out gibberish! To weed out any unhelpful responses, set a minimum character or word limit for this question. When reviewing individual responses, it will be easy to spot and remove any participants who didn’t meet this requirement. 

Example of open-ended questions

Image Credits: Questionpro

  • Attention check

Let’s talk about a clever way to gather reliable information from your respondents. All you need to do is ask a simple question and provide them with a list of choices to choose from. You can make it even more effective by adding either a single or multiple-selection question and instructing them to choose only one option or skip the question altogether.

Now, here’s the exciting part. By doing this, you’ll be able to filter out respondents who didn’t follow the instructions, or even better, disqualify those who answered incorrectly using logic flows. 

In the below example, if the respondent does not give proper attention, they will end up filling in the wrong answer.

psychological tricks

Image Credits: Leadquizzes

However, these are not the only ones, it is up to the business and survey designer what internal checks they want to implement to achieve their goals.

It requires an expert hand and a proper understanding of the market, respondents, and survey creation to reach a smart survey.

Protect Surveys With OnGraph’s Fraud Detection Solutions

Market research helps you understand your audience and make informed decisions. However, response fabrication and fraudulent survey responses have become more rampant than ever before. This can compromise the integrity of your research, leading to incorrect conclusions and poor business decisions. Thus we need a modern-age fraud detection techniques to eliminate them.

But don’t worry, there’s a solution! By implementing various checks, you can prevent market research fraud and ensure the authenticity of survey responses. We have listed ways for efficient fraud detection to improve your surveys and focus on designing surveys and implementing them to gather accurate data. 

If you are looking for impactful solutions that will help your business to protect the surveys, then you must connect with experts from OnGraph. Our services, such as fraud detection and survey creation tools help filter out invalid survey responses, fake user data, bots, and incentivized survey completion. Schedule a call with one of our experts for a demonstration of how we help businesses create secure and cost-effective market research solutions.



Aashiya Mittal

A computer science engineer with great ability and understanding of programming languages. Have been in the writing world for more than 4 years and creating valuable content for all tech stacks.

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