Investing | Article

I Attended a Scammy Online Course so You Don’t Have To

by Sophia | 8 May 2019 | 6 mins read

Want to escape the 9 to 6 life? Do you dream of financial freedom by age 30?

If these questions sound familiar, then you’ve likely seen sponsored Facebook ads by self-proclaimed entrepreneurs and marketing gurus. All of these people typically offer you exclusive training courses and materials to turn your life around.

You know what I’m talking about: random vloggers who infest social media platforms, trying to convince you that you can get rich quickly, just like them.

So what I did was to look into a few of them and even attend a webinar to figure them out, modus operandi and all. Here are some characteristics to spot these “marketing gurus” who peddle golden tickets to quick riches. Hopefully, this can help you stay well away from them (also warn your friends and family).

1. They love vlogs

This is probably something you’ll notice right away: these guys (somehow, the vast majority of them are male) love creating vlogs in their bedrooms.

There’s no high-end audio equipment to make things crisp and clear. It’s just that one person, either using a webcam or holding up a phone, speaking slightly too earnestly to you.

Of course, no one would easily believe them if their vlogs were shiny, corporate videos. The key intention here is to display authenticity – hey! I’m just like you! – to establish trust, and then reel you in.

2. They’re always painting a dream to sell to you

Part of their charm (and they bank hard on charisma), is their tendency to dream big. Hot phrases are reused, over and over, including: “financial freedom”, “fire your boss”, and “live life on your own terms.”

A beautiful life, in essence.

Their vlogs will hint that’s a life they themselves enjoy, they often feature their car or condominium (while sporting slick-backed hair and suave suits). One guy even bragged about how he could afford to eat gold.


I kid you not

These gurus tend to focus on how much you’ll earn in a month after enrolling in their course. There will be a lot of big numbers thrown at you; the word ‘million’ will be used so much that it’s probably going to lose some of its value.

3. Hugely discounted prices

And speaking of numbers, you’ll discover just how expensive their masterclasses are. The webinar I signed up for revealed a staggering five-figure amount for a training program.

For the one I sat through, the $10,000 price tag was revealed only after the initial, hour-long, frenzied lifestyle pitch.

But of course, if I signed up immediately, I could have it all for $997 instead. What’s worse, the guru actually initially promised to give the materials away for free at the start of the video.

4. Many of their training programs are related to online platforms

This particular entrepreneur was selling digital marketing training, specifically, in the domain of Facebook advertising. He promised that after the course, you could start your very own agency, and rake in the money.

However, you might come across many other “practitioners” providing the same training on other web platforms, from Qoo10 to Amazon.

After wasting 90 minutes of my life on the video, I spent the next 3 minutes searching online for actual, free training materials. In fact, Facebook offers extensive digital courses for you to learn advertising on their platform, and yes, the courses are really free.

really free

What’s more, these practitioners are giving legitimate marketing experts and entrepreneurs that provide bonafide digital marketing training a bad name.

5. Over-abundance of suspicious testimonials

In their fever pitch, these marketing gurus will almost always pull out the power of testimonials in a bid to further convince you.

Testimonials like these are fishy. They, again, mostly serve to highlight claims that they made $X amount in just X days – rather than focusing on the actual skills they have learnt.

But I discovered that most of these people giving testimony are almost always friends with each other, and hype up each other’s posts in an almost bot-like way. This makes things feel a little… artificial.

6. Their depressing backstories

Another huge commonality is that these self-proclaimed gurus all come from a place of hardship and setbacks.

It’s a cookie-cutter template they all use. It’s almost comical when you play their introductory videos back-to-back. Early failure? Check. Depression? Check. Stumbling across a simple (yet effective) business model, that allowed them to rise like a phoenix? Yup.

Most of these stories are meant to wow and inspire audiences – because if someone who’s sunk that low can get back up on his feet and become a millionaire, why can’t I?

The “get rich quick” fever: Singapore’s got its fair share

It’s not to say you won’t learn anything from them. However, given their over-reliance on selling you the fruits, rather than the labour, it’s doubtful anything taught is actually worth what you are paying (just google to find some local horror stories).

It is noteworthy that none of these individuals actually provide meaningful case studies on how their business methodologies work, they constantly fall back to focus on the life you will lead.

After attending their workshops of course.

The unethical sales techniques they deploy should sound off alarm bells. Chiefly, not being upfront with their charges, and subsequently employing high-pressure sales techniques.

On the homefront, we’ve got the same marketing gurus that employ the same tactics and peddle the dream life – but we’re always asked for our hard-earned money at the end of the day.

Programs that promise you riches in a short period of time aren’t new at all. They’ve always been around in some shape and form and likely always will. Today, most of us are now wise to the ways of MLM companies. But it’s worth highlighting that these online courses are, in some ways, more sophisticated than MLMs.

These sellers don’t need to pressure downstream agents to recruit family and friends. With social media, these serial entrepreneurs cut out the need to employ middlemen – with technology they’re personally reaching out to all of us via the internet.

With social networks, even foreign gurus have the ability to reach across the globe to direct sell you web training webinars. After doing the research for this article – my feeds are now flooded by over-energetic, slicked-haired men in suits of all nationalities. Sigh.

If you, like me, dig deep enough, you might be shocked how prevalent this model has become. There are so many of these guys are out there, and that means one thing, people are falling for these scams.

Like MLMs a few years back, these online courses are probably seeing a surge of popularity, which will finally culminate in outrage. And they, too, will one day shuffle towards the dark fringes of society, and another, more sophisticated form – again promising quick riches – will take its place.

Until then, you worked hard for your money, so you already know… making it is never that easy.