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Cover image for 🤑🥳😎Going down the youtube tech guru hole or how you can spot scam artists

🤑🥳😎Going down the youtube tech guru hole or how you can spot scam artists

lampewebdev profile image Michael "lampe" Lazarski ・8 min read

I find it fascinating what you can find on youtube these days.

People are selling you shortcuts to your dreams and a secret that only they know!

You know the guy in front of an expensive car that was a multi-millionaire in his 20ths and now wants to help you to become also a multi-millionaire!

It is so easy that everybody can do it! Yes, you and you can do it! Even a baby could do it!

You just need to give him or her 3000 or 10000 or 300 Zelda rupees!

It is that easy! You will make that money back in no time!

Sarcasm over

Let's go over some tactics used by these kinds of scam artists and how you can spot them.

Promises to good to be true

One thing we have to understand those scam artists, in general, are good storytellers. I mean excellent storytellers. Keep this in mind for the rest of this post.

This is how most of there "sell pitches" because this is what they are, will start.

The first thing they will do they will target the right audience. They do that on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. So you will see a short ad before the actual coding video you wanted to watch.

That video has a formula.
1) A hook. This hook can be something like

  • "So, you want to be a javascript freelancer?"
  • "Don't push skip because ..."
  • "Don't you want to be ...? here is how."
  • etc. etc. etc...

You can see a pattern. This is on purpose and designed to make you think that if you skip, you will not hear some crucial and life-changing information.

It is a psychology trick. It is the same trick as with endless scrolling on Facebook or Instagram. "Maybe when I just scroll long enough, I will find something that I really need". We all know we will just end up in some viral videos that don't make any sense, or you will watch some cats.

Okay, now that you are listing to them. We come into phase two.

2) Getting to know each other

  • "Hey, I'm ... I'm a freelance developer making 1 Million when I was 21 years old."
  • "Hey, I'm ... I'm an ex-googler, ex-facebook, and ex-Netflix employe."
  • "Hey, I'm ... <Insert something that is either too good to be true or something that looks amazing but isn't"

The intent of this is to do at least two things to you. The first one is to establish a connection with you. We as humans trust people more the more we know the other person. This is why influencer marketing works better than dull old commercials because, in your brain, a friend is selling something to you and not a strange guy from the TV.

The second one is to show you what that scam artist has achieved and why you should listen to him/her. "1 Million when I was 21 years". Would you ever introduce yourself to strangers on the streets like that? "Hey, I'm Warren Buffett, and I'm the richest man on earth." Please say that you would not do that.

So now you want to become like that person, right? I mean, who does not want to be 21 and have 1 Million Zelda rupees?

If someone is telling you, "Hey, I worked at a big company, look at me!" what does it mean? You have to question that. That person could be anything at that company, and just because you worked at a big company does not mean that you are good at what you are doing. I know brilliant people that work at small startups. This sentence is just there to make their next claims heavier so they can hit you harder!

Keep in mind you don't know that person. You only know a produced and scripted video of that person. So yeah, don't forget to question everything, and yes, question this blog post!

3) Showing some random charts/numbers
Now that you and the scam artist know each other, it is time to show you some numbers!

This is where they will either show you some whiteboard and draw random numbers on it, or they will show you some charts. Even if they show you a screenshot of some online bank interface, should you blindly believe in that? I think by now, you know the answer.

If it is a website, it is super easy to change such numbers on a website without even using photoshop. Just open the dev tools and find the right HTML element and just change it! Here I have 100, 000 000 followers, on dev.to!

Alt Text

All of these numbers are fake! But don't they look great? This took me 2 minutes!

So yeah, to keep this short. Don't trust any chart you haven't faked yourself!

But why is this added? To make you want to see how that guy or girl made it! It is just there to hook you even more in! Like people are making 120k at google pfff, this guy is making a million!

They are catering to your desires, and this works best on people how are already in a bad situation in their lives. So be very careful with random numbers that people are showing to you!

4) Buzzwords overkill!

Now the "how" parts will start. Since the goal is to sell you 'education'.

