Saturday, January 15, 2011

Letter from U.S. Public Health Service Promises $30 to Participate in Study: Scam or Legit?


At the beginning of the year I received a letter from the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) stating it's conducting a national study on health-related issues and my address was randomly selected along with more than 200,000 others. The letter said Research Triangle Institute (RTI) is contracted to conduct the study and a representative will visit me.

The letter provided the interviewer's name and stated she'd have an identification badge. All members of my household (me) would be asked a few questions and if qualified, I'd be asked to complete a survey and be compensated $30.

With all the scams going around I wasn't sure if this was legit. I Googled the phone number provided (800-848-4079) and found it did belong to Research Triangle Institute. I also found some message boards where users posted they didn't think it sounded legit and kind of scammy.

I forgot about it until last night, around 6:30 the doorbell rang. It was the woman mentioned in the letter. She had an identification badge and asked me a few questions in which she punched the answers into her magic hand-held device. Questions were basic - my age, ethnicity and whether I lived here full-time.

Turns out the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health needed more 40-year-old, Caucasian women so I was selected to take the hour-long survey and I was chosen to represent about 4,500 others in the United States. Whoa! The responsibility!

The interviewer went out to her car and returned with a computer and box of papers. We set up shop on my dining room table where she asked me questions and I completed questions on the computer. She was professional and fun and she assured me responses are kept confidential. She never asked to leave the dining area so I know she wasn't casing my place.

Some of the results are used to determine what types of medical services are needed in specific communities so just like the U.S. Census, participating is important.

I was never once asked for my name or social security number and I received $30 cash so I'm pretty confident this is not a scam. If it was a man conducting the interviewing not sure if I would have let him in.

Have you been contacted and asked to participate in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health? Results of this study will be released in 2011 - can't wait!

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hmmm! Curious!!! It does look like real money though!!

Jason Olshefsky said...

I just got the same letter in the mail. I also Googled it and found your blog entry to be the ONLY one for the past year. I also found http://www.samhsa.gov/data/nsduh/2k7mrb/2k7Showcards.pdf which looks like the document they give to interviewers. Disconcerting to me was that USPHS.gov makes no mention of the survey. I don't really know if SAMHSA (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration) is a real government entity. I'll use caution in my answers, but I could use the $30.

Anonymous said...

Apparently this survey covers more than one year. We received a letter today March 30, 2012. So I guess we'll wait for the knock on the door. If they need 40-somethings though, they'll have to knock elsewhere.

JA Huber said...

Jason and Anon - To date, nothing bad has happened to me from taking this survey, no one has stolen my identity so I'm safe to say the survey is legit.

Anon - I think they look all different age-ranges. Could be your lucky day! :)

boisegal said...

I found this on line today. Just got a letter yesterday and wondered if it's legit. Looks ok.
https://nsduhweb.rti.org/RespWeb/project_description.html

boisegal said...

https://nsduhweb.rti.org/RespWeb/project_description.html
Here's a link I found on the subject. Looks legit.

Anonymous said...

I researched and found that RTI has had the contract to conduct this survey since 1988. They're still going. I have the interviewer in my house right now. She's a very sweet elderley lady. They were looking for teenagers, so she's interviewing my two boys with $30 for each of them. They're very excited.

Anonymous said...

