The Science of Seminar Scams – Beware!

As many of you know, for the past several years I’ve been railing against the seminar industry and begging for some self-policing. The shame is that the industry is getting worse and worse. Up and coming speakers see how the established scammers operate and think the fraudulent techniques they are seeing are the ways things should be.

In a very popular past article I showed you many of the techniques seminar scammers use to defraud you and your friends. In this posting I’m going to show you the science behind the techniques.

It’s an Illusion

Before I begin, let me address the principle of “Illusion of Invulnerability. In layman’s terms it’s the concept of “It will never happen to me.” This principle is prevalent in our educated, ego driven society. It means that since we never believe bad things will happen to us, we never take steps to protect ourselves.

  • “I’ll never get mugged, so why should I study self-defense.”
  • “I’ll never forget my house keys, so why should I hide one out in the yard (just happened to me last night after living here 12 years.)”
  • “I’ll never get cancer, so why should I quit eating toxic foods”, etc.

It’s the same thing with seminar scams. “I’m too smart to get sucked in by one of those slick talking pitchmen/women.”

A famous conman once said, “If you think you can’t get scammed, . . . . I want to meet you.”

Let’s say you are too smart to get robbed by a sociopathic seminar speaker. Are your friends that are going to a seminar smart enough to keep from getting fleeced? At least pass this information on to them to heighten their awareness. They’ll thank you for it.

Oh, and one more thing about being too smart and business savvy, — according to a report by (FINRA) the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Foundation, investment fraud victims had more education, earned more and were more financially literate than the general population. “Many of the victim lists look like a ‘who’s who of American Business”.

Same Old, Same Old

In interviews with many convicted scammers certain underlying principles are almost certain to appear. Many of these techniques have been used for centuries to rob people.

  • A heightened emotional state — AKA “ether”
  • Phantom Riches
  • Source Credibility
  • Social Consensus
  • Urgency / Scarcity
  • Good Deal
  • I’m your friend.

The Most Important Scammer Tool

“Under the ether” is slang used by con artists to describe a heightened emotional state of their victims. The con artist / scam seminar speaker wants you under the ether the entire time they are dealing with you because they are absolutely sure you will not be able to make great decisions for yourself when in this high level emotional state.

I don’t know for sure, but there are a couple ideas I have on how they started using this term. 1. When you are under ether (the chemical) you are unconscious which means they can take your money and you don’t even know what’s going on, or 2. Ether is also used to describe the sky as in “All your money is going off to the ether.”

Emotions cause us to turn off our normal internal warning signs. We all know the phrase, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Can you really use that phrase to your advantage when music is blasting, people are clapping, people are running to the back of the room, and a fiery motivational speaker is pushing every emotional button you have and many you didn’t even know you have?

Music, dancing, chanting, back massages, celebrities, packed in crowds, fake or real testimonials and many other techniques are used at seminars to get you in the “ether”. Sometimes it’s opposite in that profound and mind numbing silence and meditation is used to get you in the ether. Either way loud or not, it’s going to be bad for your decision making abilities and the scammers know this.

In a study done by Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist and Professor of neuroscience and psychology at NYU, he discovered what he calls the “low road” (I think aptly named because scumbag speakers chose to take it). This “low road” is a direct path to the emotional parts of the brain. Information on this road travels twice as fast as information going to the rational part of the brain. It’s a scammer’s job to overload this road with emotional stimuli thus effectively “hijacking” the rational part of the brain. This is why people who are considered very rational can act in very irrational ways when their emotional buttons are pushed.

The Phantom of the Seminar

Instead of, as in the play, a disfigured musical genius being obsessed with a beautiful girl, the slick talking, finely dressed speaker is obsessed with your wallet. One of the extremely powerful techniques they use is “Phantom Riches”.

When you are told you can have something that’s normally unattainable (phantom) you would think the old saying about “if it’s too good to be true” would kick in. It won’t kick in if the scammer has done a good job of getting you “under the ether” as I discussed above.

The next part of sucking you in deeper is to tell you about all the great money you could make. One female speaker I distanced myself from many years ago was on stage saying matter-of-factly things like “a 30% return on your money is no problem at all.” A few years later I saw her and she had reduced it to 15%. Most recently I heard she had over 200 lawsuits against her. I guess a few of those people that gave her money didn’t quite see their 30% returns.

Another loudmouth punk who’s made deals with the devil(s) (the devils I’m referring to are other scammer speakers and Internet marketers) was reciting figures like this. “All you have to do is sell 500 of product X for $197.00 each and out of those buyers sell a coaching program to 100 of them for $5000.00 each and you’ve made nearly $600,000.00 for the year.

Are you kidding me? Are you aware of the abilities, reach, and expertise it would take to accomplish such a feat? He made it sound like just by buying his stupid videos and talking to his $2.00 an hour coaches you would be immediately able to do this. That’s just one of the reasons he’s high on my scammers list.

It’s Incredible How Credible I Am

Another of the absolute musts in a seminar scammer’s box of tricks is to make a big fuss of how credible they are. In fact almost all the scammers I know spend the bulk of their time trying to prove how credible they are rather than “actually being credible” by servicing their customers.

There are various ways they do this.

