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!