“Scam” is One Letter Away from “Scum”

…and for good reason.  It’s an unfortunate fact of life that there are just so many scams out there, masquerading as a product or program that is supposed to enrich or improve your life.  Some are a little more in a gray area than others, since they work for some people and not others, but either way I’m of the opinion that their ultimate goal is to bilk you out of your hard-earned money.

I recently heard an episode of “This American Life” in which they talked about a program called “Wake Up Now”.  You can listen to it here.   Basically, it’s one of these motivational seminars that is chock-full of jargon and emotionally manipulative techniques, appealing to people who are sick of working a 9-to-5.  It’s initially free to join, but they’re told that to get benefit from it, they should really pay a monthly fee so that they can buy products to sell to others.  From what I heard, the seminar is mostly spent telling people to get others they know (friends, family) to sign up.  Many people who were interviewed had a difficult time even describing what “Wake Up Now” is.  A very very small percentage of people who sign up actually earn enough doing the program to make a living.  Yet they’re still excited about it!  I think there’s a certain element of brainwashing here.

con pyramid

image credit to rangit.com

This isn’t the only program like this that’s out there.  A family member and a friend became involved with the Landmark Forum last year.  I’m very happy that it works for them.  But it’s just not for me.  I was skeptical to begin with but then I attended a breakout session to see what it was all about, and to show support to my family member.  While there, I learned a lot about which major corporations and corporate leaders have taken Landmark courses.  I learned that a woman who was the victim of abuse and a man who saw people blown apart in Iraq were able to completely put their past behind them (still skeptical of that).  I learned that you should do your damnedest to get your friends and family to sign up because “it works”.  But I didn’t learn any details of what exactly it was and how it worked.  That, along with the hour we spent sitting in cramped quarters waiting for others to sign up, and the hefty price tag did not make me want to sign up.

This past fall on my way to a doctor’s appointment I was listening to KPFK public radio.  They were in a pledge drive and the reward for pledging $125 was to receive Chris Howard’s “Wealth Propulsion Challenge”.  I must have been particularly emotionally vulnerable that day because the language they were using in their pitch really made me want to buy into it.  I answered their call to action and pledged.  About a month later I got a link to the program.  It came with a workbook to print out, and the challenge was to watch a video from one of Mr. Howard’s seminars every single day, and then make your own video blog, answering a set of questions and talking about your experience following the program’s guidelines.  This had jargon too–  “Why are you committed to playing full-out?”  I understand the concept behind the program, and it’s a noble effort, but after about the fifth video I just couldn’t watch anymore.  The speaker was just too obnoxious and it overshadowed any of the useful things I was learning.

This post isn’t going to cover every scam.  I think that’d be near impossible.  We all know about Amway, Herbalife and the like.  Multi-level marketing/Pyramid schemes.  There is one more I should mention though–  job scams.  These are some of the most insidious because they prey on job seekers and the unemployed.  They’re the ones that shout “MAKE $10,000 FROM HOME BY SITTING IN YOUR PAJAMAS!”  Give me a break!  There are also the ones that come straight to your email if you even update your resume on Monster.com.  Today I got one that said, “Your resume came into consideration of my marketing team. However, most of the positions require Professional Certifications for which we will be able to get you started with the training at a subsidized price.”  Then it went on to provide an itemized list of their training services, complete with prices.  I did not ask for this.  No, thank you.

No program is going to make you rich quickly.  I’d recommend reading about how successful people you admire got to where they are today, and see where that takes you.    Also, no program is going to heal all your emotional wounds, past traumas, anxiety, or depression.  For that you should have a good therapist, a support system of friends and/or family, medication management if necessary, exercise, good nutrition and meditation.  Believe me, those things do help.

Recommended reading:

“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” by Stephen R. Covey

“Complete Idiot’s Guide to Frauds, Scams, and Cons” by Duane Swierczynski – This book was published in 2002, but it still has some relevant information.


3 thoughts on ““Scam” is One Letter Away from “Scum”

  1. When I worked at JM Eagle, we were housed in the same building as Landmark Education. The CEO of the company was approached by the higher ups of that location and so he had 2 of his VP’s and my boss, the VP of HR, attend the first free session to see if it was something he would have the employees do. I warned my boss about the manipulative nature of the sessions and she didn’t think it would be as bad as I was making it out to be. After it was over, she told me that it was one of the worst experiences of her life and it was the one time time I ever saw her emphatically argue against something the CEO had proposed.


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