  • They pay large amounts of money to get in a position where they can get their picture taken with an “A” list celebrity. They then plaster these pictures everywhere potential victims can see them.
  • They have celebrities appear at their events.
  • Using their charisma, false promises and peer pressure they force situations where people give testimonials (preferably on video) while in the ether and BEFORE they have been fleeced. Again they put these testimonials everywhere possible.
  • They tie themselves to credible charities who don’t really know how to vet their donors. Sometimes the charities get the donations and sometimes they don’t. By the time anyone finds about the chicanery, the charity’s name has been used to rob new victims.
  • They dupe the media into featuring them knowing that guests are not usually fully vetted  because of time constraints.
  • They flood the Internet with fake websites, blog mentions etc. claiming the scammer speaker is NOT a scammer.

Scammers spend most of their time trying to convince you they are NOT scammers.

Scammers spend most of their time trying to convince you they are NOT scammers.

The problem with this section is that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting your picture taken with celebrities, having them at your events and getting lots of testimonials and media attention. Where this crosses the line is when the only reason you do these things is to use fake credibility and fake Internet mentions to rob unsuspecting victims.

Keeping Up With the Joneses

By falling in to the trap of following everyone else rather than making your own rational and well thought out decisions at a seminar is more like keeping up with the Rev. Jim Jones’ People’s Temple suicide cult. I.e. your money will be lost along with everyone else’s.

We saw above how scammers use celebrities to build their credibility. The con artist also knows that if you see or hear about someone else “just like you” that has had success investing in the speaker’s training program you will be more likely to invest. That’s why you see an endless parade of regular people saying great things about the speaker.

Can you believe what these supposedly regular people say? Maybe or maybe not. One of the major networks did an undercover sting on infomercials where they found for as little as $50.00 they could get an out of work actor to say anything they wanted about a product that didn’t even exist. For as little as $5000.00 they got the chief dermatologist at a world renowned hospital to say a product was great when it wasn’t and they caught her on camera doing so. How she is still practicing is beyond me.

Remember, in the seminar world many of the testimonials were recorded while people were “under the ether” and before they were robbed. Couple that with stooges in the audience who were either paid or given more access to the speaker in exchange for their glowing tales of success. These tales may be espoused publicly in the middle of the event, or even more insidiously, while at lunch or even in the bathroom during breaks.

Buy Now or Be Sorry Forever

Another of the traits of almost all scams is the push to get you to decide quickly. This provides several advantages to the scammer. The first being they won’t have to waste time answering your questions and being nice to you during the seminar if you aren’t going to buy anyway. If you just walk away and get out of the room or go to lunch, that suits them just fine because they don’t have to take time away from potential victims.

The second reason is “Buyers aren’t readers and readers aren’t buyers.” According to the interview done by the AARP sanctioned book “Outsmarting the Scam Artists” by Doug Shadel the saying was coined by Johnny Weber (may not be his real name) a convicted scammer serving a ten year prison term. Johnny knew that the best prospects to scam were the ones who hurriedly signed on the dotted line without actually reading the agreement or asking a lot of questions.

To cover their fraudulent asses most seminar scammer agreements do say many of the things that are against your best interest. The scammers employ scumbag attorneys to draft these agreements and write them in such a way that it would take careful reading and probably a consultation with your attorney to actually understand what they say.

The scammers know that if they can get you to sign immediately before you really read the agreement, they have a great chance to take your money.

To create this urgent need to sign now, you’ll see and hear things like:

  • “I’m flying out right after my talk so this deal is only good for 30 minutes after I’m done.”
  • “I can only take the first 20 people at this price because I have to reserve time to take care of my full price clients.”
  • “There are only 10 slots left”
  • “This is a seminar only price. Once you leave here it’s $3000.00 more.”

Let’s Make a Deal

Another ploy that’s always used is that what is being offered is the best deal in the world and you’d be crazy to pass it up. It’s become the norm at a live event or webinar to provide heavily discounted products. You’ll see things like:

A $27,500.00 value

You pay only $1997.00

When showing this deal the scammer will go over a ton of items included in the deal all the while showing the “inflated” values of these items. Frequently these items are doubletalk and sound way better than they are. I actually burst out laughing when I heard one female scammer out of Canada say, “You get unlimited one-on-on coaching with me via teleseminar. (a $5000.00 value) ” . . . WHAT?

Wait a minute! Let’s break this down. First of all if you are on a teleseminar, that is not one-on-one coaching. Secondly, teleseminars only occur once a week or once a month which is certainly not “unlimited”. This doubletalk was totally designed to make you think you were getting one-on-one coaching with her when in fact there was ZERO one-on-one coaching.

You also hear things like, “This program has never been offered at this low of a price and never will be again.” Of course, next week the speaker will say the same thing at another event.

Karma Chameleon

Sociopathic seminar speakers are chameleon-like in their actions. They are your friend . . . at least until they get your money. A prominent psychiatrist on my anti-scam team told me, “These speakers are “grooming” the audience for the financial kill.”

If the speaker needs to act friendly to you to get your money, that’s what he does. If she sees you are star struck, then she’ll play the diva and make you feel honored to be around her. If he can tell you love humor, he’ll joke around with you and if he sees you’re all business, he’ll parade big, fraudulent numbers in front of you to get you to sign.

