Skepticism

“Get Rich Quick” Guru Tries to Silence Critic with DMCA

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Transcript:

When I was in my late teens, I dated a moron. It’s a rite of passage, isn’t it? Anyway, this dumbass was ten years older than me and so I thought he had his shit together. Spoiler alert: he did not. He was obsessed with getting rich through schemes, whether they be little ones (like how he managed a Discovery Channel store and would pretend to “break” big ticket items that he’d then sell on eBay) or big ones, like house flipping. I didn’t know what house flipping was at first, but I learned all about it because he had sets of DVDs that he had purchased for some exorbitant amount of money — I’m talking hundreds of dollars — from people who claimed to have gotten rich by doing it. And we could tell they were rich because they did on-camera interviews lounging next to their pools or sitting in their sports cars.

My eventual ex never actually bought a house, let alone flipped a house, and I soon came to realize that these people weren’t necessarily rich from flipping houses. They were rich because people like my boyfriend were sending them hundreds of dollars for a few DVDs of them sipping champagne and laughing about all their money. The advice they gave on those DVDs was nonspecific and probably pretty bad, looking back. I realized it was the same scam that has been going on for longer than DVDs have been a thing. Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when newspaper personal ads were a thing, you could often see ads that said things like “Make hundreds of dollars fast without leaving your home! Send $10 and a self-addressed stamped envelope to this address to learn how.” And when you sent along your $10, you received a pamphlet that said, “Put a personal ad in the newspaper that reads ‘Make hundreds of dollars fast without leaving your home! Send $10 and a self-addressed stamped envelope to this address to learn how.’” Brilliant, and kind of legal? Like, you did tell them how!

It’s my great displeasure to point out that the spirit of this type of scam is still alive and well today, and it lives right here on YouTube. “Financial success gurus” claim to be able to teach you, mere dumb mortal, how to live the lifestyle of your dreams without actually, you know, working for it or being good at anything.

I learned about this thanks to CoffeeBreak, a YouTuber named Stephen who makes videos about marketing and media. Recently, he made a video exposing a man named Kevin David, a “financial success guru” who claims to be able to tell people how to get rich quick. When I went to his website I recognized it immediately as being just like the many different DVD sets my moronic ex-boyfriend “invested” in to try to become a millionaire. Fancy car? Check. Testimonials from people claiming they made money thanks to him, who are also on the internet under a variety of other names and profiles? (Oh, you are making hundreds of thousands of dollars while still taking care of your two small children why yes, “Britt,” it does sound fake.) Check. “Course materials” that cost hundreds to thousands of dollars? Check. Small print that makes refunds very, very hard to get? Check.

Kevin David’s get rich scheme involves encouraging people to buy wholesale products on sites like Alibaba and drop shipping them to customers who buy them at a steep markup on Amazon, without apparently mentioning that the profit isn’t actually anywhere near what he claims it is.

CoffeeBreak’s video didn’t seem to focus on that stuff — he just described how Kevin David seems to have a habit of habitually plagiarizing other “gurus” word for word. I won’t show you those videos here. Why? Well, you can just click over to CoffeeBreak’s Twitter thread to see those, but you can’t see them on his YouTube channel because David filed a copyright claim forcing the video’s removal.

David also claimed his name is copyrighted, which is strange because you can’t really copyright a person’s name. I bet you’d have a case if your name was, say, “Unicorn Ray of Light Burp Skateboard,” or, well, “Prince,” but a name like “Kevin David?” That’s like the most basic western man name in existence. I almost can’t even see it when it’s on a plain white sheet of paper. It’s so plain it just disappears into the background. What was it? David George? George Michael? Gary Peter Robert? Yeah sorry Kev but people are allowed to talk about you on YouTube. Case in point: this video, which as of this very moment, at least, is still up.

I’ve talked about this shit before — it’s a very basic tool in the toolkit of every charlatan, scammer, pseudoscientist, quack, and lowlife alive today. Not that Kevin David is any of those, of course — I would never say that and be subject to a libel lawsuit. I’m just saying he’s using the same tools as them. Like, if I showed up at your house with a hot pizza with the exact toppings you ordered wearing a jacket decorated with the name of the pizzeria you ordered from, that does not necessarily mean I’m your pizza delivery driver. I might just be a serial killer who killed your pizza delivery driver and am about to gain access to your home under false pretenses so that I might also murder you.

Anyway yes, people who are hurt by the truth will do anything they can to silence it, and in America 2019 that often means frivolous libel lawsuits, or just threats of lawsuits, and on YouTube that means filing DMCA takedown notices even if there is no actual copyright violation happening, because YouTube has generally decided that they don’t want to bother figuring out if a video from a smaller streamer is in violation. It’s much easier for them to just take down the video and tell the streamer, “You figure it out.”

So CoffeeBreak’s video is no longer public, at least as of the time of this video’s recording. I hope that he manages to convince YouTube to put it back up, because Kevin David is making a lot of money with his online presence, which as CoffeeBreak alleges (correctly, in my opinion) is stolen wholesale from other “gurus.” So we need people who will stand up to Kevin David, so that he knows, and others like him know, that you can’t silence valid criticism with threats. You have to step up and actually defend yourself.

As an aside, I was recently perusing the FTC’s website, as one does, and I happened across this article from March of last year in which they announced a lawsuit they were pursuing against “Amazing Wealth Systems — also known at different points as AWS, FBA Stores, and Online Auction Learning Center” for making misleading claims about…hmm, let’s see…oh yes, using a “system” to make big bucks selling things on Amazon, just like Kevin David! In fact, in the comments on the FTC’s article on that case, four different people mention Kevin David, like this person who says “Several friends signed up the Kevin David course and never got a single product launched and ended up losing several thousands of dollars on products he stated would sell but didn’t.” Or this guy who says “Yes, I bought into Kevin Davids course for $997 and the same thing happened. He drives a Lamborghini to get you to buy into this and it is not as described.”

Since that was last year, we even have a happy update of sorts: the FTC won their case with a judgment against the scammers for $102 million. If you know of anyone who was ripped off by AWS, the FTC wants to hear from them! People can report their experiences with AWS at ftc.gov/complaint, and when the settlement money is collected they will start reimbursing people.

The FTC also mentions that if you have experience with another business that looks like AWS, the company that promised people great profits selling on Amazon but failed to actually produce those profits, you can use the exact same website to report that business: ftc.gov/complaint! Isn’t that convenient.

Nothing to do with Kevin David, of course. Just mentioning it. ftc.gov/complaint.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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