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Rise in fraudsters selling fake courses: We reveal the top five online training scams

There has been a surge in scammers selling fake online courses as more households take up learning while stuck at home, new data has revealed.

With everyone except key workers in lockdown, people are turning to online coaches and trainers to educate themselves while they have the time to do so, including taking webinars, podcasts, virtual classroom streaming and one-to-one coaching.

However, this has also led to a rise in fraudsters taking advantage of those taking up courses by selling fake online courses, according to the CPD Standards Office, a course accreditation firm.

There has been a rise in scammers selling fake online courses as more take up online learning

The organisation is warning those who are looking to take up a course while the coronavirus epidemic continues to ensure they choose one that is accredited, which offers an official recognition for online and digital learning experiences.

Amanda Rosewarne, chief executive of The CPD Standards Office, said: 'Self-isolation has now created a new trend for regular engagement in online learning. 

'Yet with so many new providers entering the online learning market, it has become the new wild-west, where learners can easily be hooked by cowboys.'

She adds: 'Over the past few weeks, all sorts of new online learning has been created, the need for external validation of this market has never been greater.

'It is critical that genuine providers seek accreditation to ensure that their products stand head and shoulders above the rest, and that learners are not hook-winked by cowboys'.

This is Money, with help from the CPD Standards Office, can reveal the top five most common scams to look out for:

Those wanting to take online courses are asked to check first if it is accredited before paying

Scam 1: Non-existent colleges and courses

The word 'college' is unprotected so anyone can set up an online educational college, where in reality it does not exist. 

One scam involves creating a site, charging you for a course, and then never delivering the product.

Scam 2: Cloak and Dagger Sales Presentations

Some online training will actually be a cloak and dagger product that actually tries to sell you another product or service. 

When you are choosing online training, you need to look for courses that provide at least 4 to 8 learning objectives or learning outcomes.

Scam 3: Fake Qualifications

It is easy to fall foul of scammers who promise professional qualifications that meet the Department of Education's National Educational Framework. 

Scammers can easily hook you in by selling a course but then fail to materialise the professional certificate or licence.

Students taking online courses can hopefully avoid being scammed by doing their research

Scam 4: Promises of Employment

Another hoax tactic often used are promises of employment, for example, a provider selling a course that guarantees work, or a set of clients at the end of the programme.

In this case, the course is not the problem, it's just that the money promised at the end does not materialise.

Scam 5: The Online Course is a Primer for a More Expensive Course

As online course content is completely shielded until you have paid your money, some scammers put together a very short overview course – which is not worth the money you've paid for it – only to then promote a longer, more expensive course.

How can you avoid these scams?

If you buy 'dodgy' online learning that has not been externally verified, you may fall foul by purchasing something that is actually selling you a product or service leaving you frustrated that it didn't actually teach you what was advertised.

Alternatively, these learning experiences may also be padded out with outdated information, or incorrect material, and again – how do you know if the provider really has experience and credence in their given field.

This busy market stems from the fact that the barriers to entry are low. 

Online platforms are easy to populate and promote learning content is easy on social media and internet ads.

This means it is easy for opportunist cowboys to enter the market undetected and profess that their online offering is comparable to that of a true expert.

Given the online training market is starting to flood, it has never been more important to ensure that your online learning has been verified by a third party training certification. 

Top ten courses people are taking 

With many now deciding to learn a new skill and expand their knowledge in the current lockdown, there has been a rise in online courses - but they might not be what you were expecting.  

We reveal the top ten courses currently being taken by the Britons according to CPD. 

1) Learn The Secrets of Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness: Those who take this course will learn how to 'successfully acquire and store a survival scenario food reserve to meet all your nutritional needs during the zombie apocalypse'.

The standard price of the course is £199.99.  

2) Selfie Masterclass: How to click perfect Selfies: This course describes itself as teaching people how to take the perfect selfie. It adds that it can help users up their engagement by taking the class. 

The standard price of the course is £199.99. 

Smile: One of the courses claims to teach students how to take the perfect selfie

3) 500+ American Slang - Spoken English Vocabulary Course: A perhaps more educational course, it promises students it will help them learn how to grasp the English language 'used across TV, books and speaking with locals'.

The standard price of the course is £129.99. 

4) Dance Floor Confidence - How to Dance at a Club for Men: And on the other end of the spectrum, a much more specific course, this aims to help men learn how to dance, teaching them to 'have fun and not look silly'. 

The standard price of the course is £49.99. 

5) Learn to communicate with Animals and Nature: This course claims that it can teach students 'how to connect with nature using telepathy' including how to communicate with an animal via a photo.

The standard price of the course is £94.99. 

One course says it will teach students how to build Luke Skywalker's lightsaber

6) Build a LightSaber from Star Wars: This course says it will teach students how to build Luke Skywalker's lightsaber from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

The standard price of the course is £19.99. 

7) Seven Simple Steps to Add Excitement To Your Lifestyle: This course simply claims it will teach people how to inject excitement into your life with seven actionable secrets - but doesn't divulge exactly what this might be. 

The standard price of the course is £19.99. 

8) How to be a Tour Guide in your Hometown Overnight: The eighth most popular course claims it can teach you how to give a one hour walking tour to a small group around your home town.

The standard price of the course is £19.99. 

9) How to Build a Rocket - A Guide with Activities in Rocket: The course claims that it can show people how to build several types of rockets and explain the science behind how rockets work.

The standard price of the course is £19.99. 

10) Dog Training - Train your dog to walk on a treadmill: This course claims that it can teach you how to confidently train your dog to walk on your treadmill and how to exercise your pooch inside. 

This course is free. 

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