You'd be lucky if the fraudulent speaker you run in to is only two faced.

You’d be lucky if the fraudulent speaker you run in to is only two faced.

I.e. he or she will do or say anything true or not to take your money. I recall one victim statement where the scumbag speaker praised the ideas of two sisters who wanted to start a business. As soon as he got their money he dissed them and said their ideas were stupid and would never work.  . . . They had to file bankruptcy and default on the credit card they used to pay him.

In an interview, Culture Club front man Boy George explained: “The song Karma Chameleon is about trying to suck up to everybody. Basically, if you aren’t true, if you don’t act like you feel, then you get Karma-justice, that’s nature’s way of paying you back.”

I wonder if that had anything to do with his long time public heroin addiction denials and his 15 month prison sentence for falsely imprisoning a male escort and beating him with a chain.

Anyway a chain beating would be too good for many of these predators that “up until now” have been flying under the radar.

You Can Taste the Difference

Circa 1984 Pepsi Cola Company started using the ad slogan “Taste the Difference” Prior to this circa 1975 they started the Pepsi challenge where they gave people a sip of unlabeled Pepsi and Coke to see which one they liked better. Even though the challenge faced many challengers that cried foul in how the challenge was orchestrated, it still brings up a good point. Similar products can have significant differences. For instance:

Many speakers give you a special deal at live seminars. . . Fraudulent speakers lie about the value and exclusivity of the deal. Honest speakers don’t.

Many speakers get you to buy at the event. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that . . . Fraudulent speakers do it so you can’t slip out of the ether and rationally analyze what you are buying which is probably bad. Honest speakers allow you to fully review what you are getting.

Many speakers use testimonials in their speeches. Fraudulent speakers use fake or misleading ones and a bunch of celebrity pictures to create false credibility. Honest speakers don’t.

Many speakers show potential income. Fraudulent speakers out and out lie about results or paint pictures of great riches only attainable by one in a million. Honest speakers give true pictures of the work and time needed to achieve good results and they don’t hype these figures.

Many speakers are willing to give you an evaluation of your ideas before you sign up with them. Fraudulent speakers will say anything to puff you up to get your money. Honest speakers will tell you their true thoughts even if it keeps you from signing up for their program.

Address the Objections

Any good salesperson will tell you that you must bring up objections before the prospect does. This keeps the salesperson from having to back-pedal and look guilty when someone brings up something negative. Certainly this is a time tested technique in the sales process. Bring up your weaknesses before they do and you look totally honest and transparent . . . but are you really?

I hate to be the one to tell you. . . . The scammers know about this technique too.

You’ve got convicted felons out their running events and speaking. You’ve got people who’ve had their assets frozen by the government because of their deceptive business practices out there speaking. You’ve even got people that have killed participants in their seminars out there speaking. They all have their carefully crafted stories to overcome these seemingly insurmountable bad marks on their records (objections).

The sad part is. . . . many people believe their horsepucky stories and continue to get robbed over and over. Con artists call this “loading” or “reloading”. They know absolutely that a person suckered once is not wiser but is the most likely person to get suckered again. One of the reasons is explained below.

Robert Cialdini in his classic book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” talks about commitment and consistency. He relates story after story of how once someone makes a decision, even if it was bad or not at all what was promised or they expected, they defend it. He calls this “self-delusion”. Not only is it bad for the person that got taken advantage of to do this, it’s bad for future victims. Had this person stood up and complained they wouldn’t have been robbed again and others would have had fair warning about the scammer.

You’ll hear statements from scammers like:

  • “Other speakers are jealous of my success and are spreading false rumors.”
  • “The Government needed a scapegoat and I was it.”

Here’s my favorite which I’ve heard from at least three major scammers:

  • “My partner did some very bad things and I was left holding the bag.”

How Can You Protect Your Friends?

Since we know you and I are far too smart to be fleeced hahaha what are some of the things our friends and colleagues must realize and do to keep from getting robbed?

First let’s recall some of the proven characteristics of people that have been victims of financial scams, i.e. where money was invested for some kind of return:

Compared to the general population victims have:

  • A higher level of education
  • Higher incomes
  • Better financial literacy, and

Many victims are older which makes sense because being older gives you more time to accumulate money, credit and other assets that can be stolen.

Let’s look at the some cumulative results of studies about financial fraud victims. These studies compared the behavior characteristics of people that have been conned to behavior characteristics of the general population as reported in the Doug Shadel AARP book.

Victims allow themselves to be exposed to more sales messages. At home this might be staying on the phone with a cold caller rather than hanging up or reading all your junk mail. It might mean going to a “Free Lunch” put on by a financial planner. In the seminar world it would be attending more seminars where sales pitches are made.

Victims showed more interest in persuasive statements rather than immediately dismissing them as horsepucky. Statements like “You’ll make more money.”, “I’ve got thousands of happy customers.”, “Celebrities love me.”, “I only have ten slots left.”, “This is the best deal I’ve ever offered, “ etc., are all examples of persuasive statements. Whether they are true or not or whether it really matters to your success or not. . . well, that’s another story.

