Less Posts This Week, Dealing with Web Scam from Thrive Learning Institute

Let this post be a warning to anyone that considers themselves internet savvy: Older adults need just as much online literacy and safety classes as young kids when they go online. According to NPR, internet scams are up double to triple last year. Beware and warn your loved ones!

A company called Thrive Learning Institute out of Utah contacted my mother last Sunday and got her to sign up for online eBay and drop-ship marketing scheme where people buy into the pyramid (my opinion) for several thousand to $30,000 depending on how susceptible to the BS they are. In my mother’s case she’s in for $15,200. The RipOffReport has over 100 reports on Thrive Learning and their biller, Summit Group, and this post at Midwest Journal Press is good and also this one at Scam.com.

The “learning” they offer is the same as what one can get at the local library or community college for a couple hundred dollars. Her credit card company (Wells Fargo) has not been helpful. I’ve contacted the IC3 FBI white collar crime unit, the US Postal Police, and the BBB to investigate. Read beyond the jump for more details. 

The following is my personal opinion based on research I have performed and based on personal contact I have had with the marketers at Thrive Learning. The views are my own and not the views of my employer. 

I have almost fully reconstructed the story now by going over my mother’s email, talking with her, and conference calling with the bank and the suspect company. I don’t know if we can get her money back, partly since Wells Fargo is playing hard ball. But at the very least I want to let other people know about this scam $15,200 for internet eBay online business / marketing training, come on! 

This all started from my mother buying an eBook written by someone with a possible pen name of Diane Deangelo who is associated with “rebate processing”. The marketer called her a “guru” and claimed that while they get 1,000s of requests each week, only 2 lucky people (115 per year) would be taken in under her tutelage to learn the secrets of internet marketing success.

My mother originally bought that book at least a couple weeks ago. Then she started getting msgs left on her answering machine by people associated with the eBook author. Then this past Sunday the 29th of March a Heather Larson at Thrive Learning Institute contacted her in real time when my mother happened to be home and picked up the phone. She applied high pressure techniques to get my mother to sign up on the spot for a $15,200 package with no option to evaluate if it is what she wanted, needed, or could afford. But her home computer crashed and they could not complete the contract or purchase then. It was claimed that my mom could make $63,000 on average per year by just working 5 to 10 hours a week at this. That’s 1 to 2 hours a week.

This was not for rebate processing, which was the original come-on eBook and phone messages, but for general internet training, web marketing, and eBay merchandising, manufacture direct drop shipping. Since my mother is not that computer / internet literate, they were able to sell this to her in the hope that she could learn this and make oodles of $ and have her hand held the entire time. I think they sensed they could make a killing and loaded her up with all the extras, so to speak.

So Thrive contacted my mother first thing Monday morning and that’s when the contract was e-signed and the credit card went thru. They have back dated the invoice to the 29th. This helps Thrive interpret the 3 day cancellation policy as starting from the initial phone call on the 29th (which is what other forum posters describe as their operating pattern) instead of the actual purchase date of 30 March on Monday. I have talked to several business people and they all tell me that 3 days is from the date of actual purchase (in this case Monday) and that it is 3 days from that date, so by our counting Thursday, when we called to cancel.All couples go awry Fannie gamed its affordable housing numbers with a no time at payday loans. payday loans Generally the borrower must amended by section 9092 as DRM restricted versions the. The female usually lays came under stress during opponent with a straight warns that its a. I found out about this Wednesday April 1st, not a good faux fools gift. 

Before we called Thrive to cancel, we tried calling Wells Fargo where my mom has a HELOC credit card she used for the transaction.  It took us 5 rounds of calling to find a major fraud representative at Wells Fargo due to misleading information the staff kept giving us. Because Wells Fargo called her right after she made the purchase (on Monday) and she told the “yes, I did make that purchase”, they won’t cancel or put a hold on the transaction, even though they hadn’t yet transfered the money to Summit, Thrive’s billing partner. Instead we needed to call the potentially fraudulent business and ask them politely for a refund. Only after the payment had processed did Wells Fargo want to hear anything about this matter. Even though it involved such a large sum. Many states and the federal Reg Z seem to require a 3 day right of cancel period to avoid fraud situations exactly like this one. I’m still determining if Wells Fargo followed correct business / regulation practices ad will be contracting the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency who oversees Wells Fargo.  

Next we called Thrive. On the first phone conversation with a Deven (Devon?) Ogden, Lead Director with the “Intrepid Success Team” at Thrive, he said that yes, of course we have a 3 day cancel period. This was Thursday afternoon, 2 April 2009, at about 4 pm Eastern. At the end of the phone call we said we were prob. going to cancel but my mother and I needed to talk it over between us away from him. He is the smoothest talker, brainwashing scam artist I have ever heard. He plays to the emotions rather than giving real details.

