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Seminar Scams and
How to Avoid Them
by Tom Antion
I decided to write this article after spending over
half my speaking career (about 12 years) speaking at public seminars and
watching the decline of service provided by seminar speakers and
promoters and the increase in scammer speakers getting rich while
committing fraud at the
expense of mostly unknowing and trusting people.
I’m hoping those speakers/promoters on the edge
will clean up their acts and the really bad ones will be exposed. The
good ones won’t be bothered a bit because they don’t allow these kinds
of activities to occur at their events. I might add that this document
is talking about expensive coaching / training programs sold at these
seminars, not low cost items like books or a small CD set.
need a kick in the rear no matter what the cost
The reason this is such a tough subject is that even some of the
worst rip-off events can be an exhilarating shot in the arm or kick in
the butt for some people to improve themselves. I’m all for that. What
I’m totally against is the manipulation of people solely for financial
gain and the devastating letdowns that occur “after” these seminars.
Many seminars provide fairly good, but incomplete information on the
front end. This is understandable because it’s pretty naïve to think you
can learn what the speaker knows in 90 minutes, all day or even in three
or four days. The problem comes in with the high priced coaching
packages invariably sold at these events that promise the moon and the
“secrets behind the secrets” but only deliver pitch after pitch for more
training that leads you down a financial rabbit hole.
excitement and tricks
Once out of the artificially created excitement (and frequently mass
hysteria) of the seminar atmosphere, the harsh reality sets in. . . .
Most programs you buy don’t even come close to living up to the hype
used to sell them to you. Once you see the kind of tricks pulled at
these seminars, you’ll be able to make better decisions on whether to
attend a particular seminar and once there, whether you should “invest”
in further coaching. hahaha (It’s an unwritten law in the seminar
business that us speakers use the word “Invest” instead of “buy”. This
is so we can manipulate you better.)
Here are some insider tips to watch for when
attending a seminar (they are in no particular order and you should
probably print this out and take it with you when you attend your next
I’ll list them here for quick reference and then
give more details below.
Top 20 Seminar Scams:
of the Year Program
Done for You Programs
Refusal to Record
Lying About Results
Theft by Conversion
Fake & Paid
Your Ideas are Great!
Selling the Dream
Bonus for Real Estate Seminars
Click here for the 2013 Scam Update
Although there are many legitimate applications
processes to determine if you are right for a particular program, there
are many that aren’t legitimate at all. This scam is designed to make
you think the program you’re applying for is exclusive. The really
insidious part is that it’s not an application at all. It’s a CONTRACT
and frequently it is designed to get around the “Right of Rescission”
The “Right of Rescission” law, applicable I’m
pretty sure in every state, gives you a minimum of three days to cancel
a contract for any reason or no reason. It is designed to protect
consumers from high pressure sales tactics.
The “Fake Application Process” scam is using a
combination of the “take away close”….(making you feel like you’re
losing out on something) and circumvention of the “Right of Rescission”
in that they tell you that you will be notified later (past the three
day mark) so you have no right to a refund.
What to do? ….Don’t put your credit card number on
one of these. A legitimate seminar speaker will review your application,
discuss it with you and make a real appraisal of your chances for
success. The date you would then put on the contract would be the date
you were informed of your acceptance and the date you decided to
proceed. This would still give you three days minimum to change your
A speaker who refuses this, wants to rush you,
claims the deal is only good right now, says they have to leave to catch
a plane without setting a time to discuss your participation should be
A good trick is to put the credit card number on
the application but purposely mess up a couple of the numbers and then
watch what happens. A legitimate speaker wouldn’t even notice because
they would not have run your credit card until after you were accepted
by them and you accepted the deal after talking to them. If they run the
credit card before talking to you about your acceptance, then what you
signed was a “contract” NOT an application.
Fake Marketer of the
These programs can be totally legitimate, require a
lot of work, have a legitimate and scrutinized judging system or they
can be a Broadway quality play designed to set you up for the
The way it works is that the seminar promoter hand
picks people to compete for the prize. The contestants all get in front
of the crowd and praise the promoter to high heaven for their successes
(usually from one of the promoter’s high priced coaching programs). All
of this supposed “social proof” sends the message to the people in the
crowd that they can have the same success if they sign up for the
promoter’s high priced coaching program.
I have on file a report by an unknowing participant
in one of these “Marketer of the Year” Programs. When he refused to play
along, he was cussed out, blackballed and one of his ideas was stolen.
Take these programs with a giant grain of salt.
People love celebrities. You might say we’re
celebrity obsessed. Even me, a guy who didn’t
fall all over myself to get John
Travolta’s autograph when I was standing right next to him at a party
can’t help but feel differently when in their presence. I get that. I
get the fact that it’s fun and exciting to meet celebrities and all
kinds of organizations have celebrities appear at their functions. I
think that’s great!
