Get-rich-quick courses becoming get-debt-quick schemes

By Kim Ngan   May 1, 2023 | 07:45 pm PT
Get-rich-quick courses becoming get-debt-quick schemes
Online advertisements about courses promising to teach attendees to get rich on social media have become increasingly popular in Vietnam. Illustration photo by Pexels
Many netizens with dreams of becoming millionaires overnight followed “specialists” on the Internet only to find themselves in crippling debt.

Online advertisements about courses promising to teach attendees to get rich on social media, in which self-proclaimed finance specialists promise to help attendees earn hundreds or even thousands of dollars a week, have become increasingly popular in Vietnam.

Thuan from Dong Thapa came across such an ad recently. He was promised that he would earn a profit of VND800 million ($34,122) within a year, provided that he spent $3,000 on the course. In exchange, he would be taught about cryptocurrency market technical analysis, which would then help him to make money from trading.

"They said that after signing up for the online course, I would be thoroughly instructed by the teacher. My $4,000 would then become $40,000," Thuan said.

Thuan agreed to join. Not long after that, he realized the sad truth. "Things delivered by the teacher were broad, confusing, and hard to understand. When I asked for explanations, the teacher didn’t even reply," Thuan recalled.

Course attendees like Thuan were required to do exactly what the teacher said. In other words, the only thing they could do was spend money on buying what their teacher mentioned. Those who violated this rule would be permanently removed from the chat group.

Thuan spent his money this way on the faulty course for a year and found himself accruing constant losses instead of profits. Eventually he spoke up and was kicked out of the group.

The money losses aside, Thuan also struggled as his mother cut ties with him and he had no choice other than work as a construction worker or street vendor to pay the debts he borrowed for course fees. He told VnExpress that he borrowed VND400 million (around US$17 thousand) from his relatives and the bank to pay for that course.

"I got depressed and had no interest in working anymore," Thuan recalled.

Similar to Thuan, Phu struggled after attending a get-rich course. After joining the course for only half a month and trusting the "fake" teacher, he lost VND800 million (around US$34 thousand). His dream of being rich also turned into a debt of billions of dong.

"Things the teacher said were too complicated and I couldn’t understand," Phu said.

Both Thuan and Phu thought about ending their lives several times to escape their debts. "I suffered from insomnia and thought negatively about everything. There were times I wanted to take my own life as a solution," Thuan recalled.

Specialists attribute the increasing number of young people dreaming to become rich to the rise of the inflation rate. They are willing to quit their jobs to be a full-time "investor" in hopes of achieving that goal, hopefully quickly. Insider reported in a recent survey that 34% of Gen Z Internet users believe in financial advice they find online, just like Thuan.

Compared to that, only 24% actually communicate with professional consultants. Meanwhile, as Paxful researched 1,212 videos on TikTok, they found out that one in every seven pieces of advice was superstitious instead of scientific.

According to psychologist Trinh Trung Hoa, it’s normal for people to want to become rich. However, many scammers have taken advantage of this desire to lure people into thinking that they are becoming rich and successful while they’re actually getting worse into debt.

Phan Dung Khanh, Head of Investment Advisory at Maybank Investment Bank, who has been active in the finance field for 23 years, noted that there is no ultimate profit formula that could apply to everyone to help them make profits.

"There are no shortcuts and no formula for becoming rich," claimed Khanh.

He also warned that sweet promises offered by self-proclaimed specialists on social media are often ambiguous, or even fabricated to lure audiences into buying the channel owners’ digital books or courses.

Another loophole taken advantage of by these scammers is the fact that online advertising in Vietnam has not been well-regulated yet, according to Le Nhu Tien, former Deputy Head of the National Assembly Committee of Youth, Education, and Teenagers.

Because of the lack of oversight, the Internet is filled with advertisements that offer promises to help the attendees become rich, to improve their skills, and to change the attendee’s destiny.

Tien has suggested the Ministry of Education and Training to regularly employ quality assessment and make sure that those courses are delivered as promised. The public should be cautious when encountering these kinds of content, as there have been too many real-life cases of taking on massive debts instead of earning money as promised.

Thuan now considers his financial losses the price he had to pay for participating in a field that he didn’t know well. He wants to resume his rice selling business and drop the desire to make money quickly.

"It was my fault, when I was too greedy and ignorant," he said. "I will give up on trading cryptocurrencies, as I received nothing but grief from it."

go to top