Are survey sites safe? Are GPT or PTC sites safe? How do you stay private while earning beer money online?
The modern internet seems built to strip away personal privacy. Let’s look at ways to run your side hustle without giving it all away.
Can you stay safe and maintain privacy while still earning money online? Well known survey companies are safe and reliable, but not private. These sites make money by profiling you. Here’s 5 quick privacy tips to keep in mind if you’ve ever asked yourself “Are survey sites safe?”
- Check the site’s reputation. Read the reviews posted online on places like SurveyPolice and Reddit. If there are no reviews for a site, that is a red flag.
- Never give out government ID numbers or banking details. Reputable sites will pay through services like PayPal or in gift cards.
- Demographic information is ok. All sites will ask basic age, gender, and location. They use this information to categorize your answers.
- Be consistent. Don’t start a survey as a 24 year old, but answer as a 65 year old. It will get you kicked out without getting paid.
Note: I mention some sites below that I have personally used. None of these listings are sponsored. I do not receive any payment, samples or free product from anyone featured on this blog (sadly). I do however earn a very (very) small affiliate credit when you sign up using my links.
Why Should I Care About Survey Safety?
Before asking yourself “Are survey sites safe?”‘ you might be asking yourself “Why should I care?”
Your first – and most obvious – concern, is being scammed. This is a very real concern as there is big money in both surveys and scamming surveys.
It could be as simple as a company using you to fill out surveys, thereby making money, but never actually paying out to it’s users. In this case, time wasted would be your only loss. Annoying, but not the end of the world.
A more serious scam would be a phishing site. The site could be collecting sensitive information for the purposes of monetary or identity theft. This is why it is important to avoid sharing any personally identifiable information other than your email.
Another concern is malware infection. Like any site online, if you see a ton of pop-ups or ads everywhere, that is a red flag. You should always be browsing the internet with a good adblocker.
Finally, some of you may be concerned with the issues of surveillance capitalism. Similar to using Google or Facebook products, survey, GPT and PTC sites exist to profile you. There really isn’t any way to do it completely anonymously. When you agree to use these sites you’re agreeing to sell your data. But at least you’re being paid for it.
Why Do Survey Sites Collect My Information?
Survey sites exist to collect public opinion. This is pretty obvious. In order to make sure they’re collecting a fair sample of their target audience, they need to know who is answering the survey.
They all collect generic demographic information. Things like age, gender, nationality, language, annual income, marital status. This is to be expected, and is perfectly safe to share. This information is not unique to you (you’re not the only 28 year old single guy in your city), and it is required for almost all surveys.
This data assigns you to a certain category. The survey wants to collect a certain percentage of people from each category to make sure the survey results represent reality.
Why Do GPT and PTC Sites Collect My Information?
GPT (Get Paid To) and PTC (Pay To Click) sites also collect demographics. Most of these sites offer surveys, and use the data in the same way. They are simply acting as middle-men between you and the survey provider.
However, GPT and PTC sites also offer other ways of earning money. Shopping through their affiliate stores, showing you ads, having you download apps and games. Advertising is a big part of their business model.
This results in the collection of far more data than your standard survey site. Data like browser and operating system, time spent on websites, text entered in search boxes, which apps are installed on your phone, and a whole lot more is often collected.
All of your personal information that is collected by companies like Google and Facebook is often also collected by GPT and PTC sites. They are all in the business of selling an audience to data brokers. This is far, far more lucrative than survey commissions.
What Information Should I Never Give Out?
Survey safety is an important topic, and there is some information you should never give out. Never put any government issued ID number online. This could be Social Insurance or Social Security Numbers, passport details, or any other type of ID. A legitimate site should never ask you for this information.
Another important piece of information is banking details. Legitimate sites will pay out using a trusted system like PayPal or gift card transfer. There is no reason for a survey, GPT or PTC site to require your banking information.
In this day and age, it isn’t a question of if a site will be compromised, but when. Never give any data to these sites that you wouldn’t feel comfortable giving to your neighbour or the couple living down the street.
Who Is Getting My Personal Data?
Finally, be aware of who you’re giving this information to. Ask yourself if it’s reasonable for them to have it.
If you’re filling out a survey through a GPT portal, it might ask you for your age or marital status. This makes sense. Even though the GPT site already used this data to screen you for the survey, the survey wants to double check and make sure you’re a real person.
However, there is no reason for this survey to ask for your email (a great indicator that they’re trying to sell it to spam advertisers) or your login details to the GPT site (they’re phishing your account data).
Can I Just Make Fake Survey Profiles?
This is a common question. People either want to protect their identity or, more often, pretend to belong to a more lucrative demographic. If you’re a 17 year old girl and a certain high paying survey is targeted at 35 year old divorcees, it would make sense to just lie and claim to be 35.