This sentence is a real sentence from a video that is selling some online course:
"Listen up; you will be learning the basics of javascript, you gone be learning advanced object-oriented programming, you be learning DOM, GitHub, Visual Studio Code, Command Line, Version Control, AJAX, JSON, API, ES6 and more..."

It is like firing a machine gun with buzzwords. Of course, you can just say: You will be learning the minimum basics of frontend web development. Does this sound that good? No. Besides, the part of having javascript in advanced object-oriented programming in one sentence does not make any sense. You will probably know most of these buzzwords from somewhere.

Again this comes down to make you feel familiar with that scam artist. "Oh, he/she is using and teaching the same things I want to learn".

Yes, because you can not do anything on the frontend without javascript and all the rest. Like Visual Studio Code that is just right the most popular code editor. I mean, you need a code editor to write code. Having GitHub and Version Control in the same sentence is kind of redundant because GitHub's main feature is to be an interface for Version Control tolls. Yeah, I know you can do more with it now, but still, it is kind of pointless to name both of them.

Why is "DOM" on that list? I have no clue. Even if you learn ReactJS or VueJS or angular, it still comes down to the DOM. 🤷‍♀️

Let's get back to the topic.

4) The course information

So now usually you will get a very little info about what is actually in that course. Just to have a real example again. In the Video with the buzzwords, you would get 15 modules with 30+ hours of video content. This means around 2 hours of content for each module.

I mean 30+, and you will be a profitable developer? This must be the best teacher in the world! From knowing nothing about development to becoming a millionaire in 30+ hours.

Sorry but that is not reasonable for 99% of people. You will probably learn something, but you will only learn things that are already for free on the internet. You will get more like an introduction to web development.

Also, this part is usually the shortest because if they would stay too long on that part, you would also see the flaws of it!

5) "We have proof that it works."

Fake testimonials! Now the scam artist will show you some random guy/girl that made it with there course! Don't believe in a single one of them!

Why? It is so easy to get fake testimonials even if it is a video!
You can buy them for 5 dollars at fiverr.com. Or just go to the 'Spokespersons Videos' section. Or just google "buy testimonials". This is another rabbit hole I would love to dig into.

I mean, you don't even need to buy a fake testimonial. Just ask someone that is right now taking that course how he/she likes it and boom. Fake testimonial for free! Or just ask a random friend. 🤷‍♀️

Also, one thing you have to keep in mind: Even if they a real, these people don't get these jobs or money just because of one online course. Usually, they already have some experience or have a University degree in something similar to computer science.

Also, keep in mind they are usually showing between 1 and 3 people, and yeah, you can say its because of the length of the video they don't want to show more. If they have like 10 000 people taking there courses, then three people are not very significant? If you take 10 000 random people, then yeah, some of them will have more success then others. It is nothing special, and just how the world works.

What they could do is now show a chart with statistics, right? Yes! But you will never see that because it would look bad. Then again, they could also fake that.

6) Money-back guarantee!

You can get your money back until the last second of the online course! Yes, even at the last minute! Just with 1 sec to go! This sounds amazing, right?

No, and here is why: You not even finished the course and probably did not make any money and you don't know if you will earn any money, but what was the promise to you? That you will be rich in X months, right?

So why do I not have that guarantee for X months after the course ends? Or why not pay after you made X amount of money?

I have seen both possibilities on some other online courses!

I mean, it is straightforward why: because the claims they make will not be reached by 99% of the people attending in the time they promise you would!

7) The sell

Now that you have listened to pumping music and all these "benefits" you should feel hyped and highly motivated to make that money!

Now they will ask you if they can be your mentor, and you need to be quick because the registration is limited in some way either by time or by places or by both.

The scam artist will say how much his life has changed and how much your life will change after that course.

So yeah, have you ever seen a youtube video that will go offline after X hours, and if that video reaches 500 views, it will delete itself?

Usually, what you want is the opposite, right? You want the video to stay as long online as it can and to have millions of viewers?

Have you ever seen a "Limited Edition" of something? Like a limited edition of a bottle of coke? Is inside still the same coke as before?