Victims don’t take steps to protect themselves. How many people “thoroughly” check out the speakers and promoters at seminars they attend? I contend not very many or I wouldn’t have to be doing my anti scam work. Also, I emphasize the word “thoroughly” because scammers flood the Internet with false positives and glowing testimonials about themselves knowing victims won’t dig deep enough to find the real dirt. Combine this with the “invincible factor” mentioned above and you’ve got a recipe for disappointment and financial disaster.

Victims are risk takers. . . . Nothing ventured / nothing gained types. This is another one of the problems that’s tough to overcome because it can be a healthy attitude if approached judiciously. When it’s used to manipulate you into making unwise purchases based on false promises and deceit, it can ruin you financially.

Victims have low financial self-control. A joint study by Kristy Holtfreter, Michael D. Reisig (Florida State University) & Travis C. Pratt (Washington State University) for “Criminology” showed that certain behavioral activities correlated highly with fraud victims. Admittedly this study is six years old,  when remote ordering of products was not as prevalent as it is today, but some of its findings are rather telling. They found that two forms of remote ordering  . . . from phone solicitation and from infomercials resulted in a 61% increase in the chances of being targeted by scammers. The other thing that jumped out at me was that by adding only one additional risk factor on their scale increased your chances of falling prey to a fraud by 302%.


Just by reading this and my companion article “The Top 20 Seminar Scams” you and your colleagues will have a much greater chance of avoiding becoming a victim at a seminar.

The problem is as our friend Johnny Weber said above, “Buyers aren’t readers and readers aren’t buyers”. You have partially passed the seminar safety test because if you read this far, you are far more aware of the kinds of psychological and NLP type techniques that can be and are used against you in many seminars. If you take the time to read the companion “Top 20” article you could become a General in my Scam Brigade against sociopathic, criminal speakers.

What about your friends and colleagues? Are they readers? If not, they have a rude awakening in store for them unless you do them a favor and give them a synopsis of what you’ve learned about here.

Send them links. Offer to talk to them on the phone, or on Skype to discuss a plan to stay financially safe at any seminar they are planning to attend. I advise people to print out my “Top 20” article and take it with them to a seminar. I frequently get reports back that almost every scam on my list was used by one speaker or another at multispeaker events.


It’s getting harder and harder to find speakers who are totally legitimate. Besides the industry simply being flooded with bad apples, regular speakers are being pressured into questionable behavior just to stay alive.

Promoters of events expect a large amount of money to come from prime time slots at their seminars because they get a large percentage of the sales. What I’ve seen over the years is that speakers are telling bigger and bigger lies from stage so they can sell more than the scammer who spoke just before them.

It can be even worse when the promoter is also the main speaker. That “person” (and I use that term loosely) has total control of the entire event. If the speaker is a cunning rip-off, this is an extremely dangerous situation for you and your colleagues. There is absolutely no interest at all in serving and helping the audience members. The event is orchestrated like a sick play to rob as many people as possible.

This is when the entire fraudulent parade is unleashed. Fake “Marketer of the Year” sideshows, fake application processes, paid celebrity endorsements, stooges and just about every other technique you see in my article are used to keep you in the “ether” and take your money.

I’ll be the first to admit that even the worst scumbag speaker has some good information to impart. Many of these speakers are very smart. They’ve just chosen to use their skills in a negative way. They use the limited good information they give you to lure you into paying for inflated “Phantom Training” they’re NEVER going to give you.

Slick onstage personas can make a piece of dog poop look like the most important dog poop you will encounter in your entire business career.. The bad ones all manipulate your emotional state (ether). They dangle big money in front of your face with little work (Phantom Riches). They look great with celebrity endorsements, (dubious) testimonials, and deals of a lifetime. It all has to happen for you right that minute or to them you are the dumbest loser ever to be let out of your house without a chaperone.

Don’t let yourself or someone you know become the next highly educated, high income, financially literate victim of professional level onstage con artists.

Please leave your comments below.

Related Items: – The first webinar is on the sociopathic mind of scam speakers – A listing and explanation of the exact techniques used to rob people at seminars (print it out and take it with you to your next seminar)

90 thoughts on “The Science of Seminar Scams – Beware!

  1. Tom, This is excellent information. I admire your courage, your research, and your impeccable ethics all through the years. You are a true asset to the speaking and internet community. Thank you isn’t enuf.

  2. I am sad that you singled out a woman to focus on when there are so many men scumbags as well. Bit ironically, when you said “woman” I immediately knew who you meant.

    I remember a man speaker coming to the local NSA meeting and telling us that if he wanted money for a new house, he would just blast emails to his followers that an already “drunk the kool aid.” I was appalled and wrote a letter, but the local didn’t print it because he was famous and had offered his services free of charge. He is still making money.

    • Hi Edree: I mentioned several other male speakers I just didn’t call them males. Unfortunately we are getting more and more women scammers in the industry.

  3. Tom wonderful article and I will sure to pass it on to all my clients and email list. I feel very blessed to have been able to work with you and not have to worry about not getting what was promised. The value that you give to your clients is phenomenal.

    • My pleasure Craig. It seems like a simple idea….do what you say, but it’s hard to find people who will actually do it anymore.

