Is this a scam?

Here at 48Days we field a lot of questions where readers want to know if something being promoted is a scam.  Just today someone wanted to know about a Robert Kiyosaki business idea.  The dictionary defines “scam” as to obtain money from somebody by dishonest means.

If someone asks you to send $4000 as a processing fee so he can release his uncle’s money from Nigeria and share the windfall with you, trust me, you’re being scammed.  But most ideas are not that easy to read.

If you see a training course to teach you how to write your own book and after spending $495 you didn’t get a deal from any major publisher, were you scammed?  If you spent $1250 for a windshield repair business and never even recaptured your investment, were you scammed?  What about if you went to an investment training seminar and then proceeded to lose your own capital?  If you purchased a business opportunity to do medical billing – which included you buying an expensive computer system, and then you found out the only key to success in this is being able to market and sell your services, were you scammed?

I have purchased thousands of dollars worth of seminars, workshops, training programs and business opportunity products over the years.  I consider this an integral part of my ongoing learning process.  Yes, I have a library of “millionaire” tapes that provided little useful information, “business opportunities” that consisted of photocopied government forms, teleclasses where there was too much background noise to hear the presenter, and hot cashew vending machines that quickly produced moldy products.

But I have never considered that I was scammed.

The real key is to see the learning that takes place for you in this process.  Not every college course offered any real value – but it was part of a larger process to help you clarify your best options.  I recently worked with a young couple who had just sent over $20,000 to an invention company that promised them wealth and fortune.  We know they will never see any return on the very ordinary ideas they submitted.  But my counsel to them is that some people are sitting in classrooms spending $20,000 a year hoping to get a good idea here and there, and some people are getting their “education” in other ways.  Either way, it’s a legitimate way to be moving toward the right idea for your ultimate success.

Bottom Line:  There’s less risk from getting “Scammed” than there is from doing nothing.

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32 Responses to “Is this a scam?”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    I agree 100% with what you’ve said and said well!!!

  2. Lily Chen Says:

    Hi Dan. I think you hit the nail right on the head. People who are looking to get rich quick will never be satisfied with these courses and seminars once they discover how much hard work is actually involved. I’ve bought tons of books and attended many courses. I haven’t actually put everything I learned to use, but the cumulative knowledge makes me a better business person and helps me see greater opportunities than if I had never been exposed to them in the first place. In this economy it’s easy for desperate people to fall prey to all kinds of scams, but it’s not hard to protect yourself. Google the company/product, read the fine prints especially those involving fees and recurring charges, and keep an open mind to always be learning something, if nothing else the sales and marketing techniques these products and services use to attract your attention and make that sale. Thank you Dan for your expert advice and allowing me the chance to share. God bless.

  3. Norm Robinson Says:

    Don’t forget about the tens (and maybe hundreds) of thousands of dollars people spend on higher education versus other educational courses/seminars.

    I spent $35K and six months on real estate courses that, by applying the strategies, made me hundreds of thousands of dollars in a short time.

    I spent over $50K in tuition and gave four plus years of long hours studying for a bachelor degree in computer science that landed me a job that paid an initially salary of $30K.

    I loved doing real estate and didn’t like the job writing software. Five years later I was making in almost $50K a year at my job and living in a $500K house with several other rental properties cash flowing. Guess which learning I found to be more practical and rewarding?

    One could conclude that the traditional higher education might be a scam.

  4. Lots of conferences and training - Worth it? | Donald Wickham's Blog Says:

    […] out Dan Miller’s blog Is this a Scam? He says it well.  This is particularly close to me as I’ve done the same over the last 3+ […]

  5. Tim Storey Says:

    I agree 100%. I was in one of the biggest MLM’s in the world. I really thought I was going to be successful in it. I spent well over $5000.00 in tapes, books, and seminars. I eventually realized that this business just wasn’t right for me. But, the education I got in marketing, success, motivation, and free enterprise was invaluable. I use the eucation I got in my business now as a contractor. I don’t know if the contracting business is where I want to stay. But what that small investment did is change my whole way of thinking to where I have a whole lot better chance of success at anything I undertake now.

  6. John Turkenburg Says:

    One of my favorite quotes is

    “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” Thomas Watson, founder of IBM.

  7. Debbie Miklich Says:

    Dear Dan,

    I just wanted to Thank you for this article. I’ve read your books and have learned so much from them.

