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How to Avoid MTurk Scams

Updated on August 25, 2017
PaulGoodman67 profile image

Since completing university, Paul has worked as a librarian, teacher, and freelance writer. Born in the UK, he currently lives in Florida.

The writer at his computer.  MTurk can be more than a little confusing when you first begin, trying to assess the tasks and the job providers.
The writer at his computer. MTurk can be more than a little confusing when you first begin, trying to assess the tasks and the job providers. | Source

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.

Identity Theft

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.

Getting Spammed

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!

The author with a dollar bill.  It is easy to earn with Mechanical Turk, but it is difficult to earn a living wage.  Over time, the payment levels have gradually shrunk.
The author with a dollar bill. It is easy to earn with Mechanical Turk, but it is difficult to earn a living wage. Over time, the payment levels have gradually shrunk. | Source

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.

© 2011 Paul Goodman

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    • profile image

      ARSALAN ALI 2 months ago

      THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR MAKING US AWARE , MOST BENEFICIAL TO THOSE WHO ARE NEW AT AMAZON MECHANICAL TURK

    • alison monroe profile image

      Alison Monroe 4 months ago

      During the 2016 election campaign, 100,000 MTurkers were paid to download an app that delivered their friends' Facebook information, including their friends and likes, to Cambridge Analytica for use in targeted ads in Trump's campaign. This according to Sue Halpern in the New York Review of books (June 8, 2017 issue).

    • profile image

      Regina 3 years ago

      Sorry guys, I gave the wrong IP. It's 10.52.111.6

    • profile image

      Regina 3 years ago

      More information on scammer code white - we're trying to get his interent service shut down. PLEASE e-mail your complaints to abuse@iana.org as well. He's using their IP for his illegal junk! People unite against this jerk!!

    • profile image

      Regina 3 years ago

      If you've been victimized by CodeWhiteUS, please file a complaint with IC3 and PLEASE send Amazon a new e-mail. They've been forced to open an investigation by IC3. Codewhite's IP address is 10.180.83.228

    • Kasima profile image

      Kasima 3 years ago from US

      Code White is a scam. If everyone who got scammed would file a DMCA complaint with Amazon, we might be able to get them taken down.

    • topakins profile image

      topakins 4 years ago

      I joined Mturk through hubpages. I've done over 1000 hits and have only 4 rejection. It's a good site I would say.

    • profile image

      Tim 4 years ago

      I just want to give a shout out about how crappy Code White is. Their method is they pay for the first bunch of articles and then start rejecting. I swore off them after two rejections for no reason at all. Then I thought I'd try again and got a rejection right off the bat. Code White is scammers, please don't ever write for them.

    • Sheila Jenkins profile image

      Sheila Jenkins 4 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      I did a few pieces for CodeWhite last year. After reading your stories Brianna and JJ67, I wouldn't do another thing for them even if they offered 50.00 instead of five. I'm sorry you had to deal with that :(

    • profile image

      JJ67 4 years ago

      I also have fallen victim to code white US. The user rejected my work, a substantial feed was not paid, my rating took a hit and they still used my work on a website. Clearly a scammer. They paid the first one so I thought they were legit. Criminals get smarter. Hopefully I do to.

    • PaulGoodman67 profile image
      Author

      Paul Goodman 4 years ago from Florida USA

      I don't generally give out one to one advice by email, sorry. Try one of the MTurk forums.

      http://mturkishdelight.blogspot.com/2011/04/mturk-...

    • profile image

      sujatha 4 years ago

      Hi sir/madam,

      I need your help how to earn money in online and how to reg mturk a/c am in india please help me...

      project.sujatha@gmail.com

    • profile image

      Elizabeth 5 years ago

      I only started 10 or so days ago! No rejections so far so thanks for all the great advise. I've only done one transcription so far and realized it was so much work! Really not worth the $2.50! The only thing that's ticked me off so far are surveys that say they are 6-9 minutes and end up being more like 15. I'm a quick reader and typer so I can't understand why they can't just be honest. I wrote them a note about it.

    • profile image

      Billy 5 years ago

      A great place to communicate with requesters and other workers is the turkernation.com forum. If this link is not allowed Paul, please feel free to delete it. You have a lot of excellent info in this article.