  4. Pingback: The Science of Seminar Scams – Beware! - ...

  5. Thanks Tom – appreciate your courage and commitment…

    Like you, I’ve seen so many of these.

    Thanks for being a model of how to serve your clients and passing that commitment on to us…

  6. I wish I would have read this years ago before my first ever multi-day ‘speaker bootcamp’ I attended.

    infuriating looking back on it.

    grateful this is available to others that may be in the shoes I was in.

    running a 6-figure speaking business now, I can tell you that there are few ‘tricks’ to the trade of info marketing…but a lot of it is work, effort and testing testing testing

  7. Great article Tom! As one of your biggest fans, I’m very appreciative of what you do. But also as a seminar promoter in the real estate business, it is getting more & more difficult to find good trainers who are really legitimate. Always I keep in mind your words in this arena. Thanks for all you do!

  8. Tom,

    I’ve been watching and listening to these pitches for years. You hit the nail on the head.

    Unfortunately, many of these techniques have become status quo in our industry.

    Thanks for sharing.


    • Yes David that’s what I’m saying. New speakers think this is the way it should be and the follow the fraudulent leaders.
      Hope all is well.

  9. Good Morning Tom,
    Thanks for spreading the word.

    It’s always been fascinating to see the deliberate manipulation for short term gain. And I say short-term, because if they were really in the game to help their clients win, they’d make those changes you refer to.

    Love that Karm Chameleon reference.

    Keep doing the good work Tom, proud to know, support and follow your advice.

    Tom in Vancouver

    • You got that right Tom. People want maximum money without delivering value. I would like to say that’s a short term endeavor but some of the biggest names you know have been scamming for years. As I said in the article, they spend their time with publicists and media building their name up so that people who haven’t heard of them before will give them money.

  10. Great Article with lots of great information. Guess I will be pulling out my logic book and reading the different fallacies again.

    Thanks for all your research and sharing the knowledge.


  11. Thanks for the work you’re doing Tom!

    Some of these seminar scam techniques are used in webinars and the emails that promote them. I saw one product being promoted using ‘money made’ testimonials of students from an unrelated coaching program by the same marketer.

    • Yes Sue I know these people will do or say anything and/or hoodwink others to say things to reach their nefarious goals!

  12. Great article and so was the previous one. Are you going to publish a book? Maybe more people will read it and become more informed.

  13. Thanks for sharing all this information, Tom. Almost 4 1/2 years ago, I put $10k on my credit card because I bought into the high energy sales job given by 2 scammers with a “done for you” Internet marketing program. Working full-time and having so little time to pursue my business part-time – it seemed like a good solution to get my business off the ground. It just got zero balance credit card into a huge balance that I am still paying off. Indeed – ALWAYS heed the advice, “buyer beware.” And NEVER buy something because of the time pressure/scarcity tactic. If the program is good, the presenter will offer it again at a time that may work better for you. And, if he/she is as legitimate and with as high integrity as Tom, you will be convincing the seller to let you buy and not vice versa. Tom has NEVER sold me on anything. He offers programs and great value in his free teleseminars. He says up front that an offer will be made but there is never any pressure. I LOVE that. In addition to scammers, there is also a practice in the coaching industry to use the scarcity/you must sign up now to get this price which bothers me. Also, I have been asked for testimonials when I really didn’t feel I got fantastic value and I don’t like that either. In short, heed Tom’s advice and just never rush into ANYTHING. If you truly need and want something – it will be there at the time that is right for you. And, if the person offering is legitimate, he/she will still be around.

    • Well said Laura. I’ve yet to see a “Done for You” program that wasn’t really a “Done TO You” Program. Its ridiculous to think someone else will do everything your business needs done. If they were really competent to do so they would have to charge you enormous amounts of money….far more than $10K and if they were that good at it, why would they need you? They could just do the work for themselves and make all the money. I’m sorry this happened to you.

  14. no offense Tom, but you sound a little butthurt. I bought all your ‘stuff’ back in the buttcamp days and it’s no different than the stuff you are now demonizing. Sorry bro…every tactic you said the scammers use…you used it on us at a Mark Victor Hansen seminar, the whole scarcity, buy now or be sorry forever…yeah…that was you brother man. Still thanks for the info though. For some of these things it really takes one to know one. Nothing but love for you though…you are just trying to get yours. I get it.

    • Chris LOL on the “Butt” reference. I don’t think you carefully read the section called “You Can Taste the Difference”. In that section I reminded you that fraudulent speakers use some of the same techniques legitimate speakers use. The difference is the bad guys have no intentions of supporting what they sold. Also the ‘buy now or be sorry forever’ reference ….. I can’t go anywhere without someone telling me “You were right. I got ripped off. I wish I would have gone with you first.” In all the years I’ve been doing this ZERO lawsuits. Rick Frishman from Author 101 (he was invovled with Mark in the Mega seminar years) brags about him never having had a complaint from one of his attendees in the ten years or so I’ve been speaking for him. Also, we have an actual staff of 8 full time people plus myself servicing my students. Etc etc. I could go on and on about how I run a legitimate speaker business, but the point is. It’s not the techniques so much, but whether they are used to help people or to simply enrich the scammer.