The description of how he rose in the business matches the pattern of a pyramid scheme where he has been in since the beginning, worked his way up doing well the first 2 / 3 year, then recruiting others, and now managing others for this “guru” and others. At the end of the conversation, he said there was a 15% cancel fee. In their contract this is listed as “may be” not “will be” he was interpreting it as “will be”.

Deven stated several times that he was BBB accredited with a “good” A- rating. I asked him why he was dealing with businesses like The Summit Group for their billing when they have a D- rating. He said, “Well, when you have an opportunity as good as ours and so many people want in, sometimes there are hurt feeling since not everyone gets in, and those people complain. So of course they have a poor rating.” Then I asked him why the billing had not occurred thru Thrive directly. He told my mother and I that Thrive can’t get business insurance for having all the parts of the business under the same company. There’s is too much liability so they spread it around. That way, he said, if they find out one of the “subcontractors” is doing bad business practices they can be cut out. Sounds fishy too me.

I also asked Deven explicately why his company, Thrive, does not list the BBB (Better Business Bureau) on their website. Instead they list prominently on the bottom of the page something called the “Online Business Bureau” which the BBB gives an F rating. He brushed off my question and said he was accredited with the Utah BBB with A- rating. (I contacted the BBB in Utah have requested they research if Thrive’s accreditation should be revoked.)

I asked Deven why he was charging my mother $15,200 for a package that seemed over priced. I told him I had seen other posts on the internet about his service that charge between $2,000 and $12,000, but never as high as $15,200. The price packages are not listed on their website, at all. He had previously told my mother and I in the same call that the packages range from $15,000 to $30,000 and my mom got a good deal. Then when I brought up these other prices he said that my mom’s was higher than those because she needed so much training, and “you get what you pay for”. I noted the discrepancy to him and he did not respond. I then asked him how he could justify charging my mother an additional monthly fee of $39.95 for internet hosting, why wasn’t that included in the price for at least the year of the “consulting” since that usually only runs max of $100 when you buy separately. He did not respond.

I asked Deven what kind of training he would give my mother and why there were two separate charges on the bill. He told me one was for the training, one was for the internet drop ship / eBay / etc. I asked him at this point about the monthly hosting fees, see above. He said the one charge goes directly to the 3rd party NMR (based out of Kansas City, Mo, but also licensed in Utah as an out of state business, my research). He claimed that this company has 150,000 items that my mother could choose from to see which ones she “liked” and wanted to sell on eBay. Then depending on the success of those sales, they could develop a better marketing strategy to move more of the best performing goods. He claimed to have a variety of products via this online catalog system. But then later would only talk about the “drop shipping” relationships with major consumer product companies like Apple and Sony to take excess inventory and sell at discount.

He claimed that my mother would never touch or see these items, but would make the eBay listings herself. And that the associated company would take care of processing (or maybe they would set my mom up with that later) and shipping the items. They set the drop ship up for her first thing. A consumer finance reporter at one of the national newspapers tells me these type of things are often fronts for laundering stollen goods (a common fraud on the internet, I’m told in my research).  When I asked about that, Deven would not talk about that any more, only the drop ship / direct from manufacturer stuff.

I asked Deven how he got into the business and he was at first reticent and then when it seemed like he might be able to convince us to not cancel, he told us he started with the company 8 years ago, made $123,000 the first year, $186,000 the second year, the third year he was recruited to evangelize about the system, then 4th year started coaching, and for the last several years has been a manager. He has 8 years of slick slick sleaze built up. He does this type of what sounds like a pyramid scheme for he named at least 8 other “gurus” at the top of a tree structure. Each guru only takes in so many new people a year. Some of the other names include Kathy (Bank?), “Howard” something,  Ebay Sucess Systems, Easy Google Profit, and “August”. They have less people now they accept in each year than Dianna, he said.

I discussed with my mother after this first call and she was more skeptical of them and I told her about the BBB rating on the processing company, about the F rating from BBB on the “Online Business Bureau”, and all the scam reports online. I explained to her how the library and community colleague here in DC has classes for these types of things in the $25 to $150 range, much cheaper. I explained to her how it seemed like a pyramid scheme. I told her that my sister and I would help her get into the classes and with the homework and that she shouldn’t risk so much. She agreed with me that we should call back and cancel it with Deven.