Unfortunately, I also “get” the economics of
celebrity hype and how conmen and hucksters use celebrities to
manipulate you into spending money you never would have spent had you
been totally clear minded at the time.
In the right situation celebrities are really
cheap. Let’s look at the economics of this. You can get “B” list
celebrity appearances for as little as a couple thousand dollars. Head
toward the “A” list and the sky’s the limit, but skilled manipulators
can even get pretty well-known people to attend seminar events for fees
way less than $10,000.00. You can even get industry celebrities for
So, you’re at a seminar and you see a well-known
person touting the promoter as good so you figure the promoter must be
WRONG ASSUMPTION. All you just witnessed is a paid
endorsement probably delivered by an actor who is really good at saying
words someone else gave them.
The reason this is cheap is that a skilled seminar
speaker/promoter can sell you intangible things for anywhere from a
thousand dollars to even $50.000.00 or $100,000.00. Multiply this by
many people in the audience who bite and they’ve got a million dollar
day and it only cost them $10,000.00 or less to get a celebrity puppet
to help make it happen.
None of the celebrity hype has anything to do with
the service you will get. Another thing to keep in mind is that the
promoters do give great service to the celebrities and industry
celebrities so those celebrities may actually believe the hype they’re
telling you. In some cases they are victims too, …. hoodwinked by the
Bottom line is that the celebrity is not going to
help you get your money back if the speaker/promoter rips you off. Don’t
let them sway your decisions to “invest” or not.
Done For You Programs
These programs are designed to take advantage of
several things. 1. Laziness and the dream you can have something
fantastic and put in little or no effort, 2. The purchaser’s inability
to assess what they are “actually” buying until it’s too late and
whether it’s worth it or not.
This falls into the “too good to be true” category.
Expecting in any fashion whatsoever that you can have great success and
riches without any effort is pretty much ridiculous. Most people in
front of a trusted and knowledgeable advisor who explained to them the
complexities of actually gaining success in a particular field would
probably say that most of these programs now look ridiculous to them.
To actually do anything that would be any good
would most likely cost tens of thousands of dollars worth of man hours
and labor. If you fall for these types of schemes no matter how good
they sound, you may as well go ahead and apply for the old “make money
stuffing envelopes from home” scam.
The more insidious part of these schemes (and I’ve
uncovered one lately that gets nothing but complaints) is one that sells
poor and outdated information and fraudulently predicts the prospects of
success to people who have zero ability to assess what they’ve bought
until it’s far too late in the process.
I have on file detailed complaints about one
promoter who is now backpeddling as fast as he can and I think he's
changing the name to "Done With You" instead of "Done for You". A more
accurate description of his program is "Done TO You" since the program
in my expert opinion is misrepresented, has little chance for success,
is outrageously overpriced, selling poor quality and outdated
information. In addition to the ridiculous entry price they even have
the nerve to charge you a large monthly fee to maintain the garbage dump
they helped you create.
Bottom line here folks is that you should run from
most “Done For You” programs sold at seminars unless you’ve got cash to
burn and don’t care if it’s successful or not.
Refusal to Record
This is an issue that can be legitimate but can
also be sketchy. For years a “no recording” policy at seminars was
standard. However, times have changed. Many large companies are even
ignoring their copyright violations uncovered on YouTube knowing that
they’ll get more favorable publicity by looking the other way instead of
crushing a fan with the threat of a lawsuit.
The Grateful Dead arguably one of the most
successful bands in history allowed people to record their entire
concert and even made it easy for them to do so.
Keep in mind I’m in no way advocating copyright
violations. I’m just saying that companies that ignore this trend should
think twice. I’m also saying that some
companies strictly enforce this policy to make sure there isn’t video or
audio proof of their nefarious dealings behind closed doors.
I’ve heard of one seminar promoter who confiscated
one of those $300.00 note taking pens from someone who attended his
Of course, no legitimate speaker/promoter wants
their information sold, but for “personal use only” after someone has
paid for the information, a strict no recording policy seems really
sketchy to me. Find out before you agree to attend a seminar what their
policy is and get it in writing. If it’s “no recording”, you may still
want to attend for the other benefits of the seminar like networking,
and meeting industry experts, etc.
First of all let me say that I teach copywriting as
part of my Internet training. Yes, I use urgency techniques to get
people to act now. Pretty much the entire business world does and there
is nothing inherently wrong with moving people to action so long as what
you sell them is truly right for them and will help them.
