Nielsen Homescan Consumer Panel Email Scam Update

Last year, I wrote about a suspicious email I received that was supposedly from the AC Nielsen company asking me to sign up for their Homescan Consumer Panel. I never heard back from the Nielsen company after contacting them, so I decided to do some follow-up research.

One of the first places I went was the AC Nielsen Homescan homepage. This page says that in order to join the Homescan Consumer Panel, you can register through their website to be put on a "Reserve Status Waiting List" from which households are randomly selected to join the consumer research panel.

This self-registration aspect makes me think that the email I received asking me to sign up was probably not legitimate. The website makes it sound like they have more than enough applicants to choose from and wouldn't need to go out of their way to solicit applicants. One poster on an online forum thought that perhaps AC Nielsen was contacting them via email because they were a member of the Pinecone research panel (I was, too). But I still don't think we live in an age where solicitations by email can be trusted.

The way the program works is they send you a handheld scanner. You use it to scan the bar codes on all of your purchases. Once a week, you submit this information to AC Nielsen. In exchange for their time, participants earn points that can be redeemed for merchandise and entries into sweepstakes. But according to the website, the biggest reward is "making your opinions count." There doesn't seem to be much more information than this available from the official website, so I poked around online to see what other consumers have to say about the program and whether they have received any emails purpoting to be from AC Nielsen.

If you do want to participate in this program, I recommend signing up directly through their website and not through a link in any email you might receive, which could be a phishing scam. But before you sign up, consider the pros and cons of participating in this program.

According to online accounts from various people who have participated in the program, here are some of the cons:
-Scanner sometimes freezes up; have to call customer service to learn how to fix frozen scanner; calling customer service may be a hassle.
-Inputting purchase data is time consuming
-You have to earn too many points to redeem for a priz
-Prizes are not useful
-Depending on where you shop, sometimes you have to not just scan items, but also input the price you paid for it (obviously a lot more time consuming than just scanning)
-The system also asks you if you used a coupon and if you used a loyalty card for each item. This makes inputting grocery purchases very time consuming.
-If you forget to submit your data for the week by the deadline, you don't get credit for all the data you already entered.
-Unlike credit card rewards programs, Homescan points cannot be redeemed for gift cards.
-Technical problems where the scanner and the participant's computer won't communicate
-It is tedious to input every single purchase you make
-It takes a long time to accumulate points, especially at the beginning of the program when you earn points at a slower rate than you do as a long-term member
-Credit card rewards programs are better
-Not a lot of options in the rewards catalog
-Prizes are probably things that were unpopular and retailers couldn't sell (one panelist's opinion)

And here are some of the pros:
-Scanning items is easy and not time consuming
-Easy to accumulate extra points by completing email surveys and earning bonus points
-You can quit at any time, and it's free to return the scanner by mail
-The rewards catalog includes nice items like a flatscreen television and iPod Nano

Finally, here are some of the gifts people have reported actually earning/receiving from participating in the Nielsen Homescan Consumer Panel:
-nice, expanding bag that starts out the size of a wallet
-cheap dry erase board
-flashlight
-nightlight/flashlight
-kitchen appliances
-Little Tykes toys
-cheap reading light
-thin blanket

Based on what I've read, participating in the panel doesn't sound like a good use of time. If you need a way to make a few extra bucks, there are easier, faster ways to earn money (besides, the Nielsen panel doesn't pay out in cash or even in gift cards). If you like earning prizes, you're better off signing up for a credit card that offers rewards. Some people seem to think participating in this program is fun, but for me I think it would just be a very time-consuming chore that would take away from more productive uses of my time (like exercising, gardening, reading, and working, to name a few).

If you've been on Nielsen's Homescan Consumer Panel, what was your experience like?

Digg! * Stumble Upon Toolbar
Subscribe in a reader * Share on Facebook

Related posts:

Nielsen Email Scam?
How Frugal Purchasing Habits Add Up
Letter Writing Works
Ask and You Shall Receive: My Consumer Victory with The Gap
How Lifestyle Inflation Can Sneak Up On You

Photo by

Valerie Everett

Post by Amy Fontinelle

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi, I received an invitation to participate in Homescan's studies. I did some research and saw a lot of favorable reviews. I could always try it. If I don't like it I could quit. Right? At any rate, when I went to sign up, I was already told that either I or a member of my household was already registered. Since I am a single mom of sort-of young children, I know that none of us had registered. I wrote an email to the person the message said to contact and we'll see what they say. I will post the news when I hear from them.

