Nielsen Email Scam?

Dear Special Consumer,

You are invited to become one of the lucky few that have the opportunity to influence what manufacturers and retailers make and sell. By joining ACNielsen's Homescan Consumer Panel, you will represent millions of Americans, and so your opinion will make a huge difference in the consumer marketplace!

What It's All About
ACNielsen is the world's largest and most prestigious market research company, with its Homescan Consumer Panel representing consumers all across America. Manufacturers and retailers count on the data Homescan panelists provide to help them make decisions on what products to develop or improve and what to keep on or remove from store shelves. It doesn't matter whether you buy a little or a lot, your opinions count!

scaning products

scaning products

What Panelists Do
Using a small, state-of-the-art hand-held scanner (which ACNielsen will provide to you at absolutely no cost), you and members of your household will scan the UPC barcodes on all of your purchases. Then, once a week, you'll transmit your purchase information to us via the scanner.

Panel participation only takes about 20 minutes each week. It's fast, easy, and fun!


It's Easy to Earn FREE Gifts and Great Prizes!
Here's your opportunity to make your consumer voice "speak" for millions of Americans, while earning points toward fabulous, name-brand gifts. Panel members also have the chance to win cash and other terrific prizes!

So, join now to represent millions of Americans and have a chance to win BIG prizes!

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Questions?

Please e-mail me.

Your opinions will make a difference in today's consumer marketplace, so don't delay! Join now!



Sincerely,


scaning products


Lynne Morrison
National Director
Homescan Consumer Panels
6800 Jericho Tpke, Suite 102E
Syosset, NY 11791-4401


- Please do not reply - This account is not configured to receive emails -

My comments:
1. I question whether this email is for real or part of a scam. If it is for real, why are they contacting me by email, not mail, and how did they get my email address? This was sent directly to my personal address, not to any business address that I have published on the internet.
2. If this is real, why can I not reply to this email? I checked out "proxydirectmail.com." the domain from which this email supposedly originated, but there is nothing at this domain.
3. If this is real, does this company actually think that I would be willing to transmit data about all of my purchases to them? And not only take the time to do that, but do it for free? You want to invade my privacy, and you don't want to compensate me for it. Gee, that sure does sound "fast, easy, and fun!"

In order to investigate question 1 further, I did a couple of things. First, I checkd out the links in the email. I did NOT click on the links in the email, which is a major no-no unless you want to find yourself caught in a phishing net. Instead, I moused over the links, read the link addresses in the bottom of my browser window, then typed the addresses into separate browser windows.

The first website linked to was homescansignup.com. I went to this website. It looks like a legitimate website, but the first thing it asks me for is my control number. It says, "Your control number can be located on your questionnaire to the right of your name and address." Well, I don't have a questionnaire, and the email does not contain my name and address. Warning sign #1. On this page, I see that Lynne Morrison is listed as the contact for this research panel. That's the same person who "signed" the email I received. The contact information in the email also matches the contact information on the website.

I also went to the ACNielsen website. Everyone has heard of Nielsen, I think. They do the TV ratings. That's all I really know. When I was a kid, I always wanted my family to be chosen get one of those set top boxes. We never did. Anyway, acnielsen.com is a legit site. It is linked to from the nielsen.com site.

Then, I searched Google for "acnielsen email scam." I came up with nothing.

I'm still not sure what to think about the legitimacy of this email, so I sent it directly to Nielsen via a contact form on their website. The email does not phish for any of my personal data--at worst, it would have me confirm that the email was sent to a working email address when I clicked the unsubscribe link at the bottom or when I merely opened it. But I already get spam and my spam filter detects it successfully, so that isn't much of a threat for me. The email doesn't actually allow me to sign up for the program they supposedly want me to sign up for, though. At best, it would allow me to email my questions to Lynne Morrison.

So let's say this study is legitimate and that Nielsen has just chosen a really stupid way of contacting me. I managed to find a photo of the Homescan device on Flickr, so I guess the program exists. So what about my third complaint about a company wanting permission to invade my privacy for free?

You could say that my credit card companies already know every purchase I make anyway, and it's not like I'm buying anything scandalous, so participating in a program like this isn't really an invasion of my privacy (I guess if I choose to participate, that nullifies the "invasion" part, doesn't it?). Data about my purchases is already floating around in the universe. But if I am going to take the time to scan my purchases and transmit the data to a research company, I should be compensated. Not by being entered in a sweepstakes that I will never win or by receiving "brand name gifts" that I probably have no interest in (Pepsi t-shirt, anyone?), but with cold, hard cash. Doesn't Nielsen make its money by selling the data they collect to other companies who use that data? If so, then why would I want to essentially work for a multinational corporation for free? If I want to volunteer my time, I can think of a lot more worthy causes.

