How To Spot Internet Marketing Training Scams

Steven_Depolo_Money_Hand_Holding_Bankroll_GirlsYou’ve probably come across Internet Marketing training programs.

But not all are reputable.

So how do you spot the Internet Marketing training scams?

How To Spot The Internet Marketing Training Scams

If you’re new to Internet Marketing, then doing a training course makes good sense.

Here at BreakingOut.NET I also promote some of these courses. 

But not all training courses in Internet Marketing (or IM, as it’s sometimes known) are reputable.

Some schemes on the Web use IM training courses as a means to promote pyramid-style, Multi-Level-Marketing or Network Marketing operations.

It can be difficult to determine exactly whether an IM training program constitutes a legitimate operation or not.

Fortunately I’ve never been taken in by any of these schemes myself. I studied marketing at postgrad level at university and I can usually recognize unethical marketing operations when I see them.

I feel very strongly about the large number of “Internet Marketing” training scams out there on the Internet which prey on unsuspecting newcomers.

So I’ve written this article to explain how to recognize these schemes so that you don’t taken in and end up wasting money.

MLM or Network Marketing in itself is not illegal

MLM and pyramid-style schemes can be found in many product sectors and IM training is no exception. Many legitimate training courses utilize aspects of MLM practice perfectly legally.

However, you should be aware that pyramid selling is illegal and you should steer clear of pyramid schemes. The FTC in the US actively pursues and shuts down such operations.

A scheme can be legally in the clear, despite the fact that it contains pyramid-style features. But even if a scheme is legal, it still need not represent a worthwhile investment of your money, time and effort.

I refer to such schemes as  ‘pyramid-style’, regardless of whether they are technically legal or illegal.

In my opinion, all pyramid-style training schemes are best avoided.

Why Should You Avoid Pyramid-Style Internet Marketing Programs?

Pyramid-style marketing is a form of business operation that is inherently unstable and unsustainable in the long run.

Those kind of programs may teach you Internet Marketing techniques,  but you will not be launching your online business on a sound foundation for the long term.

It will also most likely cost you more money than the value you will get in return.

Such programs benefit the members in the ‘upstream’ – the promoters and those already established higher up in the pyramid hierarchy, far more than they benefit the members located in the ‘downstream’.

What Are The Features of Pyramid-Style Internet Marketing Programs?

Creating a definitive list of things to watch for is difficult, because the presence of a particular characteristic need not by itself be clear evidence of an MLM or pyramid-style training scheme.

Plus the operators of such schemes are usually careful to try and structure their programs so they can’t be classified as an illegal pyramid scheme by the FTC.

The only way to assess a training scheme is to look at all the features of the program.

But there are some elements that are almost always found in pyramid-style training schemes.

Tell-Tale Signs of a Pyramid-Style Internet Marketing Program

The program places a heavy emphasis on making money rather than marketing a service or a product

There’s a lot of talk of becoming rich, being ‘successful’, ‘the sky’s the limit’, it’s all down to your own ‘mindset’, determination, self belief etc. Escalation and expansion is essential to pyramid-style schemes.

High income, multi-figure earnings will be dangled in front of you. Living, breathing examples of people active in the program will be paraded on stage before you at conventions and in YouTube videos.

Though all the claims they make will of course come with a disclaimer.

There is often an evangelical, almost missionary fervour about the program

There may be a ‘guru’ or a whole team of ‘gurus’ or millionaire personalities sitting at the top.

There may be the feeling that you are being converted  (in the sense of becoming a sales prospect and buying into the coaching program, you are).

Sometimes you encounter behaviour such as senior members of the program referring to each other as mentors, brothers, sisters, elders.

There will often be stage events, conventions and seminars taking place. The atmosphere may well be that of a ‘successful’ millionaires club, of joining a brotherhood.

The price of membership is invariably high and much greater than its true value

Whether as a one off fee, a monthly ‘continuity’ subscription, or – ideally for the promoters, a combination of both of these payment models.

As a pre-condition for joining the program you are required or encouraged to promote the program itself as an affiliate program for others

There’s nothing wrong with promoting a product or service – and you will receive commissions for this.

The give away trait here is if the scheme only permits you to continue receiving commissions in future for as long as you continue to pay into the coaching program yourself as a paying member.

Those at the top of the scheme earn a great deal, whereas those at the lower levels earn very little

The program is primarily a money making machine for the promoters with little real practical value for the members, other than their opportunity to recruit new sign-ups for the training scheme.