  15. Tom, advise to your readers in addition to the great comments you have written. Before thinking of attending a seminar Google “name of speaker” and “complaints” “scam” “lawsuit” and “fraud” individually, i.e. Name complaints, name scam, etc. If you do your due diligence before attending you will keep yourself from wasting time as well as money on the shysters. I have been to too many and know the gimmicks but I have also seen many friends gets hurt.

  16. Thank you Tom for this article. I met you over 20 years ago while we were being trained by some of these scammers. I always felt that you were authentic. I look forward in working with you so that we can clean up our industry

    • Thanks Brent and I’m thrilled to hear about your successes and that Today show contest you won had me in big froggy tears. Congrats.

  17. “Up and coming speakers see how the established scammers operate and think the fraudulent techniques they are seeing are the ways things should be.” That is so true, Tom, and that means that it’s going to get worse until someone stands up and says “no more!” Thanks for being that someone. -jim

    • You’re exactly right Jim. That’s why I’m standing up and smart legitimate speakers will too. With the help of a former White House staffer I’m preparing my information and evidence files to present to Congress. If they start to regulate the industry, it will be more trouble for all of us.

  18. Hi Tom, Another feast of information. No one likes being scammed. Add this tip too, just because someone claims to be an ‘expert’ doesn’t make it true, people should check credentials as well.

    • Yes that’s right Loreen. People are out there teaching others how to be “instant” experts. I don’t mind teaching people how to eventually become an expert, but “instant” and “expert” don’t go together.

  19. Hi Tom,
    Keep up the good work. Everyone needs to know there are always two sides to the same coin. It is wise to check references and ask for real referrals, then contact them for the truth. The FTC will eventually have a field day suing all the fake scammers with false testimonials on their sites. The financial penalties are huge. Just ask some of the marketers that lost everything to the government and barely escaped jail-time.

    • Thanks Ralph. When these people start serving jail time and coughing up millions in fines you’ll see me dancing at their sentencing hearing 😉

  20. Tom, thank you for being so thorough in your exposé. Too many of us have fallen prey to the tactics you have outlined. I appreciate your efforts to protect the masses. Keep up the good work, as you are so desperately depended upon and appreciated by everyone that you deal with!
    Make good health and good fortune continue to follow you.

  21. And having been scammed myself by a publicity diva who promised to get my articles out there “where they deserve to be published”, who was dropping names like The View and Oprah, and posting logos on her website from major news outlets to fool her prey … and then delivering less than the minimum, I feel this article is critical for everyone to read. I lost thousands. Every speaker and entrepreneur needs to read this and save themselves the heartache.

    Also, ALWAYS READ THE Terms Of Service before hiring ANYONE who promises to help you with your business. Some scammers hide behind the TOS to scam you. They tell you one thing to your face or on the phone and their TOS promises much, much, less. They have no legal requirement to do anything beyond what’s in their TOS.

    That’s the mistake I made. I took her at her word and did not read the TOS. She used every single technique identified in this article. Wow. I wish I had this article before I signed her TOS, which was a trick move, also. Oh… by the way, even though you negotiated this deal on the phone with me… the only way for you to pay is through my website… don’t worry about the details, you have a special deal…

    Thanks Tom for the expose. I sure hope it helps others to not get taken like I was.

    • Susan that’s a great tip. READ, READ, READ and you’ll reduce the chances that you’ll get taken. However, even with a perfect written agreement, it’s only as good as the person signing it. Many will just dare you to sue them or try to intimidate you.

  22. Please note: The “publicity diva” I referenced does not come up in a Google search of “publicity diva”. So, those that come up are not her! She has changed her company name three times since she scammed me. What she sells continually changes also.

  23. Tom, as I’ve said before, you are a one of a kind gentleman. Once again, you’ve gone over the top in covering this subject. Thank you so very much.

  24. Tom you have always been a trail-blazer, yet I truly respect you for standing up couragously making this scam brigade your life’s mission. As an expert who teaches others to become experts I feel especially responsible to create true and ethical students who do what they say they are going to do for their clients. It’s sad to think you now need to teach ethics from stage too.

    I’m still shocked when I see scammers doing this – I went to an event last month and was shocked to see a guy overselling the dream so drastically it was sickening. But even worse was the huge line up of people buying his worthless program for 3K. I had to be on a panel with him after that and was actually sick to my stomach being around him.
    Thanks for making a difference! Debbie

  25. Thanks for this great info, Tom. I have followed you for many years and bought your speaker book and many of your CDs. You have always given great value and more than you promised. In fact, I am grateful to you for introducing me to Adam Witty in one of your CDs. His Charleston based company, Advantage Media, published my first book in 2012, “Catching Critical Changes: 6 Essential Steps to Effective Nursing Assessment.” For many years I have presented workshops to nurses and never thought about not giving value. When you write your book on scams, can you comment on online scams and webinars? Did you know that Adam and Steve Gilliland have started Speaker U? Thanks

  26. Hi Tom,

    I really appreciate your dedication to this issue in the seminar business. The part that has bothered me the most when I have attended seminars with these types of speakers is the time they take away from the program I paid for …. plus the travel expenses….airfare, hotel, food and the cost from being away from my business. The last 3 day seminar I attended had about 5 or 6 speakers that each took an hour or so for their presentation plus the 30 – 60 minutes to presnt their special program and all the commotion that ensues afterwards. It cut the actual program time in half. I was so annoyed….as were many others who attended. The scam here was that we we told there would be a lot of personal attention and not told there would be any other speakers…I was just shocked!

