Online Survey Fraud is expanding quickly. Why and What’s at stake?

August 28, 2020

In the last year or so, online research has faced a rapidly growing reality: survey data quality issues are escalating and one key reason is that fraud is growing largely unchecked.  The dynamics at play are more complex than you’d think.  It connects to the industry technology environment, broader online fraud realities, and the financial alignment around risk between MR and data collection companies.  

Here are a few key ideas on what’s going on and what’s at stake given this reality.

1 - Online surveys exist in a complex ecosystem of technology that resemble the Advertising Technology(AdTech) world.  Automation, APIs and easy publisher onboarding are all elements in common.  For years, AdTech has faced massive waste from fraud in its ecosystem that eMarketer estimates as high as $19bn a year. That’s $19bn of advertisers’ budget wasted on fake impressions/traffic.  The appeal for bad actors is the sheer size of the market.  Wherever there are dollars flowing, fraudsters will attempt to extract a piece.  

2 - OpinionRoute has tracked the increase of fraud in the online survey space through our own business over the last 7 years. As AdTech evolves in combatting fraud, many scammers have moved into the Survey Research space.  While our market is much smaller than advertising in total dollars, it is still substantial.  Respondent incentives and publisher commissions for generating clicks in surveys are two areas of value that attract organized bad actors.  We have a front-row seat to fraud overall.  OurCleanID solution has identified newer threats even in the last couple of months.  

3 - Sample Providers are well protected from this.  Research firms themselves carry most of the risk because data collection is a sub-process of the larger insights workflow. Major marketers invest in partnerships with market research firms and judge Research firm if something goes wrong. Data fraud is a direct threat to the future of that client relationship. Given how consolidated the data collection world has become, many sample companies can go an entire month with an unaddressed click farm attack and not lose a single client.  

4 - In the AdTech world, the programmatic ad exchanges have lost major customers due to fraud in the last couple of years. This puts many large clients of MarketResearch in a situation where they understand the problems fraud can cause.  MR firms need to be on high alert or run the risk of losing clients.    

As an assist, we try our best to consistently provide information on emerging fraud, data quality trends and helpful hints on how to solve for these issues. You can find us on our website, sign up for our newsletter and check out our Linkedin page. If you want to talk about specific projects or learn about technology you can use in your surveys, let us know.    We are happy to add value however we can.

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