We’ve seen a lot of so-called “experts” put out online courses for hundreds of dollars. Some, like Sam Ovens and Tai Lopez, even sell their courses in the thousands of dollars.
Are these online courses scams?
The answer to that question is quite subjective, and depends on your definition of “scam”. For me, being “scammed” is about being taken advantage of, and involves a breach of trust. Most online courses will promise amazing results if you follow their recipe, and they downplay the work and skill required to attain these results. If they are clear about what it takes to see the results then online courses can be a goldmine that will change your life for the better–but if they try to deceive you, that is where we draw the line at “Scam”.
Online courses range widely in subject and scope. This blog focuses mostly on courses that involve business, making money, personal development, and learning new skills.
When assessing online courses, we’ll consider only these subjects and that will make it a bit easier to quantify.
In my personal experience reviewing and taking dozens of courses, I can tell you that I’ve seen few courses I would legitimately call “scams”.
The information in the courses may be poor, generic, or not constructed well, but I would classify those as very poor courses, and not scams.
Who Can You Trust, Really?
A scam is a deliberate attempt to provide little or no value in return for a large sum of money with no money-back guarantee.
It’s really a buyer beware market when it comes to online courses. You are about to buy a COURSE that will in most cases require REAL WORK, so you should be willing to put in some effort up front to find out if the person selling it is respected and credible. You need to read the reviews, look at the fine print, and try to find out what the course entails before purchasing.
Most people purchase courses from people they trust and know through exposure on social media, such as youtube. This is one strategy Sam Ovens and Tai Lopez have perfected and count on to build a community of trust.
The more familiar you are with these quasi-celebrities, the more you’re likely to trust them and hand over your money for their courses. That’s why they post on social media so frequently, in addition to running ads.
From what I can see, many of these gurus give a lot of good information for free through their blogs and videos. The courses they offer often recycle that information along with some detail or refinements not found in their free content.
Does A Money Back Guarantee Remove All The Risk?
If a course offers a money-back guarantee, I’d be much more inclined to try it. This means the creator of the course believes in his product. If this is the case, I can’t see how the course can be deemed a scam, even if it is horrible.
I believe the majority of online courses in the genres I review are not worth their cost, but there are a few that are. Truly, it’s difficult to know which ones are until you sample them. Most good online courses have a money-back guarantee. The ones that don’t I would advise staying away from.
Reading legitimate and honest reviews of courses from a trusted source is one of the best ways to tell if a course is worth it or not. That’s what this website is all about.
My goal in creating this blog is to present a fair and honest review of the latest online courses in the subjects I’m most passionate about. However, my opinion is not – and should not be – the final decision of your choice to buy a course.
If a course gets you the results promised, no matter how bad you think the content is, it worked. That’s why knowing if a course is a scam or not is a subjective question.
For some people, a course may offer no value whatsoever. But for others, it could be packed with value. It depends on the person taking it, their experience in the subject, and how they apply it.
How It Can Go Wrong
I’ll give you two examples of why you need to be careful with your hard-earned money here.
In 2016 I was interested in internet marketing and I bought the Tai Lopez course. After the first couple of weeks, I was feeling overwhelmed by all the information in it. On top of that, it wasn’t presented in a very professional or coherent way, which discouraged my continuing with the course, despite the hefty price tag.
Then in late 2016 Ryan Hildreth and Hayden Peddle broke onto the scene.
These are two young guys who had also taken Tai Lopez’s Social Media Marketing Program, which was selling for $1000 at the time. After completing the course, they began to post videos giving tips on social media marketing.
Although they had little experience and no background in social media marketing, they presented themselves as gurus. Not long after, they came out with a course called “Social Media Marketing Mastery” that as of November 2018 sells for $597 on teachable.com.
I was intrigued by the course and decided to buy it in late 2017. Ryan and Hayden gave me the impression that they streamlined the Tai Lopez course, removing all the fluff and only providing pertinent information.