    For years I’ve invested in books, tapes, seminars on the search for my Golden Rainbow. I owned a business. Sold a business. Bought a wi-fi kiosk, got ripped off by the kiosk salesman by 10k whosh, (he’s in jail now)

    My family thinks I spend too much time learning different things. Actually I can’t help myself. For years I have been feeling stupid in a way for doing these things and do not have too much to show for it at this time.

    Your article helped me accept me. I am an entrepreneur at heart, it’s how I am hardwired. Your words made me feel better knowing that at least I try.

    Love your newsletters and all your great advice!
    God Bless!

  8. Robert W Says:

    Great article. Having worked in H.R. past 4yrs , I’ve wondered why colleges aren’t listed as scams. Lots of income, debt and time in for often questionable returns. The specialization part has worth , the 1st 2yrs. seems lost in second 2yrs.

  9. Ray S Says:

    Very well said! I particularly liked the last paragraph that was in the email you sent.

    “If you never attend a seminar, never purchase a website, never invest in a business opportunity, never buy a get-rich book, and never feel you got less than what you expected – you’ll probably never get any results that are different than what you’re already experiencing.”

    And that’s what it’s all about. Bravo!

  10. Kim Says:

    I agree. My husband and I have tried different businesses that have been lucrative for others but not for us. We used these opportunities as lessons to help us discover what we don’t want to do. We were not scammed. We just weren’t cut out for the business opportunity that was presented. Now, when our friends want us to sit in on their business pitches, we politely listen and decline because we spent enough money to find out that sales and multi-level marketing are just not our gifts. People purchase business opportunities without considering the effort required for success or how the business model may or may not fit their personalities. Your article is 100% correct.

  11. Alexandra Says:

    Dan, you have got to be kidding.

  12. Robert Smith Says:

    I think Wayne Gretzky said it best…
    “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

  13. Laura V. Rodriguez Says:

    I agree with Dan. I would only add, though, that one must invest wisely. Not everything is a scam but neither is everything worth its price. Some of the investments/seminars/programs mentioned were overpriced. Carefully assess what you are seeking before investing and determine if it’s worth. I have invested thousands of dollars in programs that were poor quality. And, I agree though, that you can’s say something is a scam if you didn’t work the program. Many people invest and expect a return for no effort. It’s a fine balance.

  14. Tom Smith Says:

    If someone buys a book that proclaims ’48 Days to the Work You Love’, and it is filled with much common sense… yet it offers nothing new that can’t be found elsewhere for free, and in many cases does not really educate someone onward to find the work they really love in 48 days… were they scammed? Hmmm… Something to think about.

  15. Marcos R. Espinosa Says:

    I am one of those that bought one of Kyosaki’s $30000 investment courses. This is nothing but preying on people’s hopes and dreams, and playing with their emotions. It is nothing but a well orchestrated snake oil sales pitch. From the first day they tell you to start calling your credit card companies to get your credit limits extended, and get new credit cards opened so you can charge their expensive courses.The weekend that I bought into this there were many others that did. Not one had the money to do this, I believe that if this if not a scam is at least unethical.
    But as Dan very well says I have to learn from this and move forward.

  16. Marlan Says:

    I’ve spent 100’s of hours of my time on my blog over the last few months. I made $0.13 in February! But I’ll keep chugging along and I’ll spend another 100 hours EASY. I just keep learning. Feedback welcome on what I’m doing if anyone clicks on the link over my name.

  17. Parker Thomson Says:

    Most of the time, we are not scammed by people, but by our own greed induced stupidity.

  18. econobiker Says:

    “I have purchased thousands of dollars worth of seminars, workshops, training programs and business opportunity products over the years. I consider this an integral part of my ongoing learning process.”

    And I bet that Dan got to write off every dollar of these expenses for his business…

  19. Arthur @ Says:

    So many people write books on how to get rich sleeping in your PJ’s. IF this garbage were true, we all would be rich.