Anonymous said...

I have been a member and busy scanning bar codes for about a year. Since I'm living in a rural area, I have to input prices for just about everything I buy. It is tedious, time consuming and boring.
After about a year of faithfully submitting purchases every week and filling out every available survey, I finally have enough points to redeem for a prize, an electric coffee grinder. I would be able to buy a similar gadget for between $ 10 and $ 20.--, I would imagine. Definitely not worth the effort!
I will stop being a panel member as soon as I receive the grinder.

Anonymous said...

I've been a member for two years and have had no problems. The scanner is easy to use, and entering prices really doesn't take long at all once you get the hang of it. I just redeemed points for a pair of Bose headphones which sell online for around $80.00. It's true that the points come slower at the beginning, but after the first year, they come a lot faster!

Anonymous said...

I have been a Homescan member for 8 years. When I joined Homescan, there was no misleading information given to me. I knew from day one what being a member entailed. I had the choice whether to join or not. I am very happy I did. Yes, scanning can be tedious. Still, I choose to remain a member. I have gotten good gifts in the past and even gotten gifts to give for Xmas. NEVER did Homescan tell me I would receive cash. NEVER did they say I'd get gift cards. The points were slow at first, but I receive extra points at birthday, anniversary, superscanner...etc. Anyone that joins this program should know going in what they are getting into. AC Nielson does not mislead anyone into joining. This member is happy.

Anonymous said...

Also, in addition to earlier post by me (8 yr continuous member)... I am assuming the people who have won either new cars, $25,000 cash or vacations would agree... they are probably happy to be Homescan members as well.

Anonymous said...

I've been a Homescan member for two years. I scanned and transmitted every week, completed every survey. I did win one sweepstakes that got me a $500 American Express gift card, so that was really cool. But otherwise the points just don't add up to much. I just redeemed 2 years worth of points for a 1.5 gal Shop Vac (selling on Amazon for $45) and a small set of food storage containers (probably would cost around $10-15 in a store). So for two years of scanning, transmitting and taking surveys I've made a grand total of $560. But that's better than most make, because most don't win the $500 sweepstakes. Without that it would have only been $60.

I finally decided it wasn't worth it. I ordered my shop vac and food containers, and sent my scanner back to Homescan yesterday.

I will say that once you get the hang of it it's not all that time consuming. You just scan things as you are putting them away.

But they do harass you a bit about making sure you bring home candy bar wrappers and pop bottles you buy while you are out of the house. I never did that. And I never entered whether something was on sale or bought with a coupon, I just said NO to both to avoid having to deal with that. I only scanned things that I brought into the house from the store, and entered whatever price was on the receipt when it was from a store that didn't get the prices automatically.

If you are considering doing then and you get the scanner that has to be transmitted over the phone, call them back and tell them you don't have a landline phone you need the one that transmits over the computer. I had the phone one at first (basically you hold it up to the phone and it transmits to their computer like a fax machine, via various static sounding noises), and it sometimes took a dozen attempts or more to get it to transmit over the phone. They wouldn't send me the other one until I told them we were getting rid of our landline.

Anonymous said...

Remember folks upload only what you scan...get your points and hope you win in one of the sweepstakes. One more thing, your already wasting your time online or watching television.

Anonymous said...

I signed up for the Homescan program, and after receiving my start-up kit and a one time use I realized how much time I would be putting in for very little reward {and many of the prizes they showed are crap frankly, along the lines of any credit card or department store points program}.

I've since returned my scanner and although I've confirmed they've received it, I continue to be harassed about returning it. Very frustrating.

Anonymous said...

Homescan is a decent program for me! The points for 0-6 months are only 150 however I got some kind of sign on bonus, so I receive more points for my transmissions. So far I haven't had any trouble scanning, customer service has been prompt and friendly. The only trouble I would say I had was trying to transmit for the first time with the telephone. I did have to try a few times but I was able to get it to go through. Other then that no problems. I'm enjoying it!

Anonymous said...

I have been a member for maybe 3 years. I have never won a big prize. Sometimes the transmissions don't go through and I don't get credit for that week. Now that I work full-time it is a lot of bother and I may quit soon. I keep hoping for one of the bigger prizes.

A lot of things I buy are from ebay and have no way to scan them- used items, etc. I also forget to scan some things. I am thinking about taking the scanner to the store and scanning as I shop. I don't want to damage it though.

