Beware the product testing scam
Alarm bells should ring if you're offered significant cash or expensive gadgets in exchange for a little testing work.
I don't know about you, but I always feel flattered if someone asks my opinion. It can be anything – the AV referendum, world peace, the latest gadget, a new computer game, or a bar of chocolate.
And rarely a day goes past without someone sending me an email soliciting my views on this or that. Some are quite harmless because I know where they come from. I often get emails from “supersavvyme” which works for washing powder giant Procter & Gamble. If I rate P&G's domestic cleaning or personal grooming products, I might get a free trial size detergent or deodorant. That's fine – I know that I am on their list because I once applied for one of their products for free.
But I also get many offering me expensive gadgets such as computers, MP3 players or mobile phones to test. Here, the incentive is more than a pack of washing powder or a bar of soap – I get the keep the item after I have tried it out. This can be a real attraction – we are talking about goodies costing hundreds of pounds.
Often, the gadget I am supposed to test is something which is not yet available. Take the iPhone5. It should be sensational – it is rumoured to be a big advance on the present model, enabling me to phone that much better, text that much faster, surf the net speedier, and use apps in new and more amazing ways. It could put the genius into smartphone.
Now I say “rumoured” because I don't really know anything much about it other than one day it is rumoured to happen. If it is true, it is still under development at Apple headquarters – and Apple, even more than most companies, is fanatical about keeping its products under super secret wraps until the official launch date. No-one even knows when that might be – one online rumour suggests late summer to early autumn.
It's much the same with computer games. Fraudsters know there is a large demographic of young males (sorry to stereotype but that group is the largest fan base for games) who would do anything to get a pre-launch or “beta” copy of Death Dungeon 10 or Murder Mayhem 8. Again, computer game firms prize their confidentiality.
So what happens if I respond to an email offering me the gadget or the game to keep if I test it (and obviously I can't try it without having it in my hands)?
It could be one of several – sometimes inter-related – scams.
- I might be told that before I can test the product, I have to purchase something like “Testing for Dummies” or “Teach yourself Product Trials”. This will cost me £25 – for which I receive a few pages of tortuously written rubbish. I never get the product – hardly surprising as no one else outside the company has it either.
- I am asked to join a product testing panel. This will cost me £10 by direct debit. The debit will taken each month – the scam artists hope that I'll forget about it. Of course, the panel does not exist, they have my bank details and I never get the promised item.
- In a cut down version of the Nigerian advance fee scam fraud, I'll be asked for a payment of perhaps £20 to go via Moneygram or Western Union to show “mutual trust” in such a “confidential matter”. Once this “trust” has been established, I'll be asked for more for “legal clearance documents” and so forth. Again, the item will never appear.
Flattering as it may seem, there is no way that firms developing phones or games want my opinion. If you are promised any significant cash or expensive gadget for what you are told is a few minutes work, steer well clear. If an offer sounds too good to be true, then it is so bad that it is criminal.
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Award-winning scams expert Tony Levene explains why he's writing a blog about scams and why he is The Scam Magnet!