Q. I am hearing advertising for free seminars on flipping houses. Are these events as advertised?
A. Yes, we do currently have active advertising on seminars. Its tax filing season and consumers are receiving tax refunds and looking for investments. Maybe you have been watching television shows on "flipping" houses and think you would be good at it. Or maybe you've been reading about stocks and want to try your hand at the market. You may read some books or listen to podcasts, but there's something appealing about sitting in a room with actual experts, learning from their experience, and becoming an expert yourself, quickly.
It's easy to get drawn in by charismatic presenters, success stories and testimonials. The promises made in promotional materials can be tempting:
You'll earn money fast, regardless of your experience
This opportunity is a sure thing
You can make significant income working part-time or at home
You'll be coached and supported every step of the way
The program has worked for past participants and even the presenters themselves
General advice: the seminars themselves may not be scams — you'll go to an actual seminar and learn about the things they promise you'll learn about. But the promises made about your resulting success and the high-pressure tactics used to get you to buy products or invest in programs are problematic.
The excitement of a room full of people who believe they are about to make a lot of money can be contagious, but there are things you can do to make sure you don't get caught up and spend money you'll regret later:
Take your time. Don't fall for high-pressure sales pitches that say if you don't buy now you'll lose out. Any reputable promoter will let you take time to do research and will not pressure you for an immediate decision.
Investigate the business you are considering. Do some research and talk to experienced business people and experts outside of the seminar before you invest anything.
Be skeptical about success stories and testimonials. Anybody can be paid to say anything.
Don't believe claims that investing/trading strategies are easy or simple. If it was easy to make money, everybody would be rich.
Be cautious when seminar representatives are vague or reluctant to answer questions. Legitimate business people are happy to give you specific information about all aspects of the opportunity and their experience.
Be mindful of guaranteed returns. There is always risk and there are no guarantees. High returns generally require high risk, so don't believe any claims promising you lots of easy money.
Ask upfront about how much money you need to qualify for the opportunity and ask about the refund policy. Make sure you get all that information in writing. Remember that if the opportunity is a bogus one, you may not ever see your money again regardless of what you've been promised.
You may visit bbb.org for additional business tips, FTC.gov on Investment and Biz opportunity, and FTC on Business Opportunity Rules.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.