Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Top 20 Seminar Scams and How to Avoid Them

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.

Maybe you 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.

Good, but incomplete
Many seminars provide fairly good, but incomplete information on the front end. This is understandable because it’s pretty na├»ve 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.

Fake 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 seminar):

I’ll list them here for quick reference and then give more details below.

Top 20 Seminar Scams:

·        Fake Application Process

·        Fake Marketer of the Year Program

·        Celebrity Hype

·        Done for You Programs

·        Refusal to Record

·        Fake Urgency

·        Lying About Results

·        Misrepresentation

·        Shills

·        Theft by Conversion

·        Fake & Paid Testimonials

·        Networking Promises

·        Refund Policies

·        Pre-Sale Contact

·        Fake Access

·        Your Ideas are Great!

·        Fake Credentials

·        Fake Mastermind Sessions

·        Selling the Dream

·        Other


Click here for the 2013 Scam Update


 Fake Application Process

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” law.

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 mind.

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 highly suspect.

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 Year Program

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 (financial) kill.

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.


Celebrity Hype

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 free.

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 good. 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 promoter.

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 expensive seminar.

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.


Fake Urgency

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 up.”

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 J


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 lot more.

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 misrepresentation.

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.

From Wikipedia:

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 psychology, 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 artists. 

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.

Bonus Tip. – 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 stuff

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 spoliation of evidence

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.


Networking Promises

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

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 agreed to.

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 complaint is.

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.


Pre-Sale Contact

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 don’t exist.

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.


Fake Access

This is where the bad speakers and promoters use slick language to pretend to be available to you when they’re really not.

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 ways.

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 unlimited.

“One-on-one” does not make sense along with the word “teleseminar”. Teleseminar means many people on the line with the teleseminar promoter.

This would qualify for the double talk hall of fame.

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.

SuperTitaniumPlatinumGoldSilverDiamondEmerald Packages

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 package.

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.

Emergency Calls

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 HIS business. 


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 failed.”

Make sure you have independent corroboration of your ideas before you hire an expensive coaching program.


Fake Credentials

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 of directors.

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.


Fake Mastermind Sessions

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 concept right?

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 sessions.

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 of it.

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.


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 it.

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 . 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.


Tom Antion

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.

Live Demonstrations

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 disappeared.)
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 - "Scam Catalyst"

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.

Raise Your 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 - "Scam Catalyst"

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 (you can volunteer for Antion's Army against the bad guys and girls too.) Follow me to keep up on all kinds of scams.

Keep those emails coming folks. I'm determined to clean up this industry and with your help, I'm making good progress.

Tom Antion


ReyCarr said...

This article would be valuable for those in the coaching industry to read. Could we include it in our monthly, online magazine, which is sent to coaches? We'd provide proper attribution and if okay with you provide a brief biography of you as well as a photo. When published we can send you a link to the magazine. Here's a sample of our magazine:

Thanks for your consideration.

Rey Carr
Editor in Chief

Tom Antion said...

Absolutely. Please distribute everywhere you can.

Erik Wilgenhof Plante said...

Hi Tom, maybe a bit late but I enjoyed your article a lot. The tips are not just great for (potential) attendees but also for speakers. The moment you get a bit known as a speaker, you get lots of invitations and they all try to appeal to your ego. Getting involved in a "scam" seminar though can seriously damage your name even if you have nothing to do with the organizers.

Tom Antion said...

That's right Erik. It's one of the reasons I backed off speaking as much as I used to. I want to take a shower after being on stage with scumbags who are lying through their teeth.