    Thank you again 🙂

  27. Tom, I learned about you at a recent event I attended and so appreciated your work and presentation that I signed up…well calling hubby back on the farm, he told me to cancel until our finances were more fluid, your staff did not make a big deal out of it at all. I am learning and as we move ahead, maybe we can attend your retreat one day. Thank you for raising the bar.

    • Hi Nancy, I remember you and I was sorry to see you go but I certainly wouldn’t hassle you about it like the scammers would. Someone who isn’t allowed to speak at Author 101 anymore was heard browbeating a person who wanted to cancel. I’m certainly happy to tell you the error of your ways if you don’t take advantage of my deal hahaha but I’m not going to be an ass about it. Keep in mind we finance people at very low rates. I’m already wealthy and I’d rather you be with me where you won’t get ripped off than get no training or worse yet fall for a fraudulent deal.

  28. Thank you Tom for this extensive information AND the courage and support to publish it. Another tactic is the 100% no-questions-asked return policy. Having spent thousands of dollars with a coach and asking for a refund because I did not feel I got my monies worth, I was told “No! You received 10 times your monies worth!” and that was that.

    As a speaker, I always aim to over deliver!!

    Thank you again for this!

  29. Tom,

    ‘Truly a great article and some excellent responses (I know a few of those folks). But here’s a new one for you: I myself am a self-proclaimed land trust expert, seminar leader, author and sales trainer in Creative Real Estate Financing. And quite honestly, at times I question MY OWN integrity and value to the REI community and my clients.

    Here’s Why: Over the past 25+ years, I’ve sold a few thousand memberships in my personal training programs (‘and what used to sell for $8,000 a few year ago is now $2,200 due to current economic conditions).

    Good for me, right? Well, I don’t know about that. I find, as the late AD Kessler (and other trainers) told me: only 5-8% of the people who buy REI courses ever become successful with them; and a similar percentage ever even get past the first book or recording, much less the first Purchase Offer (a disappointing but accurate fact).

    When I sign people up, we don’t take their money in for at least a calendar week…’sometimes more. I offer a 100% lifetime money-back success guaranty. I remain on call for any student or their clients at least 12-14 hours every day, and I do bi-weekly group training sessions. BUT STILL… ‘only a 7-8% follow through rate.

    I normally feel great about what I do, and truly love doing it…’whether I’m selling something or not. But I have to admit, I sometimes wonder if somehow I fall into some of the categories you mention in your article.

    ‘Guilt for the small success rate (‘although above average…from what I’m told)? Or is it guilt from selling something to people who shouldn’t be investing in something they’ll never take advantage of, and which they’re buying because of their confidence in me?

    My seminars (3 day boot camps now) are just me, my wife, partner, our attorney and our social media publicist. I’ve tried to capitalize on outside speakers in the past; but find them to lack knowledge about what we do; and to push products that are incompatible with ours; ‘or they are the very people your article references (Slick Willie’s hawking meatless bones).

    There truly is a fine distinction between a consummate sales person and a scam artist, and, candidly, I do sometimes reflect on how close I and others in my industry may at times be to that line.

    Tom, maybe this should have been taken up with a psychiatrist…’or a good bartender. ;o) But, hey, you’re there!

    • Hi Bill and thanks for your candid comment. I learned a long time ago that I can’t be responsible for someone’s success. I will not sell my program to someone clearly looney tunes but for most people their lack of success with my program is twofold. They don’t know how to really work hard (although they think they do) and they are poor at resisting the next magic bullet promising no work and big riches. On people that are marginal I demand they recruit a part time geek and I demand they get some computer training. It’s ridiculous to think you can make a fortune with an Internet business and you don’t even know what a browser is.

      The people that fully commit almost all make money. Unfortunately many people don’t have the ability to stick to things. I blame this on parents continually trying to make the world easier for their kids. Then the kids grow up and can’t focus on anything and bounce around to the easiest path that doesn’t make them sweat.

      So, as long as someone is selling legitimate training, doesn’t sell to people who clearly will never have the skills necessary for success and they deliver what they promise, I have no problem with that. . . . Although you still might want to check with your Psychiatrist hahaha

  30. I hope that you include [REDACTED] on your list of lying, manipulative non delivering high end thieves! I can provide details, but I would be surprised if you needed them.
    Glad to serve,

    • Yes, she’s on my list. I’m always happy to privately receive additional evidence for my files. You know how to reach me.

  31. Thanks, Tom…
    I have been scammed…sorry to say. There is something about late nights, long seminars, constant stimulus (music, people, tons of presenters) that weakens our ability to make decisions. I thought I was a good judge of character and “too smart” for scams. But yes, I was. Thanks for being real. Love ya’, Dr. Elena 😉

  32. Hi Tom and thanks for the great info. About 5 years ago I bought into an investing coaching education program for $2,000 which was later sued by the FTC. You would think theyd make money investing, not coaching which should have been my first clue. Given I have an MBA you’d think I’d know better, but experience is the best teacher and now I have a better education. It was quite embarrassing and I didn’t say anything for several years but now I’m thinking I got off cheaply. Thanks for your information, your mentorship, and info on marketing tactics that are used to scam people.