The reason you see so many urgency techniques at
seminars is that the bad boy/girl seminar speakers and promoters know
they will not follow up with you. They know they aren’t going to treat
you with your best interests in mind. They want the quick buck while
you’re standing there and they want it in the heat of the moment when
you are probably not thinking clearly.
Being on the inside for so many years I’m aware of
the enormous number of chargebacks they get for pressuring people to buy
now. (Chargebacks are when you have to call your credit card company to
try to get your money back).
The reason this is somewhat of a scam is that I can
virtually guarantee you that the person making the claim that the “price
is only good” in the next 27 seconds
hahaha would grab your credit card in a heartbeat if you called
their office a week later and said the following:
“I was at XYZ seminar. If you will give me the
seminar price, I will sign up. If you won’t, then thanks I won’t sign
I think this technique also shows desperation. The
most truly powerful people don’t “need” you to sign up. Yes, they want
you to sign up and they want to make the money….heck I do too. But if
you don’t sign up today, it pretty much won’t mean a thing to me.
Just yesterday as I was writing this, someone
called to sign up that had seen me six months ago. He wanted to
participate in my program with his son-in-law, but his daughter and
son-in-law just had a baby and had to really get a handle on that
situation before they could concentrate on my training.
I gave them the seminar price and passed on the
commission to the promoter. Everyone is happy, no one felt pressured or
scammed and I sleep at night knowing I’m not one of the A**holes you are
reading about in this report
Lying About Results
Wow! Have I heard some whoppers from the stage? … A
stock market speaker virtually guaranteeing 30% returns. … A real estate
speaker doing the same thing in combination with a “Done for You” scam
talking about 30% returns being easy on real estate in Mississippi or
(whatever state was the farthest from where they were speaking). … A
public speaking speaker and his partner talking about the number of
people they put in a seminar and the enormous sales they made (later
revealed as totally exaggerated).
Even proof is not proof anymore. I was one of the
first speakers ever to show real sales figures online and actual bank
statements when people attend my retreat center. Now you regularly see
fake screen shots of sales that are either made in Photoshop, or real
screen shots of sales figures that don’t tell the true story.
For instance, a person might show $200,000.00 in
sales in a very short period of time. What they didn’t show you was that
to get that $200.000.00 in sales they spent $250,000.00 in pay per click
traffic and actually lost $50,000.00. They figure that whatever they
sell you and thousands of other suckers will make the $50K back plus a
If I had to average it out over the many years I’ve
seen people BSing on stage it would be safe to say you could divide
whatever they say by 10 and be much closer to the truth.
Be extremely careful when you hear sales figures
being hyped from the stage. When I say them, which I do, ….they are
verifiable or I don’t say them, or I make a big deal that I’m not sure
about the figures.
Misrepresentation takes on many forms. The “Do it
All For You” section above is a good example of that. The name of the
program totally misrepresents the reality of the program. This is
unethical at best and actually criminal at worst.
Unethical seminar speakers/promoters have many
chances to hoodwink you both at their events and in their coaching
programs afterward. Sometimes this is innocent and unavoidable, but
sometimes it’s a deliberate attempt to get more people to attend even
when they know they can’t produce.
Here’s an example that involves me. I was booked to
speak at an event that I had done many times in the past. The seminar
promoter created a contract situation that was unacceptable to me, but
still kept the announcement of my appearance on his website. I heard
later that people in the crowd were there in part because they were
expecting to see me, but, of course, I was not there. This is
misrepresentation. Had I gotten sick at the last minute, that would been
an unavoidable situation. Knowing in advance that I was not going to be
there was misrepresentation.
I heard of a very big name speaker that I have
admired for years promote a certain unique networking feature that would
happen at his seminar. It never happened with no apology and no
explanation. It made me wonder if he was going to the dark side.
Another speaker misnamed his seminar to make you
believe it was about subject “A”. Then when you got there subject “A”
was only a tiny part of the entire seminar….This is misrepresentation.
When it comes to your coaching contract make sure
every single thing is spelled out. The scammer people have many “weasel”
clauses which are totally in their favor. For instance a one-on-one
training day with the coach sounds pretty easy to understand doesn’t it?
Not really. The unscrupulous coach could mean it as a half day and you
think of it as an 8 hour full day. Also, what time of day is it? Does it
include lunch and breaks, etc?
If the coach reschedules and causes damages, who
pays the damages (change in airfare charges, etc.)? Is it fair for the
coach to be able to reschedule but not the participant? What are the
guidelines and advance notice for rescheduling?
You need to spell out what will be done during the
day. If the coach spends the entire day bragging about his/her own
accomplishments and ignoring your business, that’s not acceptable…That’s
I could go on for months on this one.
Bottom line here is to get everything in writing
and make sure everything is defined and clear.