I bought one item with points a year ago and now I have enough for a DVD player or a toaster oven with some left over. They add up quicker after you have been part of it for a while. Reminds me of when my mom did Green Stamps when I was a kid...

All in all a lot of work for little reward, but it is free and a lot like a modern Green Stamps program if you don't mind the work.

Anonymous said...

They just started to get new members. You can get the free scanner from here or above link.

Nielsen Home Scanner

Anonymous said...

Have been a "member" for over ten years. The last year has been a tough one for me...death of spouse, trying to care for elderly mother in law. I missed many transmits I admit...however their treatment of me is disgusting. Mr Bill Sperry has sent me two obnoxious emails requesting the return of their equipment. His second one starts off by telling me he has sent me several emails...NOT. I understand they are running a business, however when I explained the situation (remember I was a loyal little scanner for years)there was no compassion or understanding. Good riddance to the damn scanner...it really isn't worth the aggravation and time it takes. To those that think it is worthwhile...good for you. I, however have a life...

Anonymous said...

After reading all the comments and failing in my efforts to register with Neilson Consumer Panel, it would not accept my 11 digit telephone number, only 10. What a waste of space they appear to be. May I suggest that THEY are from another planet.
Of note:- there does appear to be a proliferation of these. (and they sleep easy at night.)

Anonymous said...

Don't waste your time unless you really just enjoy giving your feedback on the stuff you buy. The program isn't misleading, but it can be a lot of effort for little reward. I am just staying till I get enough points for desired item then leaving. If you are doing it for the prizes it takes too long to earn points. For example an Ipod Nano would take approximately 3 years if you do everything perfectly, do all the surveys and get all the extra points thats even calculating the extra points you get for longevity in the program. So you can earn about $30-$60 worth of prizes a year. Its only worth it if you hit one of the bigger sweepstakes for a min. of $500 up to 20k which is unlikely. Check out mypoints, atleast you can get like $100 worth of gift cards a year.

konnie said...

I have been a scanner now for 4 years, it was tedious at first, but after I got the hang of it, my kids and I have fun scanning and putting stuff away. While it takes time to earn a major award I do have enough points to order several nice items, but I let my kids pick what they want and earn it by putting stuff away. It has also improved my cashier skills at the self check lanes at Wal Mart, and my kids enjoy it. Don't join if your looking for a quick return for your time, but it's a great way to get the kids to help and have fun doing it. I don't plan on stopping any time soon.

Bezahlte Umfrage said...

I to all. I found nielsen homescan 2 years ago on a German Hoepage (because I'm from Germany) named www.umfrage4mat.de. Well, it is a more or less work to scann all the products. But it is also fun. For that it is not that important for me to eran al lot of mony with that, but ... nicte to have 30 to70€ more per year.

Anonymous said...

i have been a homescan panelist for 5 years now. we all have our own opinions about things, but I do enjoy being a panelist. I have only shoppedfrom their prize cataloge once (saving my points) The longer you stay with them the more points you can accumulate. BTW they really do give away those prizes.... I ought to know they called me in Dec of 2007 and informed me that I was one of their Grand Prix Sweepstakes winners!!! I chose the cash not the car, but YES I DID get my $20,000. They are stuck with me as a panelist now!!!!

Anonymous said...

If I have filled the long application form in once I have done it 10 times, and every time it gets to the end it verifies my phone details to the details i have entered and always comes back to say they dont match !!! What on earth???? I do know my own phone number and I do put it in correctly. Once you get to this stage you have filled everything in and then it just chucks you out like a bit of trash!! So disheartening, there is no contact details so you can't even call/email anyone with any queries. I have now given up even trying to join. If anyone has any fab tips on how to get joined up please let me know.

Anonymous said...

to enter the phone number you need to enter your mobile number with out the 0 at the begining

Anonymous said...

I use the mobile app version and have had it on for just 3 months (i don't do anything it just works in the background) and have order a fossil clutch purse. Not bad for doing nothing. I tried the home scanner but could never get it to work so sent it back.

Anonymous said...

I've been doing this for years trying to get enough points to get something worthwhile. Out of the blue I get a noitce saying that this notice was my final one and that I have to have the scanner sent back in 10 days or they would turn me over to a collection agency. I don't even know what they're talking about, but I'm sending the scanner back. They've called and questioned so many of my scans because at times I buy in quantity. Also, when I've called, it took forever to get through and they were really rude. They said after they get my equipment back that I have 60 days to spend my points, but I told them just to donate them. I wash my hands of them. I wouldn't recommend this at all. The prices are not that great and you have to get a lot of points to get something halfway decent.

