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
What Panelists Do
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!
So, join now to represent millions of Americans and have a chance to win BIG prizes!
Your opinions will make a difference in today's consumer marketplace, so don't delay! Join now!
Homescan Consumer Panels
6800 Jericho Tpke, Suite 102E
- Please do not reply - This account is not configured to receive emails -
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