Business Seminars: Don’t Get Scammed!

Senior Airman Alan Ruppe, a 376th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron 
representative, speaks with Kyrgyz business professionals about what products the Transit Center is seeking to acquire locally during a "How to Do Business" procurement seminar at the Hyatt Regency in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, May 8, 2010. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Senior Airman Nichelle Anderson/ released)

Tan Kin Lian



The last business seminar I attended was free. For an hour. After hearing more jargon than a year’s subscription to Forbes, it ended with: “…to get actual information, sign up for our $5000 course. Then we’ll cut and paste a bunch of stuff off the Internet. And also, Warren Buffet said you should. Because the only thing I’m actually good at is making up bogus Warren Buffet quotes.” Seems our content partner, Mr. Tan Kin Lian, knows about these seminars too:


Beware of High Pressure Selling

(From Tan Kin Lian’s Blog)

It usually starts with an invitation to a free seminar held in a posh hotel. The invitees are treated with an impressive presentation and free food. After that, the hard pressure selling comes in – and those who are not strong willed ends up signing for an expensive purchase – for a $5,000 training course on forex or property investment, or a $20,000 time sharing unit, or a $50,000 land banking plot, a $20,000 wine investment or whatever is being sold.

All that is needed is for the promoter to get 5 people to sign up and they will earn enough income to pay for the expenses of the event, the advertisement and the commission payable to the many well dressed marketeers who are trained to identify and work on the gullible investors.

Like some other people, I have been the victim of this type of marketing a few times during my life. Fortunately for me, the amounts of the purchase are quite small. My biggest purchase was a massage chair costing $6,000. Quite likely, the real cost would have been only one third of the price that I paid. In this case, it was not an impressive talk at a hotel, but a glib talking sales person at a sales booth.

– Tan Kin Lian


The MoneySmart Response

Business seminars are an industry. They’re not there to “invest in YOU”, whatever their banner says. They’re there to make money. Either from sign-ups, from related products (DVDs, books, software), or by getting you to invest in something. The most notorious perpetrators are, of course, Amway; they literally make millions off seminars.


Blurry Seminar Picture
Everything…going blurry. Losing touch…with reality…


How do you tell a seminar is a scam? Look for the following signs:

  • “Free” Seminars – This is when the “free” seminar turns out to be an hour long advertisement. The speaker will perform a lot of stage tricks (offering a $50 note to the first one to grab it, or touchy-feely “life stories”). At the end of it, they’ll press you to sign up for their course. Usually, the course is a few thousand dollars.
  • “Bookshop” seminars – It looks like the Borders clearance sale outside the seminar room, except the staff are smiling. The event organisers will pressure you into buying as many books or DVDs as possible. And the junk they’re pushing is all overpriced (like $600 for a set of DVDs).
Crowded Bookstore
Thanks for buying our “Young Investor” series. This is set one. ALL of this.


  • A lot of “soft information” – Motivational speakers who get you to stand up and yell catchphrases. Pointless activities like fire-walking, or diving off a table. At the end of it, you’d have paid to learn squat. If you feel the urge for this kind of thing, e-mail me. For half the price, I’ll tape myself grinning like an idiot and babbling 10 variations of “you can do it.”
  • “Risk free” investments – If they have a risk free investment, why do they need to go around hawking it like a Pasar Malam snack? Thousands of bankers spend 70 hours a week looking for good investments. Why would they need this seminar to find investors?
  • Selling software – Usually, Forex trading software. For the low price of several thousand dollars, their Forex bot will make you tons of cash. And it requires no work or understanding! And isn’t it odd that all the brokers haven’t just quit their jobs?
Legit business seminars don’t promise the impossible. They tell you the steps you need to take. And those are long, difficult steps. Don’t buy into “instant millionaire” promises. And don’t fork out money just because the presenter’s giving you a “feel good” buzz.


Image Credits:

Fritjof Andersson

Have you ever been tempted by a seminar scam? Comment and tell us about it!

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Tan Kin Lian

I retired from NTUC Income on 28 February 2007, after heading this cooperative for 30 years. I now run a consultancy company. See I write this blog to give my views on insurance, investment and financial planning for the benefit of consumers

  • Spencer Yeong Sau Soon

    haha…30 yesrs ago you could have done the same things…..