This sometimes works, but there are also some problems to consider.
- Due to the high amount of scam respondents and bots, sites pay close attention to this information. If you do anything to make them think you aren’t being honest, you risk getting your account banned.
- “Hot” demographics change. This month all the high paying surveys might be for 35 year old asian divorcees, but next month it might be retired latino executives.
- Survey sites will often test you at some point during the survey. They might pass you through demographic screeners, and then one of the early survey questions will be that same demographic question. If your answers are different, you’ll be disqualified.
- Sites store profile cookies on your computer. If you’re not browsing in private or incognito mode (more on this below), these will persist from one day to the next. They will know you filled out one survey as a 20 year old from Poland, and then another one as a 58 year old from Chile.
Consistency is key. If you want to avoid disqualifications, you must be consistent and sensible with your answers.
Should I Use A VPN Or Adblocker?
For day to day internet browsing, absolutely. At the very, very least, everyone should have an adblocker installed on all their browsers.
However, this can make it difficult to complete offers, or in some cases even prevent you from signing up in the first place.
Accurate, truthful information is essential for these sites to remain profitable. A lot of sites online (wrongly) assume that VPN usage means you’re hiding something. Logging in with a VPN might prevent you from signing in, or even get your account banned.
SwagBucks for example, gave an error message when trying to sign up through a VPN. Check the terms and conditions, or send a message to customer support to see what’s allowed.
Adblockers are less of a concern. The worst case scenario is simply that an offer won’t load, or you’ll get an annoying pop-up telling you to disable it. Fix this by temporarily disabling it. Generally I would recommend keeping it active until you’re forced to turn it off.
The one exception is cryptocurrency based sites (check out our FaucetHub and Crypto Faucet articles for some examples). A lot of these sites won’t even load with an adblocker enabled. This makes sense as almost all of their revenue is ad based.
What More Can I Do?
First, you need to realize that you’re trading your personal information for the money that these sites are paying you. There is nothing wrong with that, but you can’t trick yourself into thinking you can do this anonymously.
In the same way that it is impossible to remain anonymous and use Google products, it’s also unrealistic to think you can use GPT sites without leaving a trace. You will be leaking information.
Privacy Best Practices
Here are some privacy best practices for using GPT, PTC and survey sites. A lot of them are things you should probably be doing anyway.
- If you have an old device, laptop or cellphone, consider wiping it and using it as a dedicated beer money device.
- If that’s not an option, you could always download a free program like VirtualBox and create a sandboxed beer money VM on your computer.
- Never use the same password for more than one site.
- Use an app like KeepassXC to create long, random passwords and store them.
- Install an adblocker (I’d strongly recommend uBlock Origin).
- Compartmentalize where possible. This means don’t use the same email or username for every site you sign up to. Create a unique email / user for beer money tasks, and keep it completely separate from your regular social or browsing activity.
- Dump Gmail. You don’t need Google looking over your shoulder too. I’d recommend something more secure such as ProtonMail or Tutanota.
- Google Chrome may have to go. On the plus side it allows you to pass ReCaptcha’s the first time, every time. On the down side it feeds all your browsing data to advertisers.
- Browse in Private or Incognito Mode. This will erase all browsing data and cookies between sessions.
- Visit /r/privacy on Reddit for additional ideas.
How To Spot A Scam Survey Or GPT Site
By now you should have a good idea of what to look for. When people feel cheated or scammed, they’re often very vocal about it online. Use this to your advantage.
- Does the site get good reviews online?
- Does the site have a lot of reviews online?
- Do they ask you for an unreasonable amount of information to create your account?
- Do they claim to need specific, personal, or identifiable information?
- Is the page overflowing with ads and pop-ups?
- Is it clearly stated how and when you will be paid?
- Do they have an active forum?
- Is it easy to find contact information for customer support?
These are all things to look out for. Use your common sense. The internet isn’t a new thing anymore, and a lot of scams are pretty similar. If you feel uncomfortable with something, trust that instinct and walk away. There are a lot of other sites out there to make money online.
Trade Some Privacy To Speed Through ReCaptcha
The dreaded ReCaptcha. It’s used to prove that you’re human, before allowing you to continue using a website. What most people don’t know is that the images you select have little to do with whether you pass or fail.
ReCaptcha exists for 2 reason:
- To slow the massive amount of bot and spam traffic online
- To turn internet users into free labour to train image recognition algorithms
What actually determines whether you can pass through is Google’s strike system. Depending on your browser and location, Google gives you a strike. The more you have, the longer you have to waste clicking on pictures.