I really can’t say it better than this.
A shill or plant is
a person who helps another person or organization to sell goods or
services without disclosing that he or she has a close relationship with
the seller. (Similar to the Fake Marketer of the Year Contest) The shill
pretends to have no association with the seller/group and gives
onlookers the impression that he or she is an enthusiastic independent
customer. The person or group that hires the shill is using crowd
to encourage other onlookers or audience members (who are unaware of the
set-up) to purchase the said goods or services. Shills are often
employed by confidence
And bad seminar leaders, says Tom.
Theft by Conversion
Most of the things I’m talking about it this report
have both a civil and criminal aspect to them. This one clearly has
criminal implications because “theft” is part of it.
Just to explain this idea in layman’s terms because
I’m definitely not trying to give legal advice here, but let’s say you
lend your car to someone. They obtained it legally because you lent it
to them. If they never bring it back, i.e. they converted it to their
property which is the same as saying they stole it (theft).
The idea as it relates to business coaches is that
someone accepts a contract to coach you on your business idea or tells
you they can “take your business to the next level”. Then after they get
all the information about your idea or business from you (legally), they
take the idea and use it for their own gain (theft).
I’ve had two complaints like this in the last month
about the same seminar promoter.
I highly suggest you make the coach sign a
non-disclosure agreement that has some teeth in it put in there by a
good lawyer that’s looking out for your interests.
I will tell you that there are legitimate reasons
why a highly successful coach may decline to sign one, however, their
reluctance should make you rethink the entire agreement and whether this
coach is right for you.
– Always make notes of what people say to you at the time they said it.
Don’t wait. If you ever end up in court, you have a much better chance
of getting your notes admitted if they were created at the time of the
event. It’s not a bad idea to ask them to sign your notes and also for
you to tell someone else what happened.
Recording audio/video is even better, but make sure their
awareness of the recording is in accordance with applicable laws which
vary depending where you are and they are at the time of the recording.
Selling, trading and providing fake testimonials
are highly unethical practices and now with the FTC ruling from December
of 2010 probably illegal. Yes, I understand that paid endorsements have
been common for a long time and quid pro quo testimonials have been
common for a long time. I also understand that these testimonials have
hurt many people by convincing them something was good when it actually
wasn’t. I’ve kicked people out of my mentor program for using fake
testimonials in their sales letters.
Why do you think the Federal Trade Commission came
down so hard in December of 2010 with their updated ruling regulating
endorsements? The answer is that fake/paid endorsements have done a lot
of damage to people. Here’s a
synopsis and examples of allowable endorsements with links to more FTC
This site also is most likely the basis for a
recent promotion where the affiliate vendor forced his affiliates to
take down all their promotion. What could have happened is that the
affiliate vendor knew there were many fake endorsements out there and
that he had not put a program into effect to train his affiliates in
proper promotions which would be a violation of the FTC ruling. He just
went for the most money possible. Forcing the affiliates to remove their
ads after the promotion was in my opinion destroying evidence AKA
This same promoter has had training sessions at his
home where he taught the students to trade testimonials even though they
didn’t even know each other. Doing one of these testimonials is about as
unethical as you can get and probably criminal under the guidelines.
Teaching someone to do such a thing ought to be totally criminal and in
my opinion shows a total lack of conscience and ethics.
Another thing to watch out for is well-known people
selling you endorsements or interviewing you for pay. This again is
covered heavily in the FTC guidelines. The paid interview thing is a
gray area and I would tread cautiously and have your attorney review the
agreement. Using such a testimonial or interview in a fashion that does
not comply with the FTC guidelines could probably get you in deep
trouble too. So watch out for the hucksters selling these things and
taking advantage of their status. Do it right as to the FTC guidelines
or don’t do it at all.
This is a really slick trick that seminar speakers
and promoters pull on you. Throughout the event they show pictures of
celebrities and industry luminaries. They really put on a show to prove
to you how “connected” they are even though they simply paid big bucks
to get their picture with “Magic Johnson” and other big name
celebrities. Also, throughout the event they insinuate by joining their
expensive programs you will meet many important people…..not necessarily
the ones they’ve been parading in front of you.
This is hard to prosecute against because all
someone has to do is say to an industry expert, “This is Carol” and
technically they have introduced you [Carol] to the industry expert.
Most of the people pulling this don’t even bother introducing you to
anyone because they know you’ll probably never complain about it.
Be wary of the “Networking Promises” scam. You
could most likely meet those people just by learning how to approach
them by buying a networking book.
Refund policies can be a place where you can get
scammed pretty easily. I’ve seen some promotions where there are more
than one refund policy on the same promotion.
