PORTLAND, Ore. - The KATU Problem Solvers are always warning you about get-rich-quick schemes that are too good to be true.
But now we have actually discovered three ways you can legitimately make some cold hard cash. These opportunities won't make you rich, but they will put a little extra money in your pocket to pay bills, buy gas or get your daily latte.
College student Jessica Wahl decided to cash in by testing new foods at Oregon State University's Food Innovation Center in downtown Portland near Union Station.
"Definitely tasted a few things I wouldn't buy," said Wahl.
For 45 minutes, Wahl tasted six samples of something so top secret, we can't tell you what it is. She then shared her opinion with researchers.
"This gives companies direct feedback from unbiased consumers," explained Ann Colonna, sensory program manager for OSU's Food Innovation Center.
In return, Wahl got $45, which works out to a dollar a minute for her 45 minutes of work.
"For me, it's so I can afford to go out on the weekends," said Wahl.
"If they're here for a focus group, which is generally longer - between an hour to two hours - they're going to be paid $75 to $100," said Colonna.
Visit the Food Innovation Center's website for more information.
The center will send you an email when a taste test opens. You then fill out a quick survey and if you meet the food company's criteria you'll be invited to come in. The center is looking for people of all ages.
"Every time you try, you might get in because it can be very hard for us to find the numbers we need," said Colonna. She said they sometimes needs 500 participants for one taste test.
Another way to make some easy money: accept a mission as a field agent.
Field Agent is a free app where companies post small tasks and then pay you to complete them with your smartphone - anywhere from $3 to $12 per assignment. The jobs include doing price checks at stores, completing opinion surveys, snapping photos of local businesses, or describing the condition of houses for sale.
We took it for a spin. Our assignment: check the Olay display at a particular Wal-Mart store.
Once we accepted the mission we had two hours to complete it. We answered a few questions and then Field Agent deposited $3 into our Paypal account.
One blogger claims to have made $100 in a week.
To learn more about Field Agent, check out their website at www.fieldagent.net
The third way to make easy money: offer yourself up to be studied.
OHSU is a world-class research center and there are dozens of studies going on all the time. These studies need subjects, including healthy people. And in some cases, the studies pay cold hard cash.
During the last three months, we participated in three studies for money to see what being a lab rat was all about. The first was a glaucoma study at OHSU's Casey Eye Institute.
We went twice for a total of 2 1/2 hours of tests, similar to a regular eye exam, and got paid $50.
The next study was about chronic pain and involved both a reporter and her teen-aged son as healthy controls. They answered survey questions and put their hands in cold water to measure their pain tolerance. Together, they made $110.
The final study involved a reporter and her younger son as healthy controls in an ADHD study. They completed brain puzzles and questionnaires and eventually her son could have a brain scan. If they complete four visits over three years, they'll make $470.
These studies are minimally invasive with any risks explained up front.
Dr. Rick Fraunfelder, who runs a dozen studies at OHSU's Casey Eye Institute, said participants typically have a higher calling than just the cash.
"They're trying to help themselves, but they're also trying to help the next patient that walks in and maybe they could help cure a disease because they participated in a trial," he said.
To view the studies available at OHSU, visit their website at ohsu.edu/research/rda/so/index.php