There is a strong emphasis on members recruiting more members

This is known as the downstream. This need not in itself indicate a pyramid-style set up, but it is usually a feature of MLM programs.

With a pyramid scheme, revenue is dependent on recruiting more and more members of the scheme ‘downstream’. The product itself is largely secondary to this.

This feature is a strong indication of a pyramid-style scheme.

Members of the training program don’t seriously promote other products other than the training program itself

Again: this is often a strong sign of a pyramid-style scheme.

You are encouraged or required to set up a website or blog primarily to promote the scheme itself

Another strong tell-tale sign.

Members sites will promote or sell either no or few other products or services. There may be bonuses, preferential rates, traffic competitions and prizes offered by the scheme for the ‘best’ blog that promotes the training program most effectively.

The blogs may also contain a couple of display ads for minor low-priced products such as books – but this serves more as a decoy to try and avoid any pyramid selling accusations and to try and keep the FTC at bay. The content of the member site will be heavily ”wealth’ and ‘success’ oriented.

The names of such websites tend to be made up of a combination of the name of the participant together with the name of the training program. The primary intention of the site is to recruit more members into the training program.

If you come across an IM training course which has spawned a very large number of course member blogs online all promoting the same IM training program itself and little else besides, then it’s highly likely that you have come across a pyramid-style program.

Setting up websites in this manner, the members of the training program will also all effectively be competing with each other in the sector – not a good position for a new business to be in.

If you encounter an IM training program which exhibits all or most of these traits, in particular the last three:

  • a strong emphasis on recruiting more members into the program,
  • existing members not seriously promoting other products besides the training program itself
  • and your being encouraged or required to set up a blog to promote the program

– then chances are high it’s a pyramid-style marketing scheme.  This will make it a weak foundation for starting a business.

In this case you would be best advised to steer well clear.

To repeat: what counts is the overall impression.

The fact that an IM training program operates an affiliate program, or charges a high membership fee, holds conventions or seminars, produces YouTube videos about its success stories, or talks about mindset and motivation is not by itself a definition of disreputable marketing.

In my opinion, using course participants to promote the training program itself should not be part of the training.

That creates a pyramid-style business operation which is not suited to creating a sustainable business.

Ask Yourself Three Key Questions About ALL Marketing Training 

1. Is this program sustainable?  Consider the market for the product you will be promoting. If the market is primarily composed of recruiting other members, then it is probably not sustainable.

2. Does the course teach me how to set up and operate an online business in sectors other than promoting the program itself?

3. Does it offer me real value for money?

Those marketing training programs that don’t match up on these questions should be be given a wide berth.

If you have doubts, then steer clear and look elsewhere.

There are plenty of reputable marketing training courses on the Web which are worth joining. You don’t have to get involved in a pyramid-style scheme.

Perform Your Own Due Diligence

The most obvious thing to do is a search engine check. You can also consult a reputable crowd-review site such as IM Report Card at But bear in mind that not all IM training programs are featured on the site.

It can be hard to obtain a neutral perspective from existing members of the program. Those that have bought into a particular training scheme will usually be committed to it and will not want to describe their program as a pyramid-style scheme.

You may be able to find out more factual information about the real nature of the program from those who have exited the scheme.

But even here you have to beware.

Some of those who quit a training program may have done so and may speak badly about the program or be disgruntled simply because it didn’t suit them.

Or because they weren’t committed, made no money and felt it was a “con” – and so as a result will be more likely to bad-mouth it.

So “bad news” from former members should not be automatically taken as gospel.

The best advice is to assess the program according to the above list of features and to form your own overall impression. Always exercise your own due diligence here just as you would with any other investment or purchase.

Remember the saying: if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck – it may not be a duck, but the chances are it most probably is.

How To Find a Reputable Internet Marketing Training Course

Fortunately there are some reputable Internet Marketing training programs out there.

Some of these courses which I have personally checked out I feature here on BreakingOut.NET.

Below are some links to programs that I have reviewed and which I can recommend that you check out.

Stay safe from the Internet Marketing Training Scams – and good luck with your Internet Marketing training!

Here Are Some Reputable Internet Marketing Training Programs

vip-plainDavid Risley’s Blog Marketing Academy



Affilorama – Training For Affiliate Marketers


Chris Farrell Membership – Internet Marketing For Beginners


Complete eBay Marketing SystemOpen Your Own eBay Store With The Complete eBay Marketing System



Image Attribution:

Money Hand Holding Bankroll Girls – courtesy of Steven Depolo

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