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Starting / Building confidence

Can you spot a scammer?

I’ve heard a couple of scam stories recently that I wanted to share, as exposure is the enemy of the exploitative.

By

The cunning lecturer

A friend of ours is studying ‘building biology’ – a relatively new field whereby the health of a home or office is assessed via a range of Ghostbuster-style tools, which measure invisible magnetic fields and radio waves. I’m semi-dubious, semi-interested. Recently, I overheard her say: “The lecturer’s a genius – but he failed me and wouldn’t say why. I’ve asked for feedback, but he’s refusing to elaborate. I need to pick my time to approach him again.”

Alarm bells rang in the distance. Then I found out the price of the course, and they became deafening.

It is never, ever okay to feel intimidated into parting with your cash by someone’s supposed brilliance.

Potential students: remember that courses are products. You need to find out as much as you can about the people behind the products, as well as the institutions offering them. Talk to past students, research the credentials of teachers and do your utmost to test the veracity of the qualification you’ll end up with.

"It is never, ever okay to feel intimidated into parting with your cash by someone’s supposed brilliance. "

The dodgy distributor

A friend has produced a range of aromatherapy blends made with certified organic ingredients. Soon after listing her fledgling business in an Australian organic directory, a distributor called her, offering to represent her products… for a fee. The deal was he’d take a lump sum upfront (ding ding ding!) and get the products on the shelves of 10 stores, then he’d take the rest of his fee once they were in another 10 stores.

The deal was a crock.

My friend has since discovered this so-called distributor preys on newly listed businesses in the directory. It’s now her mission to get to them first, and warn them about him.

In hindsight, my friend knows she should have asked: who have you represented? What stores are you known to? And then contacted them to verify his answers.

But she was new in business, excited about getting out there and vulnerable to the solution he presented. She’s learnt the hard way that there is just no shortcut to success.

Without naming names, have you fallen victim to dodgy tactics in your enthusiasm to get out there?

A final word: I realise not all lecturers or distributors are scammers, of course they’re not, but good ones are unafraid to have their prospects conduct due diligence. 

Sam Leader

is a former director of Flying Solo and the co-author of Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business.

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