The Federal Trade Commission took the wind out of the sails of a major online coaching scheme after it asked a US federal court to issue a temporary restraining order against a group of interconnected businesses last week.

Digital Altitude Falling, Never To Aspire Further

On February 1, the US District Court for the Central District of California agreed with the FTC that a whole panoply of online marketing companies for allegedly misleading violating the FTC act by misleading their members. The network of companies, almost all affiliate or MLM-based recruitment schemes of some sort, included several incarnations of Digital Altitude, Aspire Processing or Aspire Ventures, RISE Systems, Thermography for Life, and The Upside. A number of individuals were named in the injunction as well, including Sean Brown, Alan Moore, Morgan Johnson, Mary Dee, and Michael Force.

The FTC’s complaint was clear, accusing the defendants of leading on their customers to keep buying progressively-tiered memberships, convincing them to do so by promising, falsely, that each new, more expensive tier of membership would reveal the knowledge necessary to build an online business of their own. Promises of individual, one-on-one coaching, provided by marketers who had successfully built their own business, turned out to be nothing but upsell sessions where members were exposed to marketing materials for the next higher step in the program; the true intentions of the defendants were revealed to be nothing more than separating as much money as possible from their customers, according to the FTC.

Wrecking Lives, One Upsell At A Time

The sheer breadth of the network the defendants used to promote their tiered scheme saw its messaging spread far and wide. Social media sites like Instagram and Facebook were used for heavy promotion, as were standalone websites, in attempts to funnel new consumers into the system. These new consumers were then tasked with continuing the process themselves while handing over cash to the defendants for the privilege on the promise of earning a living themselves. Unfortunately, hardly any of these customers were able to make any sort of income – even after spending upwards of $50,000 on “training”.

While it’s gratifying to see that Digital Altitude/Aspire has been scruffed so decisively by the FTC and the federal courts, unfortunately the damage has been done to all too many individuals who had been taken in by the defendants and their empty promises. Additionally, the number of similar outfits out there still in operation simply because they haven’t triggered the FTC’s radar means that there are still all too many individuals out there that could be caught in this trap. It may be only a matter of time until similar schemes are exposed, but until that time, the risk of more people being fleeced out of tens of thousands of dollars remains high.

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