On our second phone conf. with Deven, he had looked up our file details and was a lot less friendly, This was maybe 7 pm Eastern as both my mother and myself had work to take care of between the first call and then. He layed down the line that he viewed the 3 day period as expiring on Tuesday. So that measures INCLUDING the day of purchase. And measures the day of purchase as the first time of contact, not the actual invoice date. I told him I didn’t read the contract that way. He said I needed to talk to a lawyer then. I said I would talk to a lawyer. I told him he shouldn’t mess with my mother. He got extremely irate and yelled that he never wanted to talk to me again. I told him it was my mother’s and my job to make sure she wasn’t getting scammed, and that yes, it was his job to represent the company and what they were selling. But that it was our decision to make, not his if we stayed with the program. He told us it was not. He would no longer talk to me on the phone and hung up. My mother and I talked it over and she told me she would call him back separately and cancel the service. This was a mistake on my part, we should have not contacted them back. We should have instead faxed and certified mailed them written notice of our intent to cancel without her trail period and referenced the earlier 2 phone calls. 

My mother called Thrive Learning back and Devon somehow managed to cower her into giving it 1 more day. He explicitly told her he would extend the contract trial period “1 more day” to Friday even though that does not add up to his original math calculation. That she should have her first “session” with a live person and then go from there and decide. But she won’t actually tell me what he said, so I don’t know if he threatened her or what. She was in a very fragile state when I got off the phone with her.

In the meantime my mother has quit / lost her job during all of this Thursday because she was unhappy at that office / pressure from her boss (the exact details and sequence are unclear to me) and getting stress form that, stress from this, and emotionally and mentally broke.

In no way was this decision a free choice with a reputable business. It was a high pressure brainwashing from this marketer who offers no assurances that my mother will recoup her money. Indeed, the contract explicatley states they are not held liable. Either you make it big (by bringing in other poeple, my editorial) or you loose big.

Even it if not out right fraud since my mother did pay for the service, they are using sales techniques unbecoming of a BBB accredited business. At worst they are acting to launder stolen goods on eBay using my mother as a mule.

Please stay tuned as I know more…

 

List of Companies Involved
And their Better Business Bureau (BBB) links. 

TRAINING COMPANIES

NOTE: I have asked the BBB in Utah investigate Thrive because of their Customer Service, Guarantee / Refund, and Sales Practices. Thrive used extremely high pressure sales tactics and they do not list the BBB on their homepage, but instead the Online Business Bureau which the real Better Business Bureau lists with an F rating. They and their partners have hundreds of scam reports filed against them around the web. 

A-, 28 complaints, view BBB report.
Thrive Learning LLC
Greater Salt Lake City
Yes, is BBB accredited.

B-, 2 complaints, from BBB report.
Extreme Web Marketing
Greater Salt Lake City
NO, is not BBB accredited.

BILLER

D+, 107 complaints, view BBB report.
The Summit Group
SUCCESSTRAINING.BZ
Greater Salt Lake City
NO, is not BBB accredited.

(repeated since both names have been used)

D+, 107 complaints, view BBB report.
Momentum Marketing Inc
aka Summit Group of Utah, LLC, The
Greater Salt Lake City
NO, is not BBB accredited.

MERCHANDISE LISTER

A- 14 complaints view BBB report.
National Marketing Resources LLC
Greater Kansas City, Mo
YES, is BBB accredited.

Note: Steve Thorne CEO of National Marketing Resources is also CEO of Professional Marketing International, 360 South Technology Ct Lindon, UT, 84042. No BBB record on file for that company.

However, there is another NMR in Lehi, Utah that seems to be connected to 4 of the other companies (by proximity and business relationship).

A-, 9 complaints via BBB report.
National Marketing Resources
Greater Salt Lake City
NO, is not BBB accredited.

B-, 3 complaints, view BBB report.
My E Biz
Greater Salt Lake City
NO, is not BBB accredited.

E-FORM CONTRACT

A- from BBB report.
Yozons Inc / eSignForms
Greater Seattle, Washington
NO, is not BBB accredited.

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17 Responses to “Less Posts This Week, Dealing with Web Scam from Thrive Learning Institute”

  1. Jim Heck says:

    Nathaniel,

    So sorry that this is happening to you and your mother. I read the whole post. From a third party perspective, it seems VERY clear to me that this whole thing is a scam plain and simple. The attempt to get your mother to try it for one lesson was clearly so they can argue that she consummated the contract and give them firmer footing in resisting a cancellation. I wish you the best in getting your mother’s money back.

    The best advice I was ever given on how to tell a good deal from a bad one is this.

    If you have to commit to something today, and can’t think about and commit at a later time, RUN away. Something good today, should always be good tomorrow too. Any deal that involves high pressure is inherently bad for the buyer.