I know of one promoter who has a policy of making
it impossible for you to request a refund. When you are trying to get a
refund from any company for any product, right from the first attempt
start documenting what you did. This will give your credit card company
pretty much no choice but to prevail in your favor if the company is
non-responsive. This would most likely supersede anything you have
For instance, let’s say you bought a CD set and it
had a 30 day refund policy. (Make sure you get the refund policy in
writing.) You listen to the CDs and don’t like them at all. You email
the vendor to request a refund. You get no response. You call the vendor
and get no response. You call again and get no response.
You should note the date and time of each attempted
correspondence. Print out the emails. Make notes of what you said on the
voice mail. Put the exact date and time in your notes. If it was 1:07
PM, then put 1:07 PM. The more precise you are, the more credible your
If you haven’t gotten a response from the company
in a reasonable amount of time (48 hours max during business days)
immediately call your credit card company and start the complaint
process. This will give iron clad proof you initiated the refund within
in the 30 day period.
Some refund policies are designed to be impossible
to comply with. For instance, you order at a seminar and agree to let
them ship you the products that have a 30 day guarantee. The slimy
promoter says the purchase was made the day of the seminar. Five weeks
later the fulfillment company ships you the CDs which you deem are
terrible. ….Oops. Too late. Your guarantee started the day you bought.
It’s too bad for you it took so long to deliver them. You should have
carried them home on the plane with you.
How about the promoter who tells you ominously that
if you ask for a refund you will be blackballed from buying other
products and attending other seminars? . . .Not only from him but other
seminar promoters he knows? Is this legal? I don’t know. I’m not a judge
or a lawyer. Maybe a one-time instance might not be, but an ongoing
policy of intimidation….well according to my law enforcement friends,
that’s a different story.
Be careful with refund policies. They could simply
be smoke and mirrors.
This scam has two opposite parts. The first part
has the speaker/promoter spending little or no time with you and forcing
you to purchase before he/she will answer questions. This leads to
people getting caught up in the moment and buying basically the
proverbial “Pig in a Poke”.
There is no way on earth you should deal with such
a person no matter how important and knowledgeable they make themselves
appear to be.
The second type of this scam is where the
speaker/promoter spends all kinds of time with you answering all your
questions, being nice to you, etc. UNTIL HE/SHE GETS YOUR CREDIT CARD
CHARGED and gets past the Right of Rescission. Then you pretty much
I’ve heard stories of a guy who charged someone
$47,000.00 for a coaching program and the person heard absolutely
nothing from the coach for over a month and then only when they,
themselves pressed the issue.
This is a harder one to detect. It’s better that
you do your research in advance and locate people that have been in the
person’s program for a while and see what they think.
This is where the bad speakers and promoters use
slick language to pretend to be available to you when they’re really
My favorite one ever is when I heard a female
speaker say, “You have unlimited one-on-one time with me via teleseminar”.
This is totally ludicrous and I know her and I know she does not do
one-on-one anything with her students.
Why is this ludicrous? ….hahaha There are so many
First unlimited means as much as you want. In this
case it means only when she has a teleseminar and only for the length of
the teleseminar so it’s not in any way unlimited or even close to
“One-on-one” does not make sense along with the
word “teleseminar”. Teleseminar means many people on the line with the
This would qualify for the double talk hall of
To an audience member caught up in the heat of the
moment , it would sound like you have unlimited one-on-one time with the
speaker……which in this case is definitely not true.
Before you go into ANY coaching program get it in
writing EXACTLY how much time fully one-on-one you get with the coach.
If you see any double talk or weasel clauses, don’t join that program.
Exception: If the speaker/promoter clearly lets you
know up front that contact is via email, webinar, teleseminar only, then
great. If that satisfies you, and you don’t need, or you aren’t willing
to pay for one-on-one time, this might be right for you.
Just don’t get hoodwinked with buying one-on-one
time that doesn’t exist.
Again, this is a time to be extremely clear and get
everything in writing. If you are supposed to have one-on-one time in
person. Exactly how many hours are included? Is everything geared to
helping you with your business? Who pays for meals? How many breaks?
Etc. I can assure you, slimy speakers will find a way to get around what
you’ve written, but having it in writing puts them on notice that you
know what you are purchasing and you expect it to be fulfilled.
I mention all the crazy packages speakers promote
here because much of it has to do with access. The basic package
includes XYZ and the super duper packages are just more access to the
guru. Of course, for scammer coaches the access never happens or doesn’t
quite happen, but you still bought and paid for the most expensive
I’m an audience watcher when I attend an event.
When I see one of these silver, gold, emerald kind of speakers I see the
audience in total confusion of what they are actually getting. The
speaker is such an expert at manipulation of crowds the audience members
buy anyway even though they have no idea what they just bought. ….this
makes the slimy speaker very happy.
