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Ads for health products often target Boomer Consumers, but those aren’t the only claims pitched to people looking toward retirement. An FTC action alleges a company called Online Trading Academy has taken in more than $370 million by gearing its deceptive representations to that demographic. In addition, the complaint alleges violations of the Consumer Review Fairness Act.

Online Trading Academy complaint exhibitsAccording to the FTC, the California-based operation, related companies, and three individual defendants advertise a “patented strategy” that consumers can apply “to any asset class including stocks, options, futures and currencies” to rake in big money. They claim their “training programs” – with price tags as high as $50,000 – will teach consumers how to “invest like the pros on Wall Street.” ”No matter your experience and goals,” people were told the defendants’ “proven” strategy was “designed to make money in any market, whether it’s going up or down.”

The complaint recounts the process the defendants use to attract consumers through TV and radio ads, online promotions, and direct mail. First comes an in-person “preview” seminar. Next, people pay $299 for a three-day “orientation.” That’s where the defendants urge attendees to sign up for seminars costing thousands more. The defendants assign each attendee an “Education Counselor” – a/k/a salesperson working on commission – who follows up by phone or email. According to the complaint, the defendants train their Education Counselors not to “look like, act like or sound like, a traditional salesperson,” but instead to take on a “role” and lead consumers through “The Pain Funnel,” Q&A designed to overcome consumer qualms.

To get people to sign up for more seminars, the defendants routinely offer to finance all or part of the cost with loans at 18%, with the promise to forgive the interest if the consumer pays the total off within six months. The FTC says that in some instances, the defendants lead buyers to believe they’ll be able to repay the loan quickly with money they’ll make using that “patented strategy.”

So how much does Online Trading Academy say consumers will earn? A central theme of their pitch is “You don’t have to work on Wall Street to make money like Wall Street.” Infomercials feature purchasers claiming that “in three hours I made $12,000” or “I made $32,000 in less than seven trading days.” In a YouTube video, a retiree says he made “$40,000 in a single trade.” In addition, a speaker at a live event claimed consumers “could potentially make $50,000 of annual income with an account size as low as $5,000” because Online Trading Academy has “a patent on the fact that you can time the markets,” which “gives us the ability to know when to get in and when to get out, long-term and short-term.”

Other speakers – including some of the named defendants – paint a picture of lavish lifestyles filled with international travel, a “super luxury car” every year, and homes in areas where kids have “live-in nannies, cooks, gardeners.” One speaker said the money he made using Online Trading Academy’s strategy allows him to live in an enclave so exclusive that a neighbor, a renowned Olympic gold medalist, taught his daughter to swim.

But the facts paint a different picture. The FTC alleges the defendants don’t systematically collect data sufficient to substantiate their earnings claims. But even the evidence they do have gave them good reason to know their representations are deceptive. For starters, according to the FTC, the defendants know that few consumers who take out those high-interest, short-term loans repay them in full within six months. Indeed, of loans at least a year old, a significant number have gone into default or other non-payment status – like bankruptcy.

In addition, the FTC says the company’s own customer satisfaction surveys belie their big-money ad claims. For example, a 2018 survey asked – among other things – “As a result of your experience at Online Trading Academy, would you say you’re ‘making money’ through trading and investing?” The results: Just 3% of people who responded claimed to be making “a lot of money,” 31% reported making “a little money,” and 66% said they were making no money at all. The story wasn’t much better for people who had forked over thousands for the defendants’ “Mastermind” membership. According to the FTC, the survey results were so disastrous that Online Trading Academy’s CEO Eyal Shachar forbid anyone from taking a copy out of the room. So the defendants went back to the drawing board and conducted a second survey, which again showed that few people were earning anything and many were losing money. In addition, the FTC alleges that data from a trading platform that Online Trading Academy recommended to its students showed that many consumers didn’t trade at all and of those who did, nearly 75% lost money.

Dissatisfied that the defendants’ “strategy” didn’t live up to the hype, purchasers have often asked for their money back. In numerous cases, the corporate defendants and CEO Shachar require that consumers getting refunds sign a form contract that includes a non-disparagement provision barring them from saying anything negative about Online Trading Academy to anyone – including law enforcement agencies and the Better Business Bureau. The form specifies “negative” comments “on any blog, internet chat room, website, including all forms of social media.”