    -Jim

  2. I’m sorry to hear about your Mother’s scam.

    I’ve been there as well – which is why you found that Midwest Journal Press site.

    Here’s some additional places you can (and should) complain:

    -Your and their attorney generals.
    -FTC
    -Your and their Senators, as well as US Representatives – demand an investigation into Utah internet scams
    -Utah Governor’s office
    -Their local Chamber of Commerce (for all cities they are in, Lindon and Orem, maybe Provo)
    -ripoffreport.com (and email the editor, as he might be able to do something) – and update this report with all your complaints
    -All the complaint boards you can find online – and keep using the same phrase, like “Thrive Learning Bright Builder Internet scam”

    You can also try calling Zach Bradshaw at Thrive (their 866 number, X135)
    And one of their owners has his email at the whois registration. You can figure out Zach’s from that.
    As well, their fax number can be found at ripoffreports.com – just do a site search.

    Hope this helps.

    If there is anything else I can help you with, let me know – you have my email, or I can be reached via the contact form @ midwestjournalpress.com

    Good luck.

    Robert

  3. [...] came across this recent first-hand report on the Thrive Learning Scam directly ripping people off – this 6 April blog from Kelso’s Corner – describing how a telemarketer directly from Thrive Learning had sold his uneducated elderly [...]

  4. [...] data on the Thrive Learning Scamdirectly ripping people off comes from this 6 April blog from Kelso’s Corner – describing how a telemarketer directly from Thrive Learning had sold his uneducated elderly [...]

  5. [...] recent first-hand report on the Thrive Learning Scam directly ripping people off comes from this 6 April blog from Kelso’s Corner – describing how a telemarketer directly from Thrive Learning had sold his uneducated elderly [...]

  6. Jim says:

    If they did not tell you about the 3 day cancellation and it was not in the contract, them according to the laws of Utah, you have 90 days to cancel. ther are some of the Utah Consumer laws.
    13‑26‑11. Prohibited practices.
    (1) It is unlawful for any solicitor:
    (c) to make or cause to be made any untrue material statement, or fail to disclose a material fact necessary to make any statement made not misleading, whether in connection with a telephone solicitation or a filing with the division;
    (d) to make or authorize the making of any misrepresentation about its compliance with this chapter to any prospective or actual purchaser;
    (e) to fail to refund within 30 days any amount due a purchaser who exercises the right to cancel under Section 13‑26‑5; or
    (f) to fail to orally advise a purchaser of the purchaser’s right to cancel under Section 13‑26‑5
    13-26-5. Right of rescission — Cancellation. 13-26-5. Right of rescission — Cancellation.
    (1) (a) Except as provided in Subsections (1)(b) and (c), in addition to any right to otherwise revoke an offer, a person making a purchase from a telephone soliciting business required to be registered under this chapter may cancel the sale up to midnight of the third business day after the receipt of the merchandise or premium, whichever is later, provided the solicitor advises the purchaser of his cancellation rights under this chapter at the time any solicitation is made.
    (b) If the solicitor required to be registered under this chapter fails to orally advise a purchaser of the right to cancel under this section at the time of any solicitation, the purchaser’s right to cancel shall be extended to 90 days.
    (c) If the solicitor required to be registered under this chapter fails to orally advise a purchaser of his true name, telephone number, and complete street address at the time of any solicitation, the purchaser may cancel the sale at any time.
    (2) Sales shall be cancelled by mailing a notice of cancellation to the telephone solicitor’s correct street address, postage prepaid. If the telephone solicitor provided no correct street address, cancellation can be accomplished by sending a notice of cancellation to the division’s offices, postage prepaid.
    (3) (a) If a cancellation involves durable goods, as defined by rule, those goods shall be returned to the seller.
    (b) If expendable goods are involved, the purchaser shall return any unused portion of those goods.
    (c) A reasonable attempt shall be made to return goods to the solicitor’s correct street address within seven days of exercising the right to cancel, providing the solicitor has provided the purchaser with the address. If the solicitor has failed to give a correct address, no return is required to qualify for a full refund of the purchase price.
    (d) If the purchaser has used any portion of the services or goods purchased, the solicitor or telephone soliciting business shall receive a reasonable allowance for value given. This allowance may be deducted from any refund due the purchaser.
    (e) A solicitor shall be jointly and severally liable with the telephone soliciting business for any refund amount due following the cancellation of a sale made by the solicitor.
    (4) For the purposes of this section, “business day” does not include Sunday or a federal or state holiday.

  7. [...] across this recent first-hand report on the Thrive Learning Scam directly ripping people off - this 6 April blog from Kelso’s Corner - describing how a telemarketer directly from Thrive Learning had sold Kelso’s uneducated [...]