Lots of speaker/promoters tell you that you get so
many “emergency” calls. This is part of access. This also needs to be in
writing and all the details spelled out. An emergency call is an
emergency call. This means by definition that quick response is
expected. I know one scumbag speaker/promoter who didn’t return an
emergency call for 4 weeks.
An emergency call rarely should take more than 24
hours to return. In most cases if the person that sold you the coaching
really wanted to they could return it in a matter of hours or minutes.
What happens in real life with unscrupulous and uncaring coaches is that
they already have your money and you are now an inconvenience to them
with your emergency.
I also heard the same speaker spent an entire
emergency call with the caller (who was supposed to be receiving help),
relentlessly eliciting the caller's expertise to help with an area of
Your Ideas are Great!
This scam inflates the coaching prospects ego and
value of their idea until the bad coach gets their money. Then some time
during the course of coaching it’s determined that the idea is not good
or the coaching client diligently does what the coach tells them to do
(that is if they do get any coaching). When the idea fails the coach
then blames the student for poor performance when the idea had little
chance to start with.
This is a time when weasel clauses appear. For
instance the coaching client missed 1 call out of 14 and the coach says,
“Aha. I did my job, but you missed that one call so it’s your fault you
Make sure you have independent corroboration of
your ideas before you hire an expensive coaching program.
A major, big name player in the seminar industry
recently got caught falsifying his educational credentials and because
of the embarrassment was forced to resign from a major company’s board
Another guy was recently outed online for possibly
being involved in a scheme to create a fake credential for himself.
Sometimes I see so many letters after people’s
names I need to get Old McDonald and his e - i- e- i- o team of
investigators to figure out what the heck all those letters mean.
Many of the bad eggs falsify their income figures
and experience levels. I was an “award winning”
this or that. Well where’s the award? What was the award? What
company did you work for when you won the award? Who was your
supervisor? Is the award recognized outside your cubicle?
Many try to spam the Internet with false positive
information about themselves to bury the bad stuff. They are so good at
it, that it’s difficult to find the real truth.
I suggest dealing only with people that have a
tremendously long track record and very few negative things being said
about them. Yes, I understand the best of people in the business ….
myself included….have jealous naysayers and people who complain about
everything attacking them occasionally.
For good people the bad stuff certainly isn’t
widespread and there certainly isn’t much of it. For bad people, once
you start digging and you know who to talk to you, eventually could find
a virtual geyser of civil and criminal complaints.
The other problem that compounds this one is that
the bad folks are master manipulators and able to get really nice things
said about them by very public figures, which further bolsters their
ruse of being experienced and credible. I know several very big name
people in the speaking and seminar business who are regretting their
very public endorsement of some very bad people.
To combat this, do your research as best you can,
but add to what you find many of the other scams outlined in this
document. If you see the person participating in one or more of these
scams…..steer very clear. ….You could be the next victim.
Masterminding is considered an extremely powerful
business and personal improvement tool. Scammer speakers and promoters
have managed to bastardize this concept too. The real concept is a small
group of peers (maybe 10 or
so) who get together and work on each other’s problems. Pretty simple
In an effort to maximize their money while
minimizing the depth they would have to go into for any individual
business problem, scammer mastermind leaders pile everyone in a room. A
mastermind is not 70 people stuffed into a room each with a very limited
time where their business is being addressed.
This does three things for the scammer. 1. Fulfills
the obligation to let people participate in a mastermind session, 2.
Let’s the scammer do it all at one time instead of doing multiple small
and in depth sessions like he/she should be doing and 3. Hides the fact
the scammer may not have the experience to go into much depth when
facing business problems. Heck anyone can stall and get many of the 69
other people in the room to chip in for the pitiful 15 or 20 minutes the
participant is on the “hot seat” at one of these fake mastermind
If a seminar leader says that “masterminding” is
included, this again is a time for you to get exact details like….What
is the maximum number of participants? Are they going to be selected
with similar income and achievement levels than mine or higher? (lower
income and achievement levels don’t necessarily mean the person has
nothing to contribute, but if I was paying to be in a mastermind
session, I would want to know the people in there giving me advice were
highly accomplished.) What happens if you don’t have enough people at
similar levels? Etc.
It is very hard to find the right mix of people to
put into an effective and small mastermind group. It’s easy to lump a
bunch of people in a room and put on a dog and pony show when you
couldn’t care less if anyone got meaningful and helpful information out
And again, yes I understand some value could be had
from the worst run mastermind groups. I understand people with little
business experience might say it was wonderful. That’s primarily because
they don’t know any better. Even some people with lots of business
experience, but who have imbibed the koolaid of the conman seminar
leader might even say everything is great. I’m just not going to spend
top dollar to get a dollar store mastermind experience and I don’t
suggest you do either. Spend the money on a business book subscription.
