How to Avoid MTurk Scams
Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my previous Amazon Mechanical Turk Tips article, there are numerous ways that you can be ripped off when trying to make money with Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, also known as MTurk, so I thought I would write about how to avoid MTurk scams.
It is important to note that scams where they try to steal your money are less common than scams where they try to steal your personal information so that you can be scammed. Most MTurk scams are more likely to irritate you or waste your time than to take your money right off.
So what sort of scams are there? I have listed some of the most common MTurk scams below, followed by ideas for how you can avoid them.
In these scams, the requester instructs you, often casually, that in order to complete the task you need to hand over personal details such as your address, date of birth, social security number, or bank details.
Although MTurk scams like this are potentially serious, they are relatively easy to spot, as nine times out of ten they offer large sums of money for tasks that appear on the surface to be quick and straightforward.
An example of this type of thing is where an MTurk requester asks you to test a website by filling out a form and offers you 5 dollars for 2 minutes work. On the form are questions asking for personal details. Surely the MTurk requester could test the website by filling in their own details, or making something up, if it was genuine?
Basically, you should *never* give out personal details when doing a task. Even if they’re offering you big bucks, it’s just not worth it.
The next type of MTurk request is where they try to trick you into giving them your email address, landline or cell phone number. The problem with this is that once your address or number is out there, you could be inundated with companies trying to sell you things.
It’s not just the MTurk requester that you have to worry about; there are companies out there who make a living from selling people’s contact details to advertisers. (There are situations where I’ve given an MTurk requester my email address, but I am very wary about doing it.)
Requester not paying you
This scam occurs when you do the job(s) correctly, but the MTurk requester accuses you of making some sort of mistake, that way they get all the work that you’ve done, but they don’t have to pay you!
You can contact the MTurk requester to complain, but some of them don’t even bother answering, never mind pay you for your work. Not only do you lose money that you should be rightfully yours, but your Amazon MTurk Hit Rejection Rate can also be affected negatively, which influences what jobs you can do in the future!
Requester paying late
This is frustrating. You do the job exactly as requested on Amazon MTurk, then you wait and you wait and you wait for them to pay you the money. This goes on for well over a week sometimes!
You may have already decided in your mind what you want to buy with your MTurk payment money, but apart from emailing the requester to complain, there’s not a great deal that you can do!
How can I avoid the scams mentioned above?
One of the frustrating things about MTurk is that Amazon don’t seem to do a great deal of active policing. That means it can feel like a Wild West situation with no authority that you can call in to act on your behalf, even if you’re being treated unfairly.
The only way to stay out of trouble in my experience is to do some background checking on an MTurk requester before you work for them. There are two ways to do this, neither of which guarantees you that you won’t get scammed, but both methods reduce the risk considerably.
1. Download the Turkopticon toolbar
I can’t emphasize enough how great the Turkopticon toolbar is! And it's free!
Once you’ve installed it, you can point at any requester on the MTurk website and a drop down box tells you how previous MTurk workers have rated them! You can get information on how honest and quick the requester is when it comes to paying, and also how communicative they are when things go wrong. There are even full reviews of the MTurk requester written in some cases.
If the requester gets bad ratings, then you have the option of avoiding working for them, it’s as simple as that! (The only slight problem is if you use a Microsoft browser, as there is a version of the toolbar for Google Chrome and one for Firefox, but nothing for Internet Explorer, but it’s worth downloading Google Chrome, just so you can use the Turkopticon toolbar, in my opinion!).
2. Keep abreast of what’s happening in MTurk world by following the forums.
There are two main ones, Turker Nation and MTurk Forum. These will also give you access to the views of other MTurk workers. You can swap information about dodgy requesters and jobs, and also let others know about good experiences and lucrative opportunities.
3. Report it if you are dealt with unfairly
Click the "violates the Amazon Mechanical Turk Policies" link in the bottom right hand corner of the Hits Page and report the Hit/Requester. This won't help you in the short term, but may influence Amazon when assessing the requester's involvement with MTurk. It will also stop your Hit being recorded as a rejected or returned, which can effect your Hit Rejection Rate and what jobs you are able to do.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2011 Paul Goodman