"Supreme" is entirely based on that strategy. They will produce X amount of clothes and then never again.

Here it is the same. It is called "Scarcity marketing". If you want to know more about that, just google it. You will find plenty of examples.

The end of the video!

Now you either saying: okay that was rediculous
or you will buy it!

outro

Just to make some points clear:

  • Not all online courses are bad
  • You should inform yourself before taking them
  • Usually, you can get all the necessary content for free. One of those websites is freecodecamp.org
  • I don't want to name any of these tech YouTubers by name. I want you to see the general scam.

I hope you liked that post! If you want a follow up, please comment, like and share. So I can know that you are interested in content like that!

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Discussion (42)

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bartosz_io profile image
Bartosz Pietrucha • Edited

An important reflection on the topic of online courses. While buying online course, you are not buying just the knowledge (it's available online for free in scattered, distributed, fuzzy, ambiguous forms). When buying (a good) online course you are buying knowledge that is curated, systematized and delivered in an interesting, easily digestible way (a system).

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

It is not about the content of the courses it's about the marketing and tricks used to market these courses and the false claims.

If someone comes to me and says that my company in 8 months will be worth 10 000 million euros without knowing what I'm doing.

It is the same as what these scam artists are doing. in 30+ hours you will be a 1 million euro developer.

I don't know anybody how is that good smart.

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bartosz_io profile image
Bartosz Pietrucha • Edited

Agreed. But, I believe you (and most people) are smart enough to know that "get rich overnight" is a scam by default. Isn't it? :)

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

Sadly not.

Just google "onecoin scam".

Also, these scam artists don't target developers but people who want to become developers and don't know anything about development.

Again I don't want to post any links here in public.

But basically they are on the same level as some other famoues youtubers with millions of followers.

They are just normaly not in the filter bubble of 'normal' developers.

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filix profile image
Filip Ilić

This. I bought such coure before because I like having course structured. Because I always have FOMO on some technology and souch course makes me feel like I am learning all that I will need to create particular app.

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

Hmm I'm a friend of learning the basics not how to fit example create a specific type of app.

A login is a login. Of course with different authentication strategies

Almost all lifecycle routines are the same they are just member different.

And so on.

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techpackets profile image
Shivang Sarawagi • Edited

"From knowing nothing about development to becoming a millionaire in 30+ hours. Sorry but that is not reasonable for 99% of people." - I think it's unreasonable for 100% of the people. Just setting up everything took me 30+ hours when I was a newbie let alone getting down to writing some code.

Most of the social media campaigns target newbies who have zero knowledge of the industry and eventually they end up buying the product :)

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

Yes you can see that scam in a lot of things

For example "onecoin"

Just google "onecoin scam"

juicy story :D

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techpackets profile image
Shivang Sarawagi

Yup, I am aware of that. Funny thing is the company is still running and managing 1 million$ new investments every day or week don't remember exactly.

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

Yes, it is amazing how people are still behind that scam.

But yeah I think once you believe in that lie it is hard to change your mind after someone is telling you that you lost your money and the money of your family.

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filix profile image
Filip Ilić

They do it always in new places(ex. new country or even city). They had a conference in my city and my frend being aware of their scam asked me to go with him to learn how they scam people. It was hilarius watching them jumping with examples of succes on one guy who seemed interested.

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nekio profile image
NEKIO 💙

TechLead YouTube channel, greatest scam I have seen.

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piavgh profile image
Hoang Trinh

I have to login dev.to to like this :D

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lampewebdev profile image
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aleksandrhovhannisyan profile image
Aleksandr Hovhannisyan

It's not just YouTube, unfortunately.

A different, more subtle kind of "scam" that companies these days are running is promising to launch beginners' software dev careers with their courses.

I once used to copy edit course content for one of these sites. They were jumping aboard the Python bandwagon like so many other sites.

They'd make bold claims that they're helping you learn by "building a real-world app," which 1) wasn't an actual app, 2) imparted awful coding practices, like using tuples instead of dictionaries or classes, and 3) seemed to have been written by a complete beginner.

I quit working for them shortly after. Absolutely disgusting business practices.

