Are you a freelance or contact teacher? Are you interested in offering online courses or webinars?
If the answer to either of these questions is yes, you’ll want to beware of a new webinar scam that targets teachers, trainers, tutors, coaches and consultants. Do not be fooled…
The scam goes something like this:
You are contacted by a person or organization offering to pay you a handsome sum for a webinar or a one-hour e-learning or Skype tutoring session ($500 to $1000 USD — or more).
You are invited to communicate with the organizers via phone, e-mail or Skype. If you agree to a phone or Skype session, they will keep you on the line, telling how great their organization is and the great results they get for their clients. (In other words, “blah, blah, blah…”)
This introduction could go from anywhere between five and twenty minutes. If you only agree to e-mail, they will likely push for a phone or Skype meeting. They want your undivided attention to engage you in all the hype, get your heart rate up and sweep you up in all their excited sales fluff.
When they think you are suitably convinced, you are then invited to give a webinar (or Skype tutoring session) for them. If you agree, this is where the scam goes into full force…
You will then be told that you will be billed or sent an invoice for $10,000 (or some other outrageous amount) which you must first pay, in order to take part in their program.
So, first they will offer to pay you, then it will be flipped around so that you have to pay them, in order to “be registered”, “be affiliated” or some other such nonsense.
Do not be fooled. The entire purpose of this scam is to get you to give up your hard-earned dollars and give them to someone who does not care about you, your teaching or your programs.
But wait… It gets worse…
You may then be told that they DID told about the costs from the beginning. If you challenge them on this, they will swear up and down that you are wrong. They will claim that they have been perfectly transparent and either you weren’t listening or you were negligent in not paying attention. They may go so far as to indignantly proclaim that you are insulting their professionalism and ethics.
They play with your emotions in order to try to make you feel guilty… This is part of the scam. The idea, of course, is that you’ll feel bad and then cough up the money that you already (supposedly) promised to pay. Do not worry, you are not crazy. You did not promise anything. This is part of their hook.
Do not be taken in by this, or any other con artists.
Here are tips to avoid being taken in by a webinar scam
- Check out every organization or individual who invites you to do a paid webinar or e-learning class for them. Legitimate organizations who are interested in 21st century technologies will almost certainly have a valid website. (Even humble non-profits have websites these days. The site may be badly outdated, but they likely have one.)
- Be wary of e-mails coming from a public, free service. Ask yourself, “Why is this person not writing to me from a professional e-mail address?” I say that with tongue in cheek though, because I also use a Gmail account for some of my work… But not all of it. I am also highly searchable on the web, with books published on Amazon with papers published in peer-reviewed journals and so forth. My point is: Investigate these new “friends”. Make sure they are legitimate and well known in their field.
- If the client, school or organization is unknown for you, treat an e-learning program, an online tutoring session or a webinar as any other course you might teach. Get a signed contract. Even the most meagre non-profit organization will agree to a contract for your professional services. Even a simple, one-page agreement will do. I always get an agreement with any school or non-profit I am working with. It helps both sides understand what is expected.
- Trust your instincts. If a deal feels “off”, then it probably is. At the very least, it is likely not a good fit for you. Decline invitations that do not align with your professional values, ethics or area of expertise. Don’t waste your time (or your money) on professional “offers” that feel “off”. There are other organizations out there waiting for you and who would love to work with you.
You are a professional educator, tutor, instructor or presenter and you deserve to be treated as a professional — and get paid for your knowledge and expertise… not be scammed out of your hard earned money.
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.