The following all count as strikes, causing you to spend more time on ReCaptcha:
- Using an adblocker
- Using a VPN
- Not being signed in to a Google account
- Not using Google Chrome
I mentioned above that you may want to ditch Google Chrome for the sake of privacy. However, if you use a lot of sites that rely on ReCaptcha, you might want to stick with it to speed up your workflow. Vanilla Google Chrome will pass through a captcha the first time, every time. A good idea is to browse in incognito mode. That way all tracking cookies are deleted between sessions.
GPT Toolbars And Other Addons
Some sites, like SwagBucks, offer extra points if you download toolbars (in this case the SwagButton). These addons will show you offers, coupons, search results, and ads.
The upside of these addons is that you can dramatically increase your earning potential. They give you a quick way to view any earning opportunities, and include some exclusives you often won’t find on the full website.
From a security perspective, they are pretty harmless. However, from a privacy perspective, they don’t look as good. They work by tracking all of your browsing habits. That is how they know when to show you coupons, or search suggestions.
If your main concern is staying as private as possible, you should not install any addons. If your main concern is making as much as possible, and as quickly as possible, then you really can’t afford not to.
PC Versus Mobile Safety
By now you can probably answer are survey sites safe?, but have you thought about whether mobile survey apps are safe?
Everything today is switching to mobile. Most sites have a mobile version of their website so you can earn on the go. A lot of them are also starting to develop Android or iPhone apps for additional earning opportunities.
From a security and privacy perspective, the safest thing to do is simply use the mobile version of the site on your phone or tablet browser. This doesn’t open you up to any new security concerns.
However, a lot of sites are now offering additional earning opportunities through mobile companion apps. For example, I have SwagBucks‘ video apps running all afternoon. That makes my earning almost completely passive, and I’m free to do other things like write this article.
This does open up some security and privacy concerns. The tech news is full of articles about data sharing and mobile apps abusing permissions. For example, it’s not uncommon for apps to share data with Facebook, even if you don’t have a Facebook account or any Facebook apps installed.
Location And Other Permissions
Once you’ve decided to install an app, permissions are your biggest concern. I should point out that this is true for any mobile app, not just beer money apps.
For iOS users, Apple makes it fairly easy. Simply go to the Settings screen and disable any unnecessary permissions for all your apps. For example, the SwagBucks apps play video and ads. There is absolutely no reason why they should require my location or access to my microphone.
On Android it isn’t so straight forward. The best solution, if you’re tech savvy enough, is to use a rooted device with better privacy controls. Turn off any permissions that seem unreasonable. You may also want to install some type of firewall, such as AdAway, and block any address associated with Facebook.
Keep in mind that some apps may have a legitimate reason for needing a certain permission. Secret Shopper apps for example, may need to know your location so they can verify you were actually in the right store. Again, use your common sense. Ask yourself why the app would need that permission and block accordingly.
An app that asks for a ton of permissions it doesn’t need is sort of like a website loaded with a ton of popups. It might just be bad design, but it comes across as pretty shady and should probably be avoided.
Cash Out Often
Always check the TOS of the sites you are using and verify what is allowed. You don’t want to have your account banned with a whole bunch of money still in it.
There are generally two ways to look at cash outs:
- The more you save up, the greater the discounts usually are or the more you get for your points. Looking at it this way, you’re better saving up for as long as you can before cashing out.
- Rewards and site policies change. By the time you’ve saved up 10000 SwagBucks, is that gift card offer still going to be there? Cashing out often ensures that you’re getting all of the compensation owed to you.
A quick browse online will show you that there are lots of posts of people who’s points have disappeared or who’s accounts have been disabled. Sometimes this is due to user abuse, sometimes to technical glitches or accidents. Either way, there’s nothing worse than spending hours and hours answering surveys, only to have all that time completely wasted.
Even though I value my privacy and security, I never do anything to violate the TOS of a website. There is no reason any of my accounts should ever be disabled. However, I still cash out as soon as I hit penalty free minimums. After all, it’s not actually my money until it’s in my bank account.
The Scourge Of Surveillance Capitalism: Is Privacy Even Possible?
The reality is that you’re leaking thousands of data points each day. Most of which you don’t even realize. It is trivial for data algorithms to combine all of these “anonymous” bits of data together and build a very accurate and intimately detailed profile about you.
Focus on your security, first and foremost. Are the sites you use safe? Avoid the scams and financial loss. Once you’ve found safe survey or GPT sites, then you have to consider your privacy.
Unfortunately, data mining is a major part of the business model of GPT sites, and major corporations like Google, Amazon, and Facebook (including it’s subsidiaries Instagram and Whatsapp). It’s up to you to weigh how much of your personal information you’re willing to trade away for convenience or a few extra dollars each month.