Problem is, lots of people out there probably do think it would be neat to get to "share their opinions." Well, guess what. You already share your opinion every time you make a purchase. You already "influence what manufacturers and retailers make and sell." It's called capitalism. You shouldn't waste your time participating in unpaid consumer research, especially when there are plenty of consumer research studies out there that do, in fact, pay, often to the tune of $50 an hour or more.

There's also the issue that, by only counting my future purchases, this survey would fail to take into account many of the products I use most frequently because I buy them in bulk. I have so much shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and dental floss that I won't have to buy any for the next two years. Would this study look at my data and assume that I am a very un-clean person, or think that I wasn't transmitting the data for all of my purchases? Wouldn't this skew Nielsen's results? I guess they've been around long enough that they probably have a way of compensating for this. If I came up with this problem in five minutes, I'm sure their panel of researchers thought of it long ago.

What do you think of this email and this program?

photo by bchow

23 comments:

V said...

This is actually legitimate, as hard as it may be to believe. I am a member of Homescan. I thought it would be so fun and easy. It isn't. It is a pain in the ass.
You can earn points for prizes by scanning your purchases, which is nice. But if you get busy and don't transmit or have problems with your computer or scanner and are unable to transmit, they send you postcards reminding (read: hounding) you to transmit.
I have had problems with my scanner lately, and who knows what plugging that thing into my computer is actually doing to my computer. It is real, but I don't think I would recommend it.

lara said...

I got this exact same email and am doing what you did, trying to figure out if it's for real. Did Nielsen get back to you? Even the links that I get when I mouseover are identical to yours - including ending in the -431 that I thought might be a unique identifier. If it's for real they should be more specific about the benefits of participating.

Amy said...

Thanks for the feedback...so far it's been two business days and I haven't heard back from Nielsen. I'll give them a couple more days before I give up.

Weinong said...

I has been a member of Homescan for 2 yesr, I used a lot time to scan and transmitted all my purchases every week, spent my total two years to accumulate the enough points , last two weeks I got their letter, tick me out, locked my access to redeem the points, and claimed that because too many members, they have to cut down the members, and requested me to have to return the equipment,so I can redeem the points, I returned the equipment as they requested, and called back, they confirmed to receive the equipment, I asked where I can redeem the points, they said, they sent me email for redeem, unfortunately I never received anything from them.

Guys, be carefully this Nielsen company, it's horrible!

Anonymous said...

I joined this panel without understanding what is was all about. They said they'd send me a scanner but I didn't know what it was for. I recieved the scanner a couple weeks later and saw that is was time consuming. I never used it and forgot about it. Now I'm recieving emails from collection agencies telling me to return the equipment. I just read other complaints about the company saying panelists have recieved harassing phone calls from collection agencies. This whole process has been a pain and I should never have signed up for it.

Anonymous said...

It is a phishing scam (the email you received).

The contact email Nielsen has at its site bounces back, so I sent it to their abuse mailbox.

This is not saying the panel is not legitimate, it is the email itself. Not sent by AC Nielsen.

If you entered information, you may want to keep an eye on your credit report for the next couple of years.

Anonymous said...

I've been a Nielsen Homescan panel member for 8 years, have had no trouble with the organization, and have recommended it to my friends. I'm surprised the company is soliciting people to become members, because supposedly more people want to join than there are spaces for them, but this e-mail certainly looks legitimate. I really doubt that this company is "Big Brother" wondering if you're dirty because you don't buy soap.

Bottom line: the company is reputable, many members have NO trouble dealing with it, although there is work involved being on the Homescan panel. Join it, don't join it, it's up to you.

If it bothers you so much, delete the e-mail and forget it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how few people have a problem with this company. How is it legal to send someone to a collections agency when they don't return a scanning device? That seems to bizzarre to me - and so quickly too. It was like a week after I was told I should send it back and I got a phone call from some independent agency. I think it's a waste of time and energy - especially since I told the girl who called to sign me up that I was about to have a baby. and wouldn't have time to do much. She said it didn't matter. Will it actually affect my credit?

Anonymous said...

1. The charger for the scanner sucks about $10.00 a year in electricity from the outlet.

2. They "push" some invasive software onto your computer.

3. They are really annoying with constant announcements. Want several things a day from them? Sign up now!

4. There are about 150,000 "members" in the system -- forget winning the sweepstakes. You have as good a chance as having Ed McMahon come back from the dead and give you a check.