Selling the Dream
In many cases the seminar you attend will be mostly
hype and selling the dream of success rather than giving you actual
content that would help you achieve success. The entire event is
continuous pitches AKA “Pitchfests” with promises of the greatest
information always one more (and more expensive) seminar away.
Sometimes the initial seminar has content and
helpful material mixed in with the pitches. You can’t really complain
too much about that if it was reasonably priced and you got everything
that was promised in the promotion of the event. In fact, you can expect
pitches in most events. That’s in part how they’re financed by the
promoter who gets a percentage of what the speaker sells.
Many of the scams occur when you make one or more
of the purchases of further training/coaching. So, be extremely diligent
about what you buy at a seminar and refer to this list of items.
It’s great to have dreams….but not “pipe dreams”
created by people who only want their dreams paid for with YOUR money.
Bonus for Real Estate Seminars
At the beginning of the seminar the speaker tells
you how important it is to have credit. He/she gives you a script and
tells you to call your credit card company and get your limit raised to
$50,000.00 or even $100,000.00. Conveniently by the end of the seminar
there is a high priced training available and you conveniently have
plenty of room now on your credit card to pay for it.
Here are some other things you just have to keep
your eye out for. “Fake Exclusivity” is used quite a bit to make you
think you are in some kind of secret club or inner circle, when in
reality the operator of the secret club is laughing at you for thinking
you’re really in….yes, you’re in as long as you pony up the big bucks,
but the questions is…… “In what?” There is no secret handshake or
signal. The only thing that you need is lots of money to “think” you are
something special. I made fun of this years ago when I called a group I
was involved with the “outer circle”.
Another thing to watch for is that conmen and women
want you to think they have some really great or cool knowledge that no
one else has so they tell you things that no one else tells you. This
information could be unethical or downright illegal and could get YOU in
trouble for using the info even though you learned it from the scammer.
I got a report last month that one seminar promoter
learned the Fake Application technique from another scammer promoter and
now HE’S being reported to the Attorney General of HIS state.
The reason no other seminar leaders/promoters are
telling this stuff is because it’s unethical and illegal.
Many seminars these days are conducted using a very
controlled manipulative atmosphere. It looks great, exciting and helpful
on the surface, but is totally designed to extract the most money
possible with ZERO regard for the well-being of the participants. If
you’re lucky, you just lose your money. If you’re not, you could
actually lose your life.
If you think that statement is inflammatory, just
Google James Ray who is on trial right now over the deaths of three
people during a sweat lodge in Sedona Arizona. I’m not saying James Ray
is guilty. I don’t know all the facts and that’s for a jury to decide
and what I say next has nothing to do with James Ray.
I’m just saying in staged
environments participants frequently don’t make rational decisions like
they would if they were outside the staged environment. Add to that a
seminar leader or promoter who only cares about him/herself (like the
ones that would do the scams mentioned in this report) and it’s a recipe
for a participant disaster….financial …..or worse.
I’ve been in this business a long time. I’m trying
to help clean it up so everyone wins. …..Good speakers, Good Promoters
and Good Attendees trying to better themselves.
I’ll probably lose some speaking
jobs over it. Guess what? I don’t care. I sleep at night knowing I don’t
pull any of this crap on people and I make plenty of money giving good
honest service….I’m just sick of the rip-off types mentioned in this
report simply stealing money from people and I’m doing something about
Also, as a reminder to a few seminar promoters who
I declined to speak for several years ago. I lived in Washington, DC
area for 13 years and was president of the speakers association there.
Remember when I told you that my contacts told me the FTC was turning
their eye toward us. Well they are, aren’t they. I wasn’t kidding was I?
We don’t need bad apples bringing down more scrutiny on an industry that
has the potential to do so much good for so many people.
So, if you are lowlife, scumbag seminar speaker or
promoter or both and you hurt somebody I know. You can make all the fake
apologies you want. You can scurry around trying to cover your corrupt
tracks and you can try to hide your nefarious dealings, but keep this in
mind: I’ll be watching you and
after 30 years treating people honorably and ethically in my business
I’ve got friends everywhere that are only too happy to lawfully help
bring you to justice. Keep that in mind.
To Seminar Attendees
The last thing I want is for you to quit going to
seminars. I want you to have a continuous quest for improvement and
enjoy and learn from the experience of many of the fine speakers you
will see at these events. The purpose of this document is simply to
protect you from an environment that could hurt you badly if you are
uninformed about it. I’d even suggest you print this out and take it
with you to the next seminar you attend.
