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Business coaching rip-offs like to flaunt wealth Image: Shutterstock / Roman Samborskyi

Coaching rip-off still going strong

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Hardly any other rip-off industry knows how to exploit social media and target group advertising so skillfully and to pull money out of consumers' pockets. Especially ads and promotional content on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram increasingly target an young audience and their desire to earn money the easy way. There, people are adressed on a personal level to participate and not be left out from a group on it´s way to success. Coaching advertisements never tire of touting a supposedly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that won't come back.

If you’ve ever wanted to become a financially successful entrepreneur and start your very own online business, you’re not alone. Being your own boss, or earning a living from investing or to generate a "passive" stream of income seems very appealing to vast number of people nowadays. Mostly the young give in to the hype and they find scams disguised as legitimate business offers, coaching programs, and "unique" investment opportunities that were put out by peers, very often the same young age as their customers.

When looking up at the websites of the self-made gurus, they often turn out to be around 21 years old and claim to have years of professional experience. This obviously does not set alarm bells ringing in the victims, but instead fuels the hope of getting rich quickly, just like the role models with their boastful self-promotion. Scammers and dream sellers know very well how to exploit the potential of emotional and personal appeal in social media.

How can you tell it´s a rip-off?

Here you will find some recommendations for action. We urgently warn against cost traps amounting to several thousand euros! If the guru promises a guaranteed income, high returns or a "proven system", it is probably a scam. Even if the as-if coach or mentor claims his "system" is cost-effective and will help you start your business, it can quickly turn out to be a financial bottomless pit. The bills for a mentoring programme run into hundreds to thousands of euros, and the empty promises to grow your business can lead you into heavy debt. The offers pretend to be expensive because the revenue would be worth it and because the mentoring would be exclusive. Neither is the case!

Testimonials from staff and edited customer reviews with 5-star ratings leave a misleading impression on potential customers who do not have a thorough look. We get calls every day from several aggrieved parties of a particular mentor, but the reviews on Trustpilot are spotless, not a single complaint. It doesn't add up at all.

What do they sell and how do they do it?

One word - promises - and mostly hot air. New customers respond to ads they see on social platforms and register on a landing page. They receive a call from a so-called "closer" - an employee or affiliate of the mentor behind the system who receives a bonus for "closing" the deal with a new "partner".

The business model that is in the foreground can consist of a bunch of different things accompanied by euphonious terms from business jargon. There is never much about the actual business in the descriptions. If doubted, the usual reply would be that the skills taught in master classes are secret knowledge. People who seek help from us point out that they are disappointed with the material provided or the promised insider support. Almost all participants fail to reach the business goals promissed by the gurus. Afterwards they are told to not have invested enough money or time or to just be incapable. It´s all their own fault. 

Participants were promised that they would receive advice during the months of their mentoring subscription. After signing up, most of the guidance and help in the form of videos or a few webmeetings is general knowledge or vague personal advice. Clients could often have obtained these from free online sources. In any case, such materials or tutoring sessions are not worth the amounts paid at all.

The business models or rather traps that are reported to us are constantly changing. In recent weeks, however, many of them are about selling domains, crypto currencies, reselling sneakers or clothing (dropshipping), becoming a dating coach, fixing one´s business mindset or even becoming a coach who trains coaches or "closers" in a pyramid system. The websites you come across always point out incredible income and don't tell you much about the actual business you would be running.

Before you get in - ask yourself:

  • What would I be selling or doing?
  • What are the total costs I would invest in the complete mentoring?
  • How and why would customers find and use my website or service?
  • How would the business generate income?
  • What would my specific expenses be? Can I afford it?
  • When would I expect to turn a profit?

Don´t rely on the gurus to give you satisfying answers to these questions!

​​​​​​​Must read - if you consider signing 

  1. Find a coach yourself - if you feel you need one - don´t let them find you! Avoid unsolicited calls, especially when you are unprepared. There are certified professionals that can provide you with approved certificates from public organisations!
  2. Check the credentials of your coach. Be wary of testimonials from partners or reviews from people who have never left a review on any platform other than the one praising the business coach and their system.
  3. Get second opinion on the matter from a person you trust and know well. You are welcome to give us a call and let us check it!
  4. Make screenshots from the ads or promisses you were given. Save written conversations from direct chats with the provider as well.
  5. Take your time! Do not let yourself be pressured! Signers are often pressured during a video call. A guru or his partners (closers) will tell you that someone else will get your place if you would not sign during the call.
  6. Quit immediately, if they use high pressure sales tactics! If their system is bunch of bloat, they can´t afford you to look them up and sleep about it.
  7. Don´t waive your right of withdrawal! During the sign-up process on the online platform usually used to process the transaction (i.e. Digistore or Copecart), signers are often asked to confirm a checkbox that disables their right of withdrawal. Sometimes sellers lull signers into a false sense of security and make this important click themselves. You should end the conversation here at the latest!

If you were tricked into booking a questionable coaching subscription with the above mentioned methods you can use the following sample letter to contest the contract.

Media show an increased interest in scams about quick money through business coaching and we have given several interviews recently. You also can find our more detailed article here.

Most recently, the satirist Jan Böhmermann took up the topic in the ZDF programme Magazin Royal and reached an audience of millions. In particular, he criticised the Berlin based sales platform Copecart as a stapes holder of the dubious coaching scene. Copecart (and its competitor Digistore24) take over the contracting and billing of coaching subscriptions and play a very important role in the scene. We had supported the ZDF editorial team in their research for the programme and referred injured parties for the presentation of typical dubious business transactions. As mentioned in the programme, more than 600 complaints about Copecart have been registered in the ECC network, and 96% of the victims come from Austria, as the Austrian ECC is particularly active in this area and has acquired expertise on dubious coaching providers over the years.

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