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

Oh don't get me started on the Bootcamp and copy and paste online course buisness.

This is a topic that could be its own blog post series...

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twitmyreview profile image
Priyab Dash

Very true I remember following a Tech Youtuber who said he is Ex FB, and gave gyan on how to do freelancing and do web development and bragged about his some softwares how he became rich. But soon his videos became weird. Completely unrelated to tech and more to do with his personal life.

I feel while its easy to run a scam running a genuine Youtube Channel is a very hard work especially having a continuous running Theme and building a useful audience.

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haamida profile image
Hamida

I think I know who ex-Facebook and ex-Google engineer, I initially followed him for the tech talks, than with time the content became personal, aggressive in nature and just felt scammy since his other promoted buisness was nothing but another Leetcode replica

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

Just to make sure: This post is not about one specific person :)

Also not saying that that person is not usuing these tricks ;)

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haamida profile image
Hamida

Yeah that's clear, I kinda just figured out the above commenter reference since I almost fell for that specific scam.
I appreciate your article though, it's sad seeing these scammers feeding on people's hopes and dreams.

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

Goog to hear that you did not fall for it!

Your welcome :) I hope that i can help some people to not fall for that scam!

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abdisalan_js profile image
Abdisalan

I couldn't have said it better myself. I'm really tired of all these scam videos, its a shame they actually work on a lot of people though :/

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

Yes, it is a shame :/

I hope that people will find this blog post and see through the scam!

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iamkalai profile image
Kalaiarasan Pushpanathan

I can see this post has implicitly referenced one guy more than few times. I am not sure why people would want to follow his content or any other person who refers themselves as millionaire in every other video without it actually being the topic of the video.

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

I did not have one guy on my mind while writing this :)

And people are following them because they project themselves into them and even sometimes they know that this is fake they still want to be like that person.

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dannypsnl profile image
林子篆

I also feel not good with such courses but on the other hand, there always has enough information to prevent not needed buying. Those courses mostly won't make someone has any problem with keeping alive, they just waste their time. I think in case they should take responsibility. Of course, I think that change the business model would be better: All content could be access, when a user feels those stuff are helpful, pay for it. The problem would be: How many people would pay money in this situation? I have no idea.

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

It is not that I'm against paid content.

It is just that they are not selling education they are selling dreams that can not be fulfilled by the claims they are making.

If they would market the course more reasonable I would have nothing against it.

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bpkinez profile image
Branislav Petrović

Great post Bartosz!

Finnaly someone who unmasked those scammy "authors" that sell their recipes for easy and happy developer life to people who are naive and submissive, switching career or are in bad financial situation and want to only get food on the table.

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Alex Turner

Wow! Great tips. If I send you all my money would you be willing to teach me?

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author • Edited

No 😂🤣

Most of the information I can teach you are for free online

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updated_tos profile image
Null

That expensive car isn't theirs. They've only rented it for the hour. Same goes for the luxury apartment.

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

Also the woman and a lot of things ;)

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shiraazm profile image
Shiraaz Moollatjie

I feel the same about conferences as well at times. It's just a sales pitch for these same reasons.

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Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

Conferences or webinars could be its own blog post :)

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MurrayVarey

Don't trust any chart you haven't faked yourself

Love it! I should hang this quote on my wall ...

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

It is inspired by a German saying:

"Trau keiner statistik die du nicht selbst gefälscht hast"

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faraazahmad profile image
Syed Faraaz Ahmad

"Hey, I'm ... I'm an ex-googler, ex-facebook, and ex-Netflix employe."

I see what you did there haha!

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Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

I did nothing 😉😚😙

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ΔNDRΞW • Edited

that's how you know it's fake, even the biggest wallet only holds 9999 Rupees

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

🤣🤣 true at least in all the Zelda games I have played 🤣🤣

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Vladislav Guleaev • Edited

Cool topic to be raised, nowadays very actual since we have a lot of educational content but not most of it is from really professional teachers/engineers.

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lampewebdev profile image
Michael "lampe" Lazarski Author

Yes sadly that's also true