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Beware of apps that say they pay

Posted at 12:02 AM, Nov 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-08 00:02:23-05

Nicole Luboff has bought an X Box, a Go Pro, a vacuum and other items with her earnings from her favorite app, Swagbucks. “I’ve earned almost $4,000 in the last few years,” she says. Not bad, considering she earned it all just by clicking on surveys or shopping via the app or site.

But she didn’t earn cash, exactly. She earned Swagbucks. She says, “So, in order to redeem Swagbucks, you go to the Redeem page and you can get gift cards for Amazon, Groupon, Starbucks, Paypal…”

There are lots of apps now that pay you in points, rewards or even cash for answering surveys, watching videos, shopping or taking photos of places or products. 

Field Agent’s Marc Yount says crowdsourcing market research makes sense. He says, “So, things, like taking pictures or collecting price points or checking a competitive product, can become really valuable information for our clients.”

The Federal Trade Commission says numerous apps provide great opportunities for consumers. 

But the FTC just reached a settlement with one app following allegations the app failed to deliver promised cash rewards for meeting exercise goals.

“We believed they were breaking the law. The FTC investigated and came to a settlement that helped people get their money back,” says Jason Schall, counsel to the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The settlement came to more than 940-thousand dollars! And it’s not the government’s only case. 

Schall says consumers should always educate themselves before using any app:

Read online reviews to gauge others’ experiences, go to FTC.gov for information, and read the fine print. “But that’s not something I like to emphasize because, really, it’s the responsibility of companies not to deceive consumers by putting the important terms in the fine print,” Schall says.

Yount says he’s proud of the response his app’s gotten and that they’ve just eclipsed a million downloads in the U.S.  Nicole says she’ll keep swagging but to each his own. “With apps that pay, it’s best to find one that works for you.” She adds, “If you don’t like taking surveys or you don’t like watching videos, there are other options out there.”

The Federal Trade Commission says it’s on the beat to make sure all apps are safe, and that as new technologies provide opportunities for consumers, they also provide them for scammers.

Officials stress that if you see something that isn’t right, it’s important to file a complaint at FTC.gov so the government can look into the issue.