Not Everything is as It Seems: Why You Should Get Educated on Survey Bots

Louise Principe
Nov 01, 2022
survey bots in coding .

Almost every business relies on collecting various data to guide its strategy. And for market researchers, online surveys have become the default tool for this purpose. This method is commonly used because it’s easily accessible and can gather large amounts of information for greater statistical power.

However, this ease of access comes with a major drawback – survey bots. Instead of receiving accurate and precise data, bot attacks could make you second-guess the validity of your survey findings.

Even worse, with how intelligent this fraudulent software is getting, you may not even realize that your results are faulty until it's too late. Organizations may end up making misguided decisions that lead to expensive consequences. As evidence, click fraud from bots is predicted to cost $44 billion in 2022.

To prevent these issues from happening to your online surveys, it’s important to understand what a bot is, its functions, and what measures you should take to eliminate them.

What Are Survey Bots?

Bots (short for “robot”) are software specifically created to simulate a legitimate online user and automate tasks. To avoid detection, they attempt to copy user behavior by following browser patterns.

While some bots do relatively harmless tasks like posting a tweet every hour or placing food orders via chat, nefarious bots, such as survey-taking bots, pose a real threat to your study. They create trouble for researchers across various industries – from marketing to eCommerce and healthcare.

Fraudsters typically code or purchase bot programs from click farms to fill out a form automatically. By disguising themselves as qualified respondents, bots could infiltrate your online survey to receive digital incentives for participation.

Since the success of quantitative and qualitative research relies heavily on sample quality, having even one survey bot taking your questionnaire puts the accuracy of your data at risk. According to Imperva, 27.7% of all traffic across websites, mobile, and APIs consist of bots. This means there is almost a one out of three chance that bots could take over your results without proper preventative measures in place.

From Bad Data to Unfair Advantages 

Fraudsters leverage survey-taking bots for various malicious purposes, such as getting incentives, skewing results, and sabotage. Here are some of the most common use cases for this software:

Claiming Freebies and Bonuses

Small incentives are often given out to customers if they finish a survey. These range from a $5 gift card to store coupons and other bonuses. But while these rewards don’t amount to much on their own, bots and fake email addresses can be used to complete a survey hundreds of times – enabling scammers to pile up rewards and collect them for themselves.

Collecting Survey Commissions

To save time gathering responses, some companies allocate a budget to hire a third party for survey distribution. However, fraudsters take advantage of this opportunity and use bots to answer the surveys. This allows them to reach their targeted response quota and pocket the money for themselves.

Rigging Contest Results

Instead of distributing incentives to each survey taker, some businesses will offer a prize to one random participant. To maximize their chances of winning, fraudsters try to create multiple entries by using bots to take the survey repeatedly.

Sabotaging Competitors 

Customer satisfaction and product surveys play a significant role in guiding business strategies. Despite this, some companies may play dirty by using bots to try and sabotage their competitors’ survey results – leading victims to lose precious resources in developing a product that doesn’t echo their customers’ voices and fake market research.

Skewing Polls 

Nefarious individuals may use bots to skew marketing surveys in favor of a certain ideology. As a result, companies may change their core values or mission statements to align with a viewpoint that isn’t reflective of their target audience.

How Can We Protect Ourselves?

With how widespread bots are in the industry, eradicating them overnight wouldn’t be possible. However, we could take some safety measures to protect our survey data from falling victim to this malicious software.

  • Working with a reputable recruitment platform to select your respondent panel
  • Evaluate data quality (e.g., speeding, straight-lining, inconsistent answers)
  • Cross-check respondents’ personal information (e.g., similar credentials, fake data)
  • Make use of CAPTCHA codes
  • Utilize client or server-side password protection to prevent multiple responses
  • Conduct a pilot study to compare survey data
  • Examine participants’ digital footprint (e.g., cookies, IP address)

The Best Solution to Prevent Survey Bots

Employing a service with expertise in respondent recruitment ensures that your survey is safe from any fraudulent participation. Civicom’s dedicated recruitment platform, CiviSelect™, has the knowledge, expertise, and global reach to provide you with the most suitable survey participants for a successful market research project.

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