    • JessicaSmetz profile image

      Just Ask Jess 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Awesome! I keep getting rejected for doing it wrong supposedly but it's their way of wasting my time! My rejection rate is 8% now. It's the 3rd time now. Thanks for the hub!

    • PaulGoodman67 profile image
      Author

      Paul Goodman 5 years ago from Florida USA

      Sorry to hear about your troubles, Brianna. You should file a DMCA complaint if the site you mentioned has used your writing without your persmission and they use Google ads. https://hubpageshelp.com/content/Learning-Center-h...

    • Brianna Lax profile image

      Brianna Lax 5 years ago from Zanesville, Ohio

      I currently have fallen victim to a requester "Code White" codewhiteus@gmail.com. They rejected my work, but I always run any article I do through copyscape, and they had published it without paying. When I confronted them they started making threats and accusations and racial slurs. I simply and matter-of-factly told them they were using my work illegally. Wow, I am not sure if it is a man or a woman but they went totally pyscho. I have a friend who works at the Federal Communications he in turned referred me to the Federal Trade Commission. They assured me they would take care of them that making threats (for bodily damage and racial slurs) were a hate crime and carried long prison sentences. I can't believe these people think they can get away with this. I am thinking they are located outside the US, or they wouldn't be so brazen or stupid.

    • DowntroddenInDC profile image

      DowntroddenInDC 5 years ago from Houston, TX

      Definitely agree. I've had some moderate success in contacting HIT's that have been rejected. A few have given me bonuses for the rejected HIT and apologized. It doesn't change my rejection rate, which sucks, but lessens the blow..

      As for the hits you complete and then they sit in pending for a month. That's super frustrating. They should automate it so after a set period of time it defaults to the worker as successfully completed. Maybe it does that, but I have stuff from 18 days ago still in pending status.

    • MissouriSEOCompan profile image

      MissouriSEOCompan 5 years ago from Dallas, TX

      Great read. I've got very limited experience with MTurk... I'll have to dig a little deaper into it now.

    • Don Fairchild profile image

      Don Fairchild 5 years ago from Belgrade, ME

      Thanks so much for the warning about certain Mtuck clients. When I first looked at certain jobs on Mtuck, I thought "Now wait, this is too good to be true." Why would someone be willing to pay me $20 for a single credit application.... Warning, Warning....

      Thanks for the hints.

    • SallyTX profile image

      Sally Branche 6 years ago from Only In Texas!

      What wonderful, useful ideas! I've always been lucky with MTurk, but I have seen some HITS that you could tell were phishing schemes! Thanks! Voted up and useful! ;D

    • PaulGoodman67 profile image
      Author

      Paul Goodman 6 years ago from Florida USA

      Yes, I would agree, webenrich. Generally speaking, nobody will pay out a lot of money unless either the task is very demanding, in terms of skill and/or time, or they're ripping you off.

    • profile image

      webenrich 6 years ago

      Thanks a lot, i been a member of Mturk a real good way to make decent money, i did get duped for testing an iphone application where i had to give my contact number obviously it fired back. Moral of the Story most of the requester who pays huge amount are fake.

    • PaulGoodman67 profile image
      Author

      Paul Goodman 6 years ago from Florida USA

      I had a similar problem to you early on, though not quite so severe. I did 10 small, poorly paid jobs. The requester said that I'd done them wrong and it took forever to get my rating back (all for the sake of about 20 cents!).

    • North Wind profile image

      North Wind 6 years ago from The World (for now)

      This is really helpful. I never thought to download the toolbar. Only one of the above things you mentioned happened to me and that was doing the job right and then the hit was rejected. The thing was it was about 100 hits I did for these people, all right and they stiffed me. It caused my Hit rejection rate to rise (it was nearly at zero before) and pretty soon I was getting notifications from Amazon telling me if I don't get my Hit acceptance percentage to rise, they could terminate my account.

      I wrote them back letting them know about why my percentage dropped and they basically said there was nothing they could do about it, I would just have to go and do a lot of hits in order to prevent my being kicked out. I learned my lesson after that. I only do hits from users I recognize and if I don't recognize them, I will do an experimental one and see how it pans out.