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Posted 05/30/2021 in Couponing

Ibotta Ethical Concerns

Ibotta Ethical Concerns

Is Ibotta real? Safe? A pyramid scheme?  Are there hacks to trick the Ibotta savings app into giving you more money, like returning the items or using tips from bloggers?  The short answer is: Ibotta's real, and if they even suspect fraud they will shut down an account.  Not sure if your situation is innocent or not?  Keep reading to learn how you can lose all your Ibotta savings.

Is Ibotta Real? Legit?

Yes, Ibotta is real and legit.  The company has rebated over $980 million in nine years.  As with most companies, it has detractors who publish negative reviews on blogs, feedback and complaint sites, and the Better Business Bureau, and reading these can help a new user understand the company’s terms of use.


Is Ibotta Safe?  

People ask if Ibotta is safe with two different questions in mind.  

     1. Is it safe to link your bank account to Ibotta for direct payments?  

Payment transactions depend on the security of the sender’s system (in this case, Ibotta), the payment API moving the money from one account to another (Plaid), and the receiver’s bank, as well as the security of the receiver’s online banking information.  Some people are comfortable giving their banking information to many companies; others are not.  

Remember, Ibotta offers gift card payouts, too, and they arrive via email within a few minutes of the in-app request.   

     2. Will Ibotta share your personal shopping information with others?  

Yes.  That is the point, actually.  

Ibotta and all other savings apps make some part of their money through data collection.  

Some apps may include your contact information when they share your data—it’s important to read the small print.  Most will simply remove your contact information and amalgamate your info with other shoppers with similar profiles (same age, gender, location, income level, purchasing histories… there are many ways to slice consumer data to make it interesting to companies in search of information).  To be fair, even shopping with a credit card means your purchases might be part of a data collection.  Cash purchases without any loyalty programs or rewards may add a layer of privacy to your purchases—but even then, some stores film customers for data collection and research purposes both in the shopping aisles and at the register.  


Is Ibotta Free?

Yes, Ibotta is free.

Is Ibotta a Pyramid Scheme?

Ibotta has a program called “Ibotta Teamwork.”  Participants link their Ibotta accounts to their Facebook accounts, then friends should automatically be linked to each others’ teams.  Ibotta Teamwork participants are given individual goals and team goals each month; the individual shopper is rewarded once both the team’s goal and individual’s goal are completed.  Ibotta runs promotions when referrals earn more than usual, such as $50 for 2 new members.

Also, Ibotta users gain $5 (this amount varies) by referring friends to join Ibotta—the payout occurs if the new Ibotta user makes a qualifying transaction within 7 days.  

For these two reasons, current Ibotta users make money by encouraging others to use Ibotta.  While the recruitment and reward structure create a pyramid shape, Ibotta is not a “pyramid scheme” meaning current members are not solely making money off bringing in new members and there is no up-front investment that needs to be earned back.  

However, the pressure to “shop for the team” might not be comfortable for everyone and may lead to a form of “keeping up with the Joneses” if friends are not open with each other about their different shopping habits.


Ibotta's terms of use prohibit certain conduct, including false information.Advice for People Who Want to Scam Ibotta: "Don't."


That was the short answer.

Long Answer: There are always people trying to trick any system, finding a glitch or hack to abuse or circumvent the rules.  Likewise, there are usually innocent people who do not realize they are breaking a rule.  Whether an Ibotta app user intended to break the rules or notIbotta will terminate the account.  Frankly, most people can earn more money by using Ibotta legitimately than they will lose if Ibotta closes the account due to suspected fraud—yes, “suspected,” and they do not have to show the user the evidence.  

It's easy to search the internet for ways people have "hacked" Ibotta.  Here's what that search result will really be:

  • People who claim to have "tricked" Ibotta by using an EBT card or SNAP to pay.  (That's not a trick— Ibotta accepts EBT and SNAP.)

  • People who claim to have made a large amount of money off Ibotta but do not actually list any unusual activities.  It's possible they use Ibotta for more of their purchases than other users and it's possible they use it for work-related purchases that bump up their Ibotta rebate amount— but nothing about that is forbidden.  