    I was also a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners for several years and they have some unbelievable stories of how individuals and companies get defrauded financially. It might be a good resource for additional data.

    Thanks for all you do!

    • That’s terrible Judy. I don’t mind people selling training on what they do so long as it’s legitimate. These people obviously weren’t and again it shows anyone can get robbed. Thanks for the resource.

  33. I wanted to follow up on my posting above. I did some research to jog my memory about the scam and the seminar I bought it at. The company, who got sued by the SEC, not FTC, presented at a seminar I front of 10,000 at a Seattle arena, but was not the event host, whom I do not remember. But the other speakers at the event in 2009 included Brian Tracy, Rudy Giuliani, and Colin Powell. Itwas hard not to think the financial firm was legit given the company they were in. My point is that sometimes the most legitimate and reputable circumstances can present scam opportunities, so as always buyer beware.

    • Yes Judy, this falls into the celebrity false credibility category. The big names are used to suck people in and then the no name high pressure people come in for the kill.

  34. Excellent expose! I have always disliked sales and most seminar folks because I knew they were pushy beyond what the service was worth. However, I took some courses on public speaking because these people were successful (offering good services etc) and some would coach the methods you mention. I might sell less product and I sleep better (with integrity). These scammers are everywhere and rarely become honest (where the product speaks for itself). Since you are a long term author and speaker coach, I really appreciate that YOU wrote this article. Well done !!

    • Thanks Allen for the kind words. Yes most of these people never reform. A psychologist told me in the counseling profession they say sociopathy is a “Womb to tomb” affliction. The people with sociopathy never think there is anything wrong with them so they never get help. It’s a shame.

  35. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Tom. For pointing out all the ways these guys (and gals) are ripping off the public and playing on their fears. I can’t even count anymore the “rebuild your credit” victims who went to the “famous guy’s” seminar, did the instant testimonials, drank the Kool-Aid, plunked down the hard earned money and then came looking for me to help them rebuild after they got incredibly deep in debt again. That this guy can still tout his “credit after bankruptcy” stuff after going bankrupt a second time is incredible to me. Keep holding the high watch! Appreciate you soo much!

  36. Tom,
    The scam techniques you describe are unfortunately not peculiar to seminars. One sees/hears them used across the board in media advertising all the time. A recent high-court ruling now has made it LEGAL for political candidates to out-and-out LIE about their opponents in campaign ads.

    Right alongside the ‘under the ether’ phenomenon is also a curious psych research finding indicating that the higher the price of something (e.g. automobiles and houses) the greater the probability of purchasing decisions being driven by IMPULSE instead of rational decision-making.

    So…we’re back to the old saying ‘Caveat Emptor’ (buyer beware!)

    • You’re right Noel. We are surrounded by scam techniques. As I said in an earlier reply I’m not opposed to the sales techniques so much as I am to their use to sell things that are garbage or non existent ….like advanced training. ….Yes, absolutely. Buyer Beware.

  37. We all need to learn as much as we can about the Socio-scam-paths’ methods, to protect ourselves and our bank accounts. Tom, what you have uncovered in this article really helps a person recognize the patterns that scammers use to hood-winkle us. Now, each of us needs to set up self-releasing triggers, to cancel the ‘ether’ effects, as we watch and listen to the scammers do their perfectly practiced presentations. Just being able to see them weave their scams before our eyes, goes a long way to waking us up before that critical moment when we rush to throw our hard earned cash at them. Cheers…

    • You’re exactly right Brooks. Just knowing about them helps, but you are the one on the front lines when these scams are thrown at you. Having a plan will help keep you safe.

  38. Hi Tom. How wonderful to come accross you. Someone sent me your way on a group I belong to.
    Through reading your blog and these comments, I can see that I have been scammed.
    I lost £3000 last year to, by the sounds of her description, the same one as this lady Laura Venecia Rodriguez on December 2, 2014 at 3:59 pm on this blog.
    It has upset me so much that these people can take advantage of us, but I know that it was my choice at the time and I just have to put it all behind me. HOwever what is causing me so much pain is that however hard I try to put it behind me, I keep getting letters and emails asking me to contact them about trafficking. I have sent a registered letter to Australia to the address on the contract, and it has been returned.
    As I write this I am looking at yet another newsletter in which the big man at the top is raving about how he gets so frustrated when he sees people who are not in the right mindset!
    Anyway, it is a relief to come accross you and know that I am not the only one to have been duped.
    It was all the more hurtful because I am an old age pensioner with n o income coming in yet from my business, and this money came out of my savings, which made a big hole!
    I thought that pyramid selling was now illegal. Is there an international body that we can report these people to?

  39. Hi Tom,

    I found your artilce while googleing a certain speakers name + scam. Sure enough he has posted a comment agreeing with your article to throw people off like he is innocent. Sadly enough, he stole thousands of dollars from me. So, in short, one of your commenters/speakers is disguising himself as an honest person by agreeing with you in this article. When, in fact, he is the most dishonest person I have ever dealt with.

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