If you suspect you have been scammed at a seminar
or sold coaching or consulting you are not happy with, please contact me
with your details in writing at
firstname.lastname@example.org . I’m trying to get restitution for those that
have been scammed and charges brought against the perpetrators. If your
email didn’t get through, or you don’t get an acknowledgement of receipt
within 24 hours please call my office at 757-431-1366.
P.S. Know any seminar scams I missed. Send them to
me and I’ll update this document.
2013 Scam Update
It's been a busy year in my anti-scam world since I first came out with
this article. I landed a Hollywood agent who was with one of the top
three agencies and is now on her own. My TV show is in development along with a documentary. And I've become a clearing house for seminar victims
around the world. Here are some of the latest things to watch out for
when attending a seminar.
I'm a Christian
This, like many scams is not really a new
scam. I've just noticed it making a comeback lately. This is where the
fraudulent seminar leader professes to be "Christian" or "They have
First of all that's pretty much an insult to Christians everywhere. Secondly I doubt if God is cool with it
especially since the technique is being used to try to
cover up past bad behavior
and to set the audience members up for a crucifixion of sorts.
shame so many good, God
fearing people get taken by this tactic. They give the bad guy or girl
second and third chances. Giving a sociopathic
speaker a second chance is like letting
them chop off your hand and then using the hand that's left to help them
their axe so they can cut it off too.
It reminds me of a quotation I saw somewhere and I don't know who
originally said it so if you know, please
tell me. It
went something like this, "With proper nurturing the shepherd can fleece
the sheep over and over again."
Good Christians don't lie, cheat and steal and they certainly don't use
God to cover up their scams.
This is where the seminar
leader pretends to do something totally spontaneous to show how easy it
is to do what what he/she is selling.
In Internet marketing it could
be pretending to start a website and make online sales during the course
of a 90 minute speech or some variation of that. The reports I've been
getting are that everything was planned and set up carefully in advance
without the audience's knowledge (kinda like a magic trick).
The same seminar leader
apparently did the exact same thing at another event using the same
exact website that supposedly didn't exist before he/she got on stage.
(Whoever told me about this please re-contact me. Your email has
I'm also hearing of someone going all over the place giving live
demonstrations of a service. I've actually used this service and it's
garbage. You can be sure that whatever he/she is showing is the absolute
best rendition of the service
and is no reflection of the service you'll get.
Onsite Credit -
I've coined the next three
techniques "scam catalysts". In chemistry a catalyst is a substance that
increases the rate of a chemical reaction. In the seminar scam world
providing an onsite finance company to give the audience members instant
financing can be a scam catalyst.
I've seen it used to help
people finance perfectly legitimate training and even I have reasonable
financing available in my licensed Internet marketing school. But, in
most cases it's used to "increase the rate of scamming" by giving you
access to fast and usually way overpriced credit.
Please get control of your own credit situation and don't fall prey to
someone who wants to give you easy and overpriced credit...especially
when they are rushing you to make a decision. You can be sure they want
to take all that new borrowed money from you by the end of the seminar.
Limit - "Scam Catalyst"
This is a technique taught in
real estate and investment seminars. At the beginning of the seminar
they teach you how important it is to be able to get money quickly.
They also teach you how to
call your credit card company and get the limits raised on your credit
cards. . . Sometimes as high as $100,000.00. Many even give you a script
that tells you exactly what to say.
Conveniently for the seminar
promoter, you now have plenty of credit on your card to buy their high
priced and mostly worthless training.
I'm Important -
This scam catalyst uses a
sales technique called "overcoming objections before they are raised".
The scumbag seminar leader knows he/she has done some really bad stuff
to people. He/she knows that others either know about what they've done
or will find out about the bad deeds sooner or later.
In order set up and groom
future victims in the audience the seminar leader says something to the
effect that he/she has become so well-known that he/she is a target for
jealous competitors and negative people that have nothing better to do
than to cut others down.
The reason this is so insidious is that basically that is true. The more
well-known you are, the more likely someone will attack you. The problem
is that it's also a curtain to hide behind to make others think you
really didn't do bad things.
The bad guy/girl is making the audience members think that the bad
reports were false and planted by jealous competitors and negative
people.....Then ZAP! They pull one of the many scams on this page while
you're busy feeling sorry for them.
Watch the webinar covering this topic and the
sociopathic mind at
Watch the sizzle reel to my new show at
can volunteer for Antion's Army against the bad guys and girls too.)
http://www.Twitter.com/scambrigade Follow me to keep up on all kinds
Keep those emails coming folks. I'm determined to clean up this industry
and with your help, I'm making good progress.
Copyright © 2011 - 2013 Tom Antion