5. Calculating your time spent versus the value of the gifts you earn, you're working for about a penny an hour.

6. Their questions will veer off course occasionally into politics.

Don't waste your time.

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Anonymous said...

I am a member of this panel. I have not had any trouble from the company. The only times I have received the "hounding" postcards, as one commenter called them, is if I haven't scanned for three consecutive weeks.
I try to do my purchases. Sometimes I forget some. Sometimes I scan. Sometimes I forget. Yet I don't have trouble with them.
When you sign up, it's clearly stated that you have to return the hardware when you opt out of the company. They provide the shipping label free of charge - why would anyone want to keep it?
I agree that it can be time consuming. But I don't take it that seriously. If I forget a trip, I'm not going to lose sleep over it and clearly neither is Nielsen. You collect points at a faster rate the longer you've been a panelist. I'm not saying that at any time you're going to be working for big bucks, but I have the five minutes a week I spend on it. If you don't have a few minutes to spare, don't join. I also look for the surveys, that seem to help your points go up a bit.
I think the points are about a penny per 10 points. Not great. But as a person who doesn't make a lot of money, I enjoyed having them there when my toaster broke. I ordered one (nicer than I would have chosen for myself if I was spending cash) and had it in days. It was a surprise to get it so quickly, it says you can wait 8-10 weeks to get your item.
There are great drawings each week, month, quarter, and year. There are a total of 829 winners each year - something like one in every 180 people will win. The prizes are: weekly - $25 (520 people total), monthly - $1,000 (180 people total), quarterly - $500 AmEx Card (120 people total), Car or Trip or $20,000 (8 people total), Reward Catalog Shopping Spree ARV $2,500 (1 person total). Not bad, and certainly better than lotto :)

Bottom line, Homescan is worth it to me, but not to some others. Make your call.

Anonymous said...

Just received an email myself from Nielsen in association with WRM [email@wrm5.cccampaigns.net] which had link to http://www.nielsen-onlinereg.com/?cpid=1504C6 (which is based in France according to Mozilla Firefox) - I started some of the questionnaire which comes up so they can decide whether you qualify to join the panel or not, but it asks for too much personal information including address, date of birth, weight & height (apparently to calculate BMI), all phone numbers & internet details including which provider you are with, so I stopped. There was another address which flashed up first before connecting to that site but I could not see it long enough to note it. So, all in all, it seems like a phishing scam to me.

Anonymous said...

OK people NEVER open a link from an email. If you can't log in from a secure website then don't bother. If they don't provide a link to a website they are most likely a phishing scam. You see this happen with ebay, paypal and the like.

Anonymous said...

My family have been with Nielsens Homescan in Canada for well over 7 years. Because of recent problems with them I did a search on them and came across this site. I was suprised with some of the negitive feedback because I thought that Nielsen's was a reputable company.

After working faithfully for Neilsons as a consumer panelist (this is a job for which there is no pay, even though they are a very profitable company, your only reward is points that are exchangable for gifts) for this many years we had accumulated quite a few points. In Nov. we decided to use these points to order gifts for Christmas presents. We ordered gifts that according to their site would arrive before Christmas. One of the three gifts arrived in good time, but my wife did not like item and had called to return it. We received a courier slip to return but held off sending it back. The other 2 items were a no show.

In mid Jan, a Nielson representive called us to find out if we had returned the one gift we had received. We advised that person that we had decided to keep the gift but that two other gifts (that were suppost to be for Christmas) could be cancelled. She advised us that she would call us back after she looked into it.

On Feb 13 we emailed Nielsons to find out why the points for undelivered gifts were not returned to us. We received an email that advised us to call their toll free number. On each call of Feb. 16th, 22nd and 26th, we were advised that points would be returned by the end of the week. It's Mar 8 and I was told an hour ago that a supervisor would call me back within 10 minutes.

So for about 420 weekly transmission and countless surveys we have received a bathroom scale. And I agree we an earlier post on your chance of winning one of their extra draws, if they are even real. BUT MOST OF ALL I'M WORRIED THAT THIS COMPANY HAS CONTRL OF ALL OF THE PERSONAL INFORMATION THAT THEY WOULD HAVE COLLECTED OVER THIS TIME. IS THERE AWAY THAT I CAN HAVE THIS INFORMATION DESTROYED?

Anonymous said...

This company is a joke. It is a ton of work. The make you think that you are actually working towards something and in the end its not worth it at all. It was such a pain in the butt! Customer service is rude, scanner had to be sent back twice due to malfunctioning. I have been locked out of the website more than once. Beware!!