  20. Benjamin Dover Says:

    I agree with Alexandra & Tom Smith. I read this article and kept waiting for the punchline! You have GOT to be kidding! But you’re not! You actually encourage people to send their money to these hucksters? Wow Dan. I also got very little if anything out of the “48 days” book and tapes. I only took a chance because it was recommended by Dave Ramsey (I think) who I respect. I only read this article as I was cleaning out my spam box and found it. A college degree is very expensive. But if you major in some marketable skill like computer science and not philosophy or English literature or elementary education then you are virtually guaranteed a decent income. Or you can rip of suckers by selling crappy advice books if your conscience will allow it… *sigh* Look forward to your comments 😉

  21. Dan Miller Says:

    Wow – I didn’t have the guts to really nail academic degrees – but many of you have pointed that out. Just yesterday I got a painful note from a chiropractor who owes $147,000 in student loan debt and can’t find a job. I’m working with a young couple who have $133,000 in student loans and he has a Masters in Biblical History. They definitely feel they were scammed with false promises of being “guaranteed a decent income.”

    Obviously we have widely varied opinions expressed here – and like you, I am thankful for free speech. If you got little out of reading any of my books I apologize. If I could detect you in advance out of the millions who have found their passion and meaningful work I would certainly have encouraged you to save your money. But like most things in life the user will determine how a resource is used. One person will pick up a brick and build a cathedral – the next one will use the same brick to smash someone’s window.

  22. MikeW Says:

    I checked out your blog and I think lots of people will love it. I’m reading a book about blogging and it starts out just like yours.

  23. MikeW Says:

    I believe anything a person buys or does that sparks a new idea or thought is worthwhile. I sometimes find myself in a rut and don’t have any new ideas or thoughts. No More Mondays started new ideas and thoughts flowing for me. Sometimes, just taking a different way home gives me new ideas. Marlan, just reading your blog gave me a topic idea for you which I believe would be very timely considering folks are losing their homes and wondering how and where they are going to live and how they can survive on one spouses income or the proceeds of a 401K. An article about RVs and economic living and showing how cheaply one can live and still be connected to the internet and still have phone service because you need those things when looking for a job.

  24. Carl Amos Says:

    Pyramid Schemes, aka Multi-Level Marketing; Some of these are Legal but they use deceptive marketing practices, like: “We’re not selling anything just Networking” or “the products sell themselves”. A lot of people sign up (pay) to join these and later drop out, losing their money. The bottom line is you can make money but…….you must be Recruiter, to make the real money. There is also money to be made as a Speaker. But if your not a Recuiter or a Speaker, the only way to make money is to sell a lot of stuff or have a Recruiter fill your downline.

    This is a “Buyer Beware”.

    Search the internet for MLM.

  25. Benjamin Dover Says:

    Dear Dan,
    The Chiropractor is a moron if they actually graduated and can’t open up a practice. Probably won’t find a “job” working for someone else but possible to move into a partnership with another “Dr.”. Here’s an idea that works great: “accept what the patient’s insurance pays and don’t bother them about the co-pay.” As long as it’s decent insurance and pays at least 50% of what you charge normally. I do this for my patients who are struggling with finances, not for all my patients. A good Dr. will know whos who and will keep his calendar and his income sheet filled out accordingly.
    The guy who has a masters degree in “Biblical History” is shocked to learn there is no money in such a field? Duh! Anyone who pursues such degrees can expect to get a mediocre teaching job at best. People do that because they love the field and usually cause they want to be a published author of some sort. The ONLY degrees worth money are ones that teach useful Business and or technical skills. If you want a PhD in French Poetry or African American History, GREAT! Just don’t expect to make any money in those very specialized niches. Go to Engenieering school or Advanced Business Management if you want big bucks. Practice Tajik lute playing as a hobby… sheesh

  26. Benjamin Dover Says:

    I should write a book! Why am I giving you all this wisdom for free?? This racket is a virtual Lottery ain’t it? Woohoo!

  27. Oscar At Real Life Money Management Says:

    To be successful you have to take risk. There are a lot of scams out there, unfortunately some people are making money off of others desire to better themselves. There are also a lot of people out there doing their best to help others. I don’t think you can ever go wrong by better educating yourself.

  28. Alexandra Says:

    I don’t know how anyone pursuing a Masters Degree in Biblical History would expect to earn a income high enough to pay back $133K in student loans. There’s a difference between “feeling scammed” and “being scammed”. There’s a term called “due diligence.” One should research an opportunity and ask LOTS of questions. If an MLM recruiter is claiming high incomes, ask for proof. If a school is claiming “guaranteed incomes” for a certain job category, look up job search websites and see what the job market looks like. Tell the guy with the Biblical History degree to write the sequel to the “DaVinci Code,” “Ben Hur,” or “The Red Tent,” which are bestsellers.

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