With the rising costs of fuel, food, and everything else, I am seeing more and more people turning to “Get Paid To” (GPT) sites in order to earn some extra spending money. But can you really make money, and what are the risks?
For those not familiar with the lingo, a GPT site is one that pays you for online shopping, completing surveys, reading paid emails, clicking on sponsored links, completing offers or participating in product trials. Some sites focus on just one of these, while others pay for
some or all of them. Some pay in the form of gift cards, while others pay cash via check or PayPal. Most insinuate that you can make “big bucks” just by clicking on a few links and reading a few emails. Nothing like making easy money while sitting at home, surfing the Internet, right?
No so fast. As with other get rich quick offers, the claims made by many GPT’s are often exaggerated. Are these sites a good way to make money? The answer is, “Maybe,” but it isn’t as simple as clicking on a few links. I’ve been doing GPT sites since the heyday of the ’90’s when sites were plentiful and rewards were high. In recent years, many sites have closed down or restructured their offerings due to fraud and too much competition. The bad news is that now there are fewer sites to choose from. Those still around pay less per offer and require you to earn more before you can “cash out” for your reward. In other words, you have to work a lot harder for a smaller amount of money. The good news is that these closings and restructurings forced many scammers out of business.
So what are the downsides and risks to GPT’s? First, you will receive a lot of spam from these sites. Even the good sites will send you tons of spam. Selling your address and sending you offers is part of how they make money. Don’t sign up with your primary email address; get a freebie from GMail, Yahoo, or the like and use it only for your GPT programs.
In order to do GPT’s, you need a fairly high tolerance for having your personal information (address, phone number, name, email address and some demographic information) shared with a lot of companies. Many offers and product trials require that your information be transmitted to the business administering the offer and, very often, their business is selling information. You may get a free sample of a product, but they’ve got your information and they will make money by selling it to other parties. If you’re not comfortable with this, GPT’s may not be for you.
You may also pick up computer viruses, spyaware, or adware from some sites. Even reputable sites are susceptible to this if their advertisers put up bad ads/offers and the site manager isn’t vigilant. Keep your computer’s software up to date and run anti-virus and anti-spyware software regularly to protect yourself.
Beware of trial offers where you pay up front to try a product and are guaranteed to receive your money back if you choose not to use the product or service. These are typically the highest paying offers on GPT sties, but you have to remember to cancel the offer, you will be charged if you don’t cancel, and you must give your credit card number in order to participate. If you do these types of offers, be prepared to fight through customer service in order to cancel, keep excellent records of cancellation deadlines and confirmations, and be aware that sometimes these offers result in credit card fraud.
If you want to try GPT sites, protect yourself from the outset by making certain that the site you’re dealing with is reputable and known to pay its members regularly and promptly. Sites that have been around for a while are generally preferable to newer sites because they have a verifiable track record. Google the site you’re considering and look for complaints about missing/delayed payments and/or poor customer service. Look for evidence that other members have had their personal information misused. These are indicators that the site you’re considering is, at best, going to be pain to deal with and, at worst, a complete scam.
Never, ever, give your Social Security number when enrolling in a GPT site, even if they claim they need it for taxes. Some scam sites ask for your SSN and then proceed to commit identity theft. Taxes on the money you earn are your responsibility. If you earn more than $600 in a year from any one site, the site will have to file Form 1099 on you and you may need to provide your SSN at that time. But don’t give it out before that time. Chances are you won’t have to worry about it because $600 in earnings from one site is difficult to achieve.
Once you’ve joined a site, make certain to follow their rules to the letter. Different sites have different rules, so if in doubt, ask. Doing GPT sites is often like submitting rebates. You must follow every rule exactly or you will not get paid. When shopping through a GPT site, keep your purchase confirmations in case you need proof later. When doing other offers, keep as much of a record as you can as to the date you completed the offer, any confirmation emails you receive, and the amount you were supposed to be paid. Most reliable GPT sites are able to resolve disputes if you can provide a way for them to track what you did, although there will be times when you won’t get paid no matter how hard you fight or how reputable the site. GPT’s rely on computer programs to tell them what you should be paid for and, like everything else with computers, these systems just don’t work right sometimes.
The more sites you join, the more money you can make, but doing more than a couple of sites becomes complicated if you aren’t careful. It also becomes very time consuming. You need to be organized enough to keep up with which offers you’ve done where, which site should be paying you for what, and when you should be receiving payment from each site. Also, joining more sites exposes your personal information to more advertisers and businesses, so you need to determine how comfortable you are with that.
It is possible to make some money through GPT sites if you’re savvy and patient, but don’t expect to be able to quit your day job. Those “big bucks” they promised you? Not likely. In my twelve-plus years of doing GPT’s, I’ve probably made a few thousand dollars. It sounds great and the extra money is nice, but it’s not the kind of money that’s going to save you from financial ruin. For that you need a real job.
Even when everything works and you get paid for an offer or survey, the amount is often pitiful compared to the amount of time you put in to earn it. My hourly rate for GPT’s is probably in the neighborhood of $0.10/hour on a good day. There are other job opportunities that pay far better and more reliably if you need extra income. I’d recommend getting a part time job or starting a business from home if you really need money.
I do GPT sites in my spare time as a hobby, mostly because I get a kick out of playing the game. If everything works and I actually receive my payment I’m thrilled, but I don’t count on that money to be able to eat, buy gas, or anything else. It’s all extra “fun money.” I wouldn’t recommend GPT’s as a way to subsidize your income during this time of economic uncertainty, but if you like doing surveys and getting new offers, and you’re organized enough to keep up with the record-keeping, then the bit of extra money might be worth it to you.
Image courtesy of Jeff Belmonte