Anonymous said...

I am with this program but not for much longer. Taken me a really long time to get any decent gift. Found out if I scan one item or 20 get same points. They have surveys too. Even though I get more points because I have been with them awhile, in the long run its simply not worth it. I am staying long enough to get my gift and get out.

Anonymous said...

I signed up because I heard there were interesting incentives.

I got a packet saying my scanner and pc accessories would be shipped in a few days and an outline of the gifts I could earn. Let's just say that it looks like you need to do a bunch of work for very little reward.

Finally, my scanner never arrived. They had no tracking to prove it was sent. They then began to berate me about being liable for the scanner I never got. I demanded proof of mailing or delivery confirmation and told them further communication would be directed to my lawyer. Never heard from them again.

I would avoid this operation like the plague.

Anonymous said...

I was with Neilson panel many years ago and it was a good experience.
National Consumer Panel stinks. It takes forever to earn points. And about 250000 for anything decent. They are very hard to work with and send very rude letters. If you have points left when you leave they lock you out and don't let you redeem them. I got nothing from them only when I first started. A blanket and a thermal mug that leaked all over me. Stay away from this its and pain in the ass and a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

I have been on this panel for about 3 years, when i first got the scanner, it was broken.. but in the process of moving i had lost the box, so they sent me a new one and i tried and ordered a shipping label (which they don't pay for shipping for their own item, it's just their address label) but unfortunately i was stuck paying 8.00 for shipping, and the points on my account from scanning don't even add up to the 8 dollars i spend sending the stupid thing back to get a new one. This panel has been annoying, and if you ever decide you don't want to be a part of it anymore, good luck trying to get out. . They won't call or harass you unless you don't scan, regardless if you sent back the scanner and called and told them you were done with it..

Anonymous said...

Seriously?!?! How freakin' lazy are you people?!?! For a few minutes of my time after each shopping trip (and the occasional survey that takes 3 minutes or less), I recently got an iPod alarm clock for FREE (and super quick, I might add - I think I received it inside of two weeks). I didn't even have to pay shipping. I have been with this panel for a few years now and I have had nothing but POSITIVE experiences dealing with them.

Anonymous said...

Beware of this company! If you don't scan or forget to scan they will hound you with emails and sometimes phone calls. They will suddenly lock you from your account and demand their scanner be sent back. When you tell them their scanner is in the mail and on the way back they will still threaten you with a collection agency. The scanning itself is nothing more than a pain in the ass. For a mere 200 points or the equivalent of 20 cents a week, it would take years just to earn one of their better gifts. There is no cash earnings or conversions. They want everything scanned including that chocolate bar you got from a vending machine. Quite often the scanner will suddenly stop working. Nothing but a big headache and waste of time. It does not matter if you scanned 1 or 200 items, the points for the week are the same. There is nothing profitable with signing up with this company other than one big stress and headache. You have been warned.

Anonymous said...

I signed up for this panel and received the scanner. When I realized what a ridiculous waste of time it was, I returned the scanner.

They are still hounding me asking for the scanner and threatening to send me to collections, even though I have confirmation from FedEx that it was delivered AND signature confirmation that someone at the address provided on THEIR shipping label signed for it. I have sent both of these things to the company, yet they still insist that they did not receive it.

I would seriously caution anyone who is considering signing up for this panel. It is an enormous hassle and can ruin your credit. It is also a colossal waste of time and the points system and rewards available are pathetic.

They are great about hounding me with constant emails and phone calls to threaten to send me to collections, but cannot respond to an email in which I ask for confirmation that the package I sent them was received and processed.

...and if you haven't had a problem with them yet, maybe it's because you haven't tried to return the scanner.

Anonymous said...

I signed up for this panel and received the scanner. When I realized what a ridiculous waste of time it was, I returned the scanner.

They are still hounding me asking for the scanner and threatening to send me to collections, even though I have confirmation from FedEx that it was delivered AND signature confirmation that someone at the address provided on THEIR shipping label signed for it. I have sent both of these things to the company, yet they still insist that they did not receive it.

I would seriously caution anyone who is considering signing up for this panel. It is an enormous hassle and can ruin your credit. It is also a colossal waste of time and the points system and rewards available are pathetic.

They are great about hounding me with constant emails and phone calls to threaten to send me to collections, but cannot respond to an email in which I ask for confirmation that the package I sent them was received and processed.

...and if you haven't had a problem with them yet, maybe it's because you haven't tried to return the scanner.