  8. [...] data on the Thrive Learning Scamdirectly ripping people off comes fromthis 6 April blog from Kelso’s Corner - describing how a telemarketer representing Thrive Learning had sold his uneducated elderly [...]

  9. Kona says:

    Please contact me at NotThrive@yahoo.com

  10. Kelly Sweetman says:

    I’ve been working with the BBB since October of last year (2008) with no success. It appears that the consumer (Me) has less rights than the business. Thrive tricked me into believing I could earn my investment back in just a few weeks. When I decided I no longer wanted to be part of their program, I was told they could not refund my money since I agreed to the terms. I spoke to Paul Castielo from Thrive and he told me I had one option, and that was to continue with the training. I was offered a 50% settlement which I declined. I never received any of Thrives services, so why should I pay anything ? I am currently working on filing a Civil suit against Thrive. It will take a week to put the the paperwork in order, but I hope it gets their attention. In the meantime, I will post my complaaint on every blog I can find. People need to be aware of companies like Thrive that feed off the unsuspecting. Perhaps in doing this, I can regain my investment.

  11. Chuck Maddox says:

    I joined Thrive mid July, and starting to run into articles like the one above, after another Thrive student suggested that I check BBB reports. I was charged $9,845.00, and ai find others have paid a lot less. I questioned this via an Email directed to the gentleman that sold me the program, with no response. I finally called the gentleman’s secretary, who would not speak with me, but through another person, said the the gentleman was no longer in that office, but would not say where, nor would she return my phone call.
    I then called a Customer Service number, low and behold it was the same office in Chatsworth, CA. I questioned the gentleman that took my call about the difference, that others had paid for the same program, and he said that he had not seen a program like mine, as I had 10 weeks of direct training, not like others who only paid for 8 weeks. My fee was $4,445 more than the student I had talked to.

    Interesting though, I have never received a contract, copy of my bill, or cancellation forms, which is contrary to FTC requirements.—I was sold the program on July 14,2009.

    I have complained that I sometimes wait 2 to 3 days for a response to my Emails to my coaches, but was told by one of the coaches that they could not go home at night until all Emails are answered. I am trying to build a Banner and Logo, and really need their help, but have sent the request three times over the last three days, and have not received an answer. It appears that you need to be available five days a week, all day, in case they do respond. I have put a lot of time into this program, but at this point I do not like what I see, and what I read, and will pracead to try and get my money back If I can figure out the best way to start.

  12. Deb says:

    In 30 minutes I am to meet on the phone with the head manager and sign on. I’m glad to read your posts. I will refuse. Thanks to all of you. I hope they do not have enough information on me to hurt my credit or something.

  13. Laura says:

    I definitely understand your concern and cannot begin to explain the depth of this markets less than reputable customer service and business practices.

  14. DKD says:

    Did you ever get this settled. I had a similar situation and have been unable to get my money back. They haven’t responded to my letters or e-mails. It is a large sum of money and I have no clue how to get the money back. I never accessed their site or their “materials” so I should technically be able to get my money back.

  15. DAJ says:

    I KNOW THIS COMPANY. THEY ARE ALL LIARS AND SCAM ARTISTS. SOME IDIOT NAMED TODD MACDONALD TOOK OVER RUNNING IT ABOUT 3 YRS. AGO AND HE IS NOTHING BUT A HUGE LIAR, FRAUD, BACK STABBING, SNEAKY JERK! ANYONE IN ANY UTAH WHO APPLIES TO WORK FOR A COMPANY WHO HAS HIM IN CHARGE, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE. HE RAN ANOTHER COMPANY IN UTAH THAT WENT UNDER ALSO. HE’S A FAKE!!!

  16. BeverleyB says:

    I have had a similar problem with Internet Income Solutions and Thrive to the tune of $15,000. If anyone knows how to do a class action lawsuit and all of us sue the company together that might be worth a try. It appears that a number of people have been ripped off by this company – and others like it – I doubt that I can get my money back – I joined up in 2009 as well – and did try some of the training – but it never got off the ground. I was told that they would continue to work with me for free if I didn’t make my investment back in the first 12 months – that never happened!! Anyway, I don’t know how class action law suits work – but other businesses have been sued collectively before so I wonder if there is a possibility that the same can be done with this business.

    Anyone have any ideas?

  17. Ralph B says:

    I to was taken in by Thrive. I lost over $13,000 i went to my state Dept of Consumer Protection Div.
    and I contacted The state of Utah about it and they were the best help.they helped me get a small portion of the money but I was still swindled out of a lot of money.I can’t afford to go the Law suit but this was my life part of my retirement savings that I was swindled out of.