Anonymous said...

I've saved my points for over a year & almost had enough for a vacuum cleaner I needed (about $60 in the store & I've put in way more than $60 in labor). Now they've discontinued it & the only model vacuum requires almost 3 times as many points. Their other rewards don't appeal to me. I'd rather get food or cash. Not sure what I'm going to do but I did let them know I was really disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Have been a memeber for over 10 years. I am about to give it up. Takes too long to earn points, prizes are not what you desire to have. Also, I do not believe that the sweepstake winners are real people. I am usually pretty lucky on winning sweepstakes and/or raffles. After 10 years, I do not believe in them any more. Have not even won a 25, 100 gift card


Very disappointed in them, watse of my time

Anonymous said...

Canadian Dan
I've been a Neilson Homescan consumer panel member for close to 10 years now. it only takes a few minutes to scan and input purchases or to do surveys and I've found that the reward points allow adequate compensation for my time. As to the prizes I've twice won a $500 prepaid AMEX card and I have the second one in my wallet right now.

Anonymous said...

It's funny but you KNOW that all these legit posts were probably wrote by nielson homescan... Thankyou for writing this blog- I was wary at first to join it and i'm not even going to bother joining up now

BERNIE said...

Okay so I should have checked this out more I have tried to go on the web site but cant i did receive a scanner trying to have my say in opinions but I cant start a profile
then I searched on google nothing I guess I will send my scanner back
I dont get it
bernadette6009@hotmail.com

BERNIE said...

I am having a problem I can get the web site for home scan to start my profile or even registrar
I tried emailing people and it keeps bouncing back anyone can help me start the program I would appreciate
bernie6009@gmail.com
thanks for any help

Anonymous said...

I was a panelist for about 5 years. Like another person wrote above, we had family/health issues, but they didn't seem to care. I got an email one day asking to send to family/friends with same demographics. The next day in the mail, I get a letter stating they don't need our demographics anymore. I have 60 days to use the reward gifts, but I tried to look at it & I can't get in because they cancelled it, plus they didn't even send a return label to return the scanner. Real nice of them.

Anonymous said...

I have been a Nielsen scanner for several years and have found the experience quite interesting with no hassles.
In your article under 'some of the cons' you state that you cannot exchange points for gift cards, that is incorrect as I have exchanged my points many times for gift cards.
Regards.

Anonymous said...

I was a panel memeber for a few years. It is very time consuming. The points dont add up very fast. The only gifts i got were four $10 chapters cards. My computer wasnt working so I contacted them and they told me to wait and hold into the scanner. I made numerous calls to them and they kept telling me to wait incase i got it fixed. Then all of a sudden they staryed harassing me to sendnit back in ten days or else. I couldnt believe it. They really need to have better communication. Then they had the nerve to let me knownif i qanted to come back. No thanks. Not after being treated like that. It was a big waste of my time.

moonstonebright said...

I Do NOT recommend Nielsen consumer panel to anyone!
we received our scanner but couldn't get it to work back in the summer of 2013. They sent us a new scanner and another time new cables and it still didn't work and so they sent us a bag to return the scanner in September 2013 having wasted hours scanning our shopping over the few months we had it.
We returned it only to receive an abrupt phone call automated message in October 2013 demanding we return the equipment which I called and said we had done some weeks before.
We have today January 17th 2014 had a Final Notice letter demanding the return of their equipment with the threat of them taking legal action and charging us for the equipment!
I tried to call their helpline which gives you three options to choose from but each option takes you back to that same automated message offering the three options over and over again.
I managed to search an alternative number for them through their press office and called to say yet again that I have returned their equipment 3-4 months ago!
They told me the letters have been sent out in error and that they have had lots of calls today but NO apology!!
We wont get anything for the points we had collected and I wish I'd never had anything to do with this rude officious company whose customer service leaves much to be desired!
Don't use them, it's not worth the hasssle and threats!! here's hoping this is the end of the matter and that they retract their threats made to us but somehow I fear this wont be the last of it. Please spread the word!
Thanks

Anonymous said...

Personally, I've been a member for a few months now, and I like it. I signed up through swagbucks and even though it's tideous at times. I enjoy it because I don't have much to do and it helps pass the time. True, if you don't have time or patience then no you should not join their panel, but to me I like the panel and enjoying scanning the items.