Any time you publish something requiring feedback on the web, it's possible that you could receive some inaccurate information from pranksters, spambots, or people who are just in a hurry. VC surveys are not immune to this type of activity, but we do have a collection of recommendations that will help protect you from bad data.
What are spambots?
Spambots are automated computer programs that are built to find signup form code or surveys on your website or blog and submit fake information to your list. They can even click links inside emails.
Although a few of these signups aren't harmful, your data can be negatively impacted by a large amount of fake/bogus information. Bogus information skews the accuracy of your data, which makes it difficult to know who your typical member is or to tailor relevant content to targeted audiences.
What should I look for?
If you have a lot of addresses in your database, it can be hard to tell which ones might be bogus.
Look for these characteristics that are typical of bogus signups:
- The email address is a name, but doesn't look like a real name. This can be hard to determine, but sometimes addresses just look fake. A strange email address, combined with these other characteristics, can suggest spam.
- First and last name fields are filled, but don't match the name in the email address. Spambots don't always match list data to the email address. If the email address is a name, and the first and last names provided don't match the email address, it could be a bogus signup.
- Try sorting the emails alphabetically and scan the list for similarities, for example, NAME2345@domain.com, NAME6789@domain.com, NAME1011@domain.com
- Also look for celebrity names. For example, Britney Spears and James Bond may have joined the community multiple times.
There are a number of ways to mitigate bogus signups when recruiting new members:
Ideally, use a unique ID that exists in an external system (this will also allow you to map member records between systems.
Examples of unique IDs could be:
- Loyalty card number
- Customer ID
- Account number
Ensure that the unique IDs are stored in the Sparq platform as a profile variable
Ask one or 2 similar questions with a few questions in between;
Question 1: How old will you be this year? 30 years old
Question 5: What year were you born? 1989
Question 3: What state do you live in? British Columbia, CA
Question 7: What is your zipcode? V5N 1X3
- Include a mathematical question in the survey:
What is 1 x 10 / 10? If the answer is incorrect either DQ (disqualify) the member immediately (some of us are just really bad at math!) or prompt them to try again. If they get the question wrong for a second time, then disqualify them.
- Use straight line checks:
Check data in grid questions, ensuring that answers provided are different per row (FYI we can include this type of logic in Power Surveys BUT it will need to be custom scripting every time, as grids change shape and size for every question)
- Focus more on intrinsic incentives rather than extrinsic (monetary) incentives
Monetary rewards is the biggest draw card for bogus signups – try to encourage members to ‘want to be there’ instead of ‘paying them to be there’
When All Else Fails: Trust Your Gut
It is not always possible to detect a bogus signup before it is too late. However, if a member’s profile details seem odd but checks all the boxes do not leave it alone. Flag the member for an additional follow up and research. While it can be highly inconvenient for a member to go through additional security steps, they will appreciate a company looking out for their identity. If the member is, in fact, an identity thief, then the owner of that identity will appreciate you finding and stopping a criminal.
While it’s understandable that not every bogus signup will be detected, taking additional steps will improve consumer confidence in your business and minimize lost revenue that can result from fraud.