The NSDUH has been conducted across the United States since 1971 thru every administration. The study has no “political agenda” and you can see that it has been in existence while either Republicans or Democrats have been in office. The money for the study has been allocated thru every administration since 1971, regardless of the party the President at the time is affiliated with.
RTI has conducted the study since 1988. RTI is a large non-profit research organization located in North Carolina. It is associated with Duke University, University of North Carolina, and North Carolina State. RTI’s mission is ” to improve the human condition”. They do that thru conducting many kinds of research, including the NSDUH, which is considered social science research. RTI’s research resulted in the development of Taxol, which is a cancer treatment drug that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. The scope of their research encompasses many different things, all aimed at improving the quality of life for human beings. RTI is a world renowned, widely recognized, and well-respected research organization.
When an address is selected to participate, a Field Interviewer visits said selected dwelling unit and conducts what is referred to as a short screening process. It consists of asking a few non-invasive demograpghical questions about the makeup of the household. From there, either zero, one, or two people may be selected to conduct a longer interview. Sometimes no one from a household is selected. The selection is based on the demographics needed in that particular area/state at that given time. Since it is a scientific study, adults over the age of 18 years old represent 4,500 other persons in the U.S. That are similar to the Interviewee. Persons under the age of 18 years of age (no Interviews are conducted with minors without the expressed permission of the minor’s parent or guardian) represent 1,000 persons similar to the minor Interviewee. At most, only two household members may be selected. In many instances, no one is selected to participate. The study itself is totally confidential under CIPSEA and there has never been a breach of that confidentiality since the start of the study in 1971. Every household has to be given the right to participate, so address listers list every address within a segment that is selected for a particular quarter. Sometimes the house or apartment may be vacant. That is unknown until the Field Interviewer attempts to make contact with the household. If a person chooses to participate in the study, their name and address are never associated with their answers. Two seperate pieces of equipment are used to (1) locate the address and do the screening, and then (2) conduct the interview.
If a person is selected to participate in the study and they agree to be interviewed, the interview itself asks their thoughts, knowledge, and attitudes of tobacco products, alcohol, illicit and non-illicit drugs, mental health and other health issues. Their answers are compiled as statistics that allow public policymakers to make informed decisions in regards to prevention, education, and treatment programs within communities. TheSubstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) provides many grants across the United States for prevention, education, and treatment programs. You canaccess the SAMSHA website on-line and see where grants have been allocated in your partiucular state. In addition to SAMSHA, many other government, public, private, and eductional organizations use the statistics from this important study. If you have younger children, they have probably had the D.A.R.E. Program within their schools. Programs such as this use statistics gathered from this important study.

Anonymous said...

Well, here we are in September, 2013 and the letter is still out there! Just received a copy last week and viewed it with the same skepticism everyone else has. And I'm definitely not in the 40-something age range: try 60+. Not sure yet what I'll do if, and when, my door is knocked upon.

Anonymous said...

I received the same letter in September 2013, and earlier this week an interviewer came by. He asked the few qualifying questions, and my 12 yr old daughter was the one chosen. It didn't occur to me that it was a possible scam until now, and reading all these posts makes me feel a little bit better about doing the interview later today with my daughter.

Anonymous said...

A lady came to my house today... wat to do?

Anonymous said...

Got the letter today, not sure what to do yet. Today is 7/4/2014. I'm 50 years old female.

Lyra May said...

Literally just finished an interview. The gentleman came by yesterday, selected myself and my 13 year old son, and scheduled our interviews for today. About 90% of the interview was done on a laptop. I entered my answers into his laptop. He did not see any of my answers. He did ask me some other information, but mostly it was on his computer. It took about an hour, and then he paid me $30.00. I was hesitant about the whole thing, but it really was an easy 30 bucks. The guy was super nice, never left the room we where in, and never even asked my name. Totally confidential! It really is legit! If you ever have the opportunity, you really should do it! Hope this helps!

Sam said...

I just received the letter today. I will let you know what happens.

Anonymous said...

I was worried that there had been a scam when an older relative reported letting someone into their apartment only to be told they wouldn't be interviewed. Called number in letter they had received (800-848-4079)and was directed to the SAMHSA website when I asked for independent source to verify this was legitimate.

If you read description of report methods on SAMHSA website it appears that an interviewer gets an address and then determines whether there are any residents in their target age range for the survey.

Found posting on samhsa website that gave example of letter, including that participants would be paid $30.

http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHmrbShowcards2014.pdf

Anonymous said...

They've been told many times to leave me alone and they keep bothering my family.

Amy Zhu said...

Waste of taxpayer money!! I got one in the mail today and I have already left a voicemail for them telling them to leave me alone… I hope they will respect my privacy and my request.

Anonymous said...

These folks are doing very important work, which helps determine where we need to put money for research and education against addictions. My opinion was valued and although help is too late for my cousin, maybe what I answered will help another.

Anonymous said...

I have asked them to leave me alone. They have been relentless in ringing my doorbell for the last month. They just sent out a different women today to try to convince me. Why won't they go away? I have said no on multiple occasions.

Anonymous said...

They won't leave me alone. They came to my home 9 times in 14 days. They blocked my driveway on one occasion. I left a cease and desist letter on my front door, but received another letter two days ago stating that they (RTI) understood that I had some concerns about the survey, and that it is completely voluntary, and that someone would be contacting me again. RTI's tactics are making me want to start using drugs.