Editor's note: Action Line is a weekly column from the Better Business Bureau answering consumers' questions and concerns about money and business issues.
Dear Action Line,
My husband and I recently attended an informational meeting that was supposed to introduce a three-day course on real estate investments. We arrived with high hopes that the course would be worth the investment. Those hopes were quickly squashed. By the end of the first day, it was very obvious that was not going to happen. There was no training included that day, just high-pressure sales tactics for very expensive packages for more training that included coaching, books, videos and other sales materials. We paid $394 and want to know how to go about getting our money back. Can you help us?
Please try these methods to get your refund. Review all of the printed information you have on the course. You may find refund policies there. Go back to the company and ask for a refund citing why you were not happy with the course. If that does not settle the issue, you can file a complaint at bbb.org and with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov.
As you know, real estate investing is a business opportunity and can be risky. The FTC recommends trying to approach successful entrepreneurs in your own community. For the cost of a cup of coffee, they may be willing to offer insights into what worked for them.
FTC also advises that opportunities pitched at seminars usually don't live up to the hype. Take your time, ask questions and listen carefully before you consider your investment. Promotional materials and sales pitches often make over-the-top claims such as:
You can earn big money fast, regardless of your experience or training.
The deal is a "sure thing" that will deliver security for years to come.
You'll rake in money by working part-time or at home.
You'll be coached to success each step of the way.
The program worked for other participants -- even the organizers.
People who invest in these "opportunities" usually find that the payoff doesn't match the promise and that they can't recover the money they spent.
You can also check with the Small Business Administration, which has a mentoring program that pair people with retired executives who are willing to share their know-how. Just go to sba.gov for more info.
There are many companies out there that sell information that may be available to you free. Try community colleges and small-business centers where you can get free information and counseling.
The best defense is to check out the company before you become involved in the offer, no matter what kind of offer you may receive. It's your time and your money.
Blair Looney is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 1601 H St., Suite 101, Bakersfield, CA 93301 or email@example.com. These are his opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.