Avoid Scams Online: 5 Red Flags You Should Watch Out for When Buying Courses
Taking an online course has numerous benefits. You can upskill for a promotion, reskill to make a career change or simply expand your knowledge. Since the new year started with yet another lockdown, many Brits are taking the opportunity to use their newfound free time well by learning new things and gaining invaluable qualifications.
However, there is a downside. Over recent months, there has been a boost in scammers selling fake courses online, according to the CPD Standards Office. The influx of customers has given fraudsters a completely new market. All they need to do is set up a fake course and watch the cash flow in. So, how can you protect yourself from this scam?
To help you avoid buying fake courses online, check out the following red flags. Should you notice any of these when choosing a course, think twice about pressing ‘buy now’.
1. Poor (or no) customer reviews
Social proof is one of the easiest ways to tell whether a course is real or fake. Look out for customer reviews of the course online before you decide to buy it. Chances are, the course provider will have some reviews or testimonials on their site.
While these can be useful if the course is real, there’s nothing to say that they are legit. Instead, head to well-known review sites, such as Google Reviews and Trustpilot. A course without any reputable reviews or, indeed, poor reviews should not be trusted.
2. Lack of accreditation
Scammers may say that they are selling courses which meet the Department of Education’s National Educational Framework, but how do you know that’s true? Rather than merely taking the course provider’s word for it, take the time to do your own research.
If a provider states that their course is accredited by a certain body, put on your detective’s hat and check it out. Head to the accrediting body’s website and find out whether the course is listed. Should you need extra help, contact the body directly with your query.
3. Confusion over the cost
Ahead of getting started with an online course, you’re going to want to know how much it costs. Beware of smoke and mirrors when it comes to the fees and pricing. For example, some scammers won’t let you see the cost of their course until you’ve given them your personal and bank details. Don’t fall foul to that trick.
All of the course fees should be clearly stated when you’re signing up for it. If you can’t see the total cost on the first page, that is a serious red flag. You don’t want to take the risk and end up paying over-the-odds for a fake or sub-par course.
4. Over-the-top promises
Stick with the golden rule. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Courses should not make extreme promises that sound fake. For instance, if a course states that there is a ‘100% guarantee you will make your money back in one month’, that statement is unlikely.
Similarly, you should avoid any course that promises your employment as a direct result of taking it. Some scammers dangle the carrot of a job in front of customers in a bid to steal their money. Don’t believe everything you read and always be sceptical of claims.
5. Lack of contact information
Of course, when you sign up for an online course, you need to know who you are buying from. Should you have any issue with the course itself or want a refund, you’ll have to contact the provider directly. Before buying a course, check for contact information.
If there are no details, such as a phone number, email or address, that’s a red flag. There’s a reason that the provider doesn’t want you to contact them, and it’s likely a shady one.