Have you ever thought about paying for a training program to learn how to invest in real estate or start an online business? These programs can be pricey — and some make false promises about helping people make money. In fact, the FTC has sued plenty of real estate investment training and online business coaching programs that have done exactly that, while charging people thousands — or even tens of thousands — for those programs.
Pricey deceptive coaching and investment schemes often involve deceptive financing, as well. Today the FTC filed a complaint against Seed Consulting LLC, a company that claims to offer financing to aspiring entrepreneurs interested in buying a training program. But, the FTC says, Seed Consulting is not a lender and doesn’t offer any financing itself. Instead, Seed Consulting charges people $3,000 or more merely to submit credit card applications on their behalf. In addition, the FTC says, Seed Consulting improperly encouraged people to significantly overstate their income to get credit of $50,000 or more on these new cards.
You can probably predict what happened next to people who paid Seed Consulting: according to the FTC, they often ended up mired in debt with lower credit scores while Seed Consulting took in more than $10 million from their funding scheme.
So how do you protect yourself from deceptive training and financing schemes?
- Do your research before you act.Take a few minutes to search online: look for the name of the company and the words “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.”
- Be skeptical of any company that charges you a hefty sum to secure credit card financing. When such financing is warranted, you can typically obtain it directly from the credit card issuer on the Internet or via phone without any middlemen or fees.
- If a company encourages you to inflate your income on a credit application, walk away. Income information on credit applications must be truthful.
- Check out alternatives. Look at free or low-cost info on investing in real estate or starting a business before you buy a big, expensive training program. And certainly do that before racking up charges on new credit cards to pay for it.
- Talk it over with someone first. Tell someone you trust about the details of the investment training program. And tell someone how the company suggests you should finance the cost of that training.
Don’t be pressured into a quick decision. Scammers often say their offer or pricing is only available for a limited time. But deals will always be there. And remember: there’s no such thing as a sure-bet investment that has a high return but little or no risk. If someone offers you one, tell the FTC: ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
by Jim Kreidler Consumer Education Specialist, FTC