This would allow anyone to go through their course in a week or two and learn all that’s needed to succeed. On the other hand, Tai Lopez’s material is a four-month course and anything but streamlined.
The allure of Ryan and Hayden’s course was that they cut to the chase and presented all the important stuff fast. They created a nicely laid-out syllabus for the course and added a few important pieces of information that Tai Lopez left out.
I grew impulsive and decided to ante up my savings to see the course. I bought the course and went through it rather quickly, which was both good and bad.
I was surprised at how sparse it was for the price. The kicker is that there was no return policy, so I was just out the money because I would have liked to get a refund if I could.
I had contacted Ryan by email before I bought the course. He reiterated the no refund policy, so I knew what I was getting myself into. The blame is therefore on me.
I allowed my business partner to check the course out, as we planned to do digital marketing together. Unfortunately, the information in the course left us scratching our heads.
While my plan is not to write a detailed review of the course here, I will say it felt like it was thrown together rather quickly and without much thought, similar to the Tai Lopez course.
For the amount of money Ryan and Hayden want for the course, I feel it’s close to being a scam. However, some people may enjoy the course and benefit from it, so I can’t say it’s 100% a scam.
But I do feel the two put together a flimsy, low-value course for a lot of money. Combined with the no refund policy, seems like they were out to make a quick buck. This stinks for people who have high hopes when buying the course.
The other example I’ll give is Sam Ovens. Don’t get me wrong. I love Sam Ovens and the information he provides, both for free and in his course. Yes, I bought that too.
While I don’t think his courses are a scam because they are well put-together, many people who bought them think they are. However, some people would disagree with me.
I’ve read more than 10 different complaints on the BBB website from his customers elaborating on how he took their money. Now Sam does offer a 30-day money back guarantee, but according to some of the complaints, it seems like it wasn’t always honored.
In some instances, his customer service team either didn’t respond to people or strung them along past the 30 days. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it’s what I read on the BBB website.
In fairness to Sam and his team, he did refund many of those customers, which I also read in the email threads. I guess Sam had to protect his reputation. Hey, there’ll always be disgruntled customers no matter the company or course.
Would some people consider Sam’s courses (costing in the thousands) to be scams? Yes. And would some feel the opposite? Again, the answer is yes.
The bottom line is that you need to do your due diligence before investing in an online course. If it’s an inexpensive course costing $10-$20, that’s different. But for those courses costing hundreds or thousands of dollars, you better check them out first if you don’t want to lose your money.
Online Course Marketplaces
Online courses can be a great way to fast track your learning and skills. Many online learning sites, like udemy.com, sitepoint.com, and courses,org, show you the average review of the course in stars and how many people have signed up for it.
This is very helpful in avoiding being scammed. As well, some of these sites let you access the first lesson or module so you can get a sense of the instructor and the way the information will be presented. I like this idea a lot.
If you follow the guidelines I’m laying out in this post, you’ll significantly reduce your chance of being scammed. Remember too, a lot of good free information can be found on the internet or in books at your local library. You don’t always have to pay for it.
Here are some telltale signs that a course might be a scam:
- The author makes very bold claims that are not realistic.
- The author has very little experience in the subject of the course or cannot prove their claims with facts and figures.
- The course does not have a money back guarantee.
- The course sells for a ridiculous amount of money compared to other similar courses.
- The author stresses the course is open for a limited time and will be closing soon.
If you see any of these signs, be careful. I know Tai Lopez claims his newest courses are always offered for a limited time, but I always see them available for purchase.
Just be careful who you give your credit card information to. Even if you see a guru on social media often and watched dozens of their videos, it doesn’t mean their course is worth it.
In the end, it’s all subjective. Nothing in life is certain. But if I were going to plunk down my money on an online course, especially hundreds of dollars, you bet I’d want it to have a refund policy and I’d do my due diligence.
I hope this blog post helped answer your question about online courses being a scam – plus how to avoid them! If you have any questions about the material here, drop it in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you.