Getting rich without having to work hard: This is the promise that online finance academies use to lure young people. They should learn to invest properly, pay a lot of money for it and are often disappointed afterwards.
It all started with a WhatsApp message from a friend, says 25-year-old Tao from Friedrichsdorf. He first told him about the IM Mastery Academy online finance academy in 2019. There, members can allegedly learn to trade currencies, including cryptocurrencies in particular. There are learning videos, apps, live training online and on-site events, for example in Frankfurt am Main.
Participants pay the equivalent of 230 euros per month for this. Tao was doing an apprenticeship as an IT specialist at the time, so that was a lot of money for him. Still, he was interested. When his friend invited him to an event, he accepted. There it was less about currency trading and more about the participants recruiting new, paying members and earning money themselves. The online finance academy has a multi-level remuneration system for this.
World travel, yachts and expensive limousines
“It was suggested that if you bring a lot of people in, you can live a luxurious life and not have to worry about money,” says Tao. The pictures of world trips, yachts and limousines would have convinced him too. Until 2020 he was a member of the online finance academy. In retrospect, he regrets that he advertised it among his circle of acquaintances and that friendships were broken as a result.
In his own words, he didn’t earn much with it, and he often didn’t have the time to trade in currencies. In view of the high prices for membership, the whole thing was a gamble for him in retrospect, even if he can no longer say how much money he burned. How IM Mastery Academy justifies the high prices and what the focus is on the training has not yet been answered by the online financial academy when asked.
World travel, yachts and limousines: with the promise of great wealth, a pyramid scheme is established at dubious financial academies.
Image: picture alliance / Global Travel
According to the financial regulator, success is questionable
The financial supervisory authority BaFin warns against various online financial academies and other educational offers on the Internet. The providers would often lure young adults and even minors with the prospect of quick money and in return demand a monthly fee, says Sabine Reimer, head of the consumer education department: “However, it is questionable whether this will actually be successful.” It is possible that consumers even suffer losses.
“Currency trading in particular is difficult,” says Renate Daum, an investment expert at Stiftung Warentest. There was very little profit to be made from this. If members then had to spend a lot of money on training courses, they would quickly lose out. “That’s why it’s a warning sign when people at events get so greedy they can’t think straight.”
Ponzi scheme and “pure brainwashing”
The 32-year-old Mohamad had the same impression when he attended an IM Mastery Academy event in Frankfurt last November. “I had the feeling that people were really being brainwashed here.” On stage, people would have promised young people wealth, throwing psychological motivational slogans around. The pressure was enormous. “During every break and in the days that followed, members asked if I would like to join as well,” reports Mohamad. He decided against it and lost friends as a result.
Katharina Lawrence, financial expert at the consumer advice center in Hesse, advises to deal with such online educational offers carefully. “If a business model is based solely on recruiting new members so that money comes into the system, all the alarm bells should ring,” warns the consumer advocate.
She also thinks it is very important to question how much knowledge so-called coaches actually have. “Many likes and positive comments on social networks alone are not a sign of expertise,” emphasizes Lawrence. Anyone who really wants serious advice usually explains why they have specialist knowledge – in such a way that everyone can understand it using reputable sources.