Tips to Spot Patterns & Reduce Invalid Survey Responses

When you’re trying to extract meaningful information from survey responses, it can be challenging to know whether the email address provided by a respondent is valid. An incorrect email address can result in missing data, inaccurate information, or account security issues.

To avoid these issues, you must pay special attention to the patterns present in email addresses. By understanding the structure of an email address, you can quickly spot any irregularities and take steps to ensure a valid response.

What Are Fake Emails and Why Do They Matter?

Fake emails, also known as disposable or temporary emails, are email addresses used temporarily for a specific purpose, such as accessing a discount code or signing up for a one-time service. They often look legitimate but are designed to be used only once before being discarded.

Many people use fake emails to protect their real email addresses and avoid unwanted spam or marketing emails. However, fake emails can be a big problem when it comes to survey responses. 

Since the email address is not real, it will be impossible to contact that person if they need clarifying information or a reminder to finish the survey. Also, fake emails can lead to inconsistencies in your data as respondents answer questions with different addresses each time.

Using fake emails in surveys can lead to inaccurate data, as those survey responses may not represent genuine customer sentiment. Surveying the same fake email multiple times can also skew the results, making it difficult to draw meaningful insights from the data.

This can hurt not only the business making decisions based on the survey results but also those customers who took the time to provide valuable feedback only to have their responses ignored due to the impact of fake emails.

So, why do fake emails matter when managing survey responses?

Simply put, they can negatively impact the accuracy and usefulness of the survey data. Inaccurate data can lead to poor decision-making and ultimately harm customer satisfaction and business growth. Managing fake emails is essential to ensuring survey results’ accuracy.

How to Prevent Fraudulent Activity with Your Surveys

When managing survey responses, looking for patterns that may indicate a fake email address is essential. Here are some tips to help you spot fake emails:

Use a CAPTCHA

A CAPTCHA is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” It is a security test strategy to differentiate between human beings and automated programs or bots. CAPTCHAs present complex puzzles or problems that challenge bots while ensuring that human respondents can solve them easily. 

Using a captcha allows businesses to save time and resources in dealing with fraudulent activity. The captcha provides an excellent way to prevent bots from submitting online surveys multiple times, ensuring accurate survey results. Using a captcha also helps to ensure quality feedback from genuine and committed customers, reducing the quality of responses. 

The most common types of CAPTCHAs are image-based, audio-based, and text-based. Image-based CAPTCHAs introduce a challenge presented in graphic formats, with humans needing to identify letters or numbers. 

Audio-based CAPTCHAs present a series of random sounds, and humans must identify spoken words from the mess of noise. Text-based CAPTCHAs present a combination of letters and numbers, which humans can decode.

Use Random Questions

Random questions are a powerful tool for survey research, as they safeguard against fraudulent responses. By adding random questions, respondents cannot anticipate what questions will come next or how to answer them. This way, fraudulent respondents can’t provide pre-rehearsed answers, making it harder for them to manipulate survey data.

To maximise the effectiveness of randomised questions, you should choose the right type of questions to add. Open-ended, situational, or vague questions are commonly used as random questions.

Open-ended questions invite respondents to provide unique, unrehearsed answers making it difficult for fraudulent actors to manipulate. Vague questions like “How many cities have you visited?” or “What kind of vehicle do you drive?” do not provide specific answers and help further safeguard against fraudulent responses.

Situational questions like, “What would you do if…?” help respondents consider a scenario and respond, making it difficult for fraudulent actors to provide pre-rehearsed answers.

The timing of the random question’s is critical to ensure their effectiveness. The perfect order of random questions is spread throughout the survey. It throws off fraudulent actors looking for a set pattern to manipulate survey data.

Password Protect Your Survey

One of the most effective ways to prevent fraudulent activity is by implementing a password on your survey. This ensures that only those given the correct password can access the survey.

A password can be a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols that can be given to participants or companies wishing to participate in the survey. It is important to use a strong password that is difficult to guess.

Using a reputable survey platform such as SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics can provide an added layer of security. These platforms have built-in security features that can help prevent fraudulent activity. Choosing a platform that offers encryption, SSL, and other security measures is vital to help protect your data.

Limiting access to the survey is another way to prevent fraudulent activity. By restricting access, you can ensure that only the intended audience can access the survey. This can be done by making the survey available only to selected participants or by setting up a login system that requires participants to verify their identity.

Using a consent form can help prevent fraudulent activity by ensuring that participants know the purpose of the survey and the consequences of providing false information. For instance, if you’re conducting a survey about work anniversary gifts, you can specify that in the consent form to ensure relevant responses. By signing a consent form, participants acknowledge that they understand the importance of honesty in survey responses and agree to provide accurate information.

A consent form can be used as a legal document to protect your business from fraudulent claims. For example, suppose a participant provides false information and later tries to file a claim against your company. In that case, the consent form can act as evidence to support the truthfulness of your survey results.

When creating your consent form, you should include a few key components. Firstly, you should have a section that details the purpose of the survey and what information you will be collecting from participants. This can increase transparency and encourage participants to provide accurate information.

You should also include a section outlining the consequences of providing false information. This can be as simple as explaining that the survey results will be used to make critical business decisions.

Include a signature section where participants can sign to indicate that they acknowledge the purpose of the survey, the importance of providing accurate information, and the consequences of giving false information.

Prevent Multiple Responses From the Same IP

Every device connected to the internet has a unique IP address that identifies its location. Survey platforms use this information to limit the number of responses from a specific IP address. 

Knowing this information can help you understand how multiple responses from the same IP address can negatively impact the authenticity of your survey results.

Most survey platforms have IP address validation features that prevent multiple responses from a single IP address. This feature can be easily enabled while creating your survey, and it will help avoid fraudulent activities. This feature will keep track of the IP addresses that have already responded, and it stops subsequent attempts from the same IP.

Another way to prevent multiple responses from the same IP is to use cookies. Cookies are small pieces of data stored on the respondent’s device that enables the survey software to recognise when they’ve already responded to the survey. Some survey platforms allow you to configure cookies once the survey is created to prevent any fraudulent activities.

Limiting survey access to specific email addresses or domains can help prevent multiple responses from the same IP. This approach is suitable for surveys with a small sample size and a specific target audience. It provides the ability to configure access to the survey to individuals or companies that meet certain criteria.

Monitoring your survey responses is essential, especially if you’re gathering data on topics like bulk gifts for employees. It’s good practice to track the IP addresses responding to your survey and analyse their pattern to ensure genuine feedback.

Any deviation from the norm and pattern increases the chance of fraudulent activities. Monitoring surveys also provide actionable insights into your target audience that can help shape your marketing message.

Ensure The Data You Extract From Your Surveys Is Always Accurate

By utilising a consent form, IP address validation features, cookies, and limiting survey access to specific email addresses or domains, you can ensure the authenticity of your survey results. 

Monitoring your survey responses is also essential as it will provide actionable insights into your target audience that can help shape your marketing message. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to create surveys with accurate data every time.

Cindy is passionate about the incentive industry. In addition to her role as Vice President of Strategic Partners here at Tango
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Cindy is passionate about the incentive industry. In addition to her role as Vice President of Strategic Partners here at Tango, she is a Certified Professional of Incentive Management who proudly serves on two industry boards. When she’s not working, Cindy enjoys spending time with her family—including three cats, two dogs, and a horse—and sharing her love of nature as a Nebraska Master Naturalist.

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