  • People who really did do something fraudulent with their Ibotta accounts, then posted about it.  (Ibotta no doubt has read those posts and uses them to improve its suspicious buying patterns recognition algorithm.  Following the posts' advice will likely get your account shut down.)


Can Ibotta Sue a User?

An online search did not return any listings of court cases where Ibotta sued individual users. Instead, it closes the user’s account and retains the alleged earnings.

However, yes, Ibotta has very clear terms of use and if Ibotta chose to pursue legal action, it could do so.   

If you are considering actions which you think might make you liable, the best advice is, “Don’t do it.”  Ibotta will deactivate accounts participating in fraudulent activities, and it will hold onto the money the user has accumulated in the user’s Ibotta account.   

Can Ibotta Close an Account? And Take the “Earnings”?

Yes, Ibotta can and has closed users’ accounts and taken away the earnings.   And Ibotta has the legal right to do so.   Reading individual customers’ complaints on the Better Business Bureau website (bbb.org) is a good way to see how Ibotta will react if a shopper attempts fraudulent activity.  Ibotta reserves the right to deactivate a user’s account or reverse a specific transaction based on its concerns.  

There are also non-fraud reasons an account will close, such as the shopper changing the account phone number or two users using the same phone for their accounts.  Each Ibotta account is attached to a particular device (or at least to the device’s SIM card, which is identified by the phone number).  If you know you will change phones or phone numbers, cash out ahead of the change.  And even if you are not planning on changing devices, cash out once you reach the payout minimum because you will lose less in Ibotta savings if your device has an accident and there’s no benefit to accruing a high balance.

Can You Use Ibotta After Purchase?

No, Ibotta rebates cannot be selected from the screen after the purchase.   Select the offers of interest before shopping in order to be eligible for the Ibotta rebate.

The only exception seems to be that a few users report clicking Ibotta offers immediately after their purchase and before uploading the receipt.  It's worth noting that both the receipt and the offer selection are time-stamped actions.  So, while one user might get away with selecting offers within a few minutes after the purchase and before the receipt scanning, others' timing might not meet Ibotta's specifications.  To be sure you earn the intended rebate, mark it before the purchase, not after. 

Ibotta Hack: What if I Fold Over the Receipt’s Date?

There are several people brave enough, stupid enough, egotistical enough to post online explaining how they once-upon-a-time tricked Ibotta into paying out for a false claim.  These hacks include someone claiming they folded a receipt to hide the date and scanned it as “part” of a second, legitimate receipt.  While Ibotta may have paid one person, one time for one fraudulent transaction, Ibotta will have learned from the post, too, and found ways to prevent similar frauds in the future.  The hack will not work.  Or, if it does work, chances are Ibotta is tracking “unmatched receipts” and it will negatively impact your rating as an honest Ibotta user, eventually prompting Ibotta to block the account.

Can Ibotta Track Product Returns?

The short answer is: Ibotta does not directly track returns but no doubt has the data sophistication necessary to accurately track which Ibotta users are likely returning items, therefore fraudulently using Ibotta.

The longer answer explains in detail.  If you have made a return recently, you know it is a lot more shopper-focused than 20 years ago when fraudsters would buy a product, submit the rebate information, and return the same item for cash, sometimes without the receipt so they could avoid any paper trail connecting them to the original purchase.   Nowadays, a return without a receipt will require the shopper’s driver’s license or other identification.   Data-rich companies submit the receipt into their databanks where it matches up with any transactions involving anything identifying the customer—a credit card, a loyalty card, or even records from a gift card that was originally purchased by the shopper via credit card.   Analytical teams can even predict which shoppers were likely creating fraudulent returns based on shopping patterns—and since Ibotta shares information with its retail partners, it’s a logical jump to say Ibotta has the resources to accurately surmise which Ibotta users are trying to trick the system.   

And if you read a post describing a way to trick Ibotta, Ibotta probably read it, too.


CouponFindr.com's advice is: There's plenty of downside to trying to trick the Ibotta app, and we advise against it.  

Read Next: 

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