The FTC lawsuit alleges the defendants made false or unsubstantiated earnings claims and challenges their representations that any consumer – regardless of education, background, capital, or time to devote to the “strategy” – can make meaningful income. The complaint also charges that the corporate defendants and CEO Shachar violated the Consumer Review Fairness Act by imposing a non-disparagement clause in form contracts.

The case is pending in federal court in California.
 

87 Comments

Guest (not verified)
February 12, 2020
That about sums up OTA.
Big Loser (not verified)
May 16, 2020

In reply to by Guest (not verified)

Overall, I lost about $15,000.00, not to mention the cost of the the courses. On occasion, I made money using their strategy, but lost much more. I tried trading along with the 'pro picks' but lost money doing that. I was told how good the Pro Pick traders were but I found that the success rate there was less than 40%. I haven't traded my own money in about 6 months. I mostly trade on the simulator now. The 'set-it and forget it strategy that they teach hardly ever works. I need to baby sit my trades when I do trade to avoid losing any money. My big wins were shorting while making market trades on Trade Station's simulator during this recent COVID-19 pandemic. No strategy there.
RGWashington (not verified)
February 13, 2020
When this group presented this opportunity in New Orleans, they made the same kinds of claims. When it was time for the hard sell, they would take you away separately. When you returned to the group setting and there sales numbers didn't appear where they wanted, they would put the beginner box at your seat, giving the impression that you had enrolled and would therefore encourage other's to enroll.
Emmanuel Allen (not verified)
February 13, 2020

In reply to by RGWashington (not verified)

I am one of those who has never made money after receiving training from Online Trading Academy. I never thought the training was adequate for the money they charged and have struggled to pay the $650.00/month for the tuition loan. Several times I have been invited back for further insight and training, only to discover it was a pitch to sign up for more expensive classes. Now they have come up with a product that they claim is sure fire, but want additional money for the CliK program that was in beta testing when the offer was made. With the stats you have gathered on the lack of success stories, I am not surprised they are frantically trying to get all of us to testify how great they have been. It is comforting to find I am not alone and that OTA can be held accountable. I had relied on this training to produce income while in retirement. Beware the Sharks!
Guest (not verified)
February 13, 2020
How does a OTA student assist the FTC in this effort? I had the same bad experience in their Kansas City (Overland Park) office.
Gil Alona (not verified)
April 27, 2020

In reply to by Guest (not verified)

Hi. I still need to take as retake of my forex class as the first class was not up to par as far as I am concerned. I need to get back to trading and I am losing opportunities they said I could have in Forex. I am tired of all these. I just want my money back. How should I go about this? Is there a group of OTA students in the same boat as Iam I can work with?
Carl (not verified)
May 18, 2020

In reply to by Gil Alona (not verified)

I'm afraid thousand of us are in this "boat." Boy was I suckered. I signed up in February to the tune of $40,000+ and then 6 days later, I discovered they were under investigation by the FTC. I immediately called them to tell them I am withdrawing and I want a full refund of my deposit and loan to be cancelled and they told me I was 3 days late. They would not honor my request. THREE DAYS!! That should say it all for the FTC!! They are scam artists -- nothing less!!
Sureen (not verified)
June 19, 2020

In reply to by Carl (not verified)

They're stupid coz I learnt from their free courses which I cant see now called online trading academy archives - courses which also used to come to my inbox. And they were very stupid coz they were saying; supply and demand levels are checked to the left as far back as one can see them, what stupid people these are
YH (not verified)
May 19, 2020

In reply to by Gil Alona (not verified)

Hi, do you have any info regarding the refund or stop payment of loan?
vknight (not verified)
May 28, 2020

In reply to by YH (not verified)

That is my question as well. I called the lenders of my ota loan but they were unaware and said I would still be accountable. I told them I just started when all this market upheaval began and I didn't feel I have the knowledge to trade in this environment (brand new) but they would not extend the promotional time where its interest free until 12/20. I took them off auto pay and now trying to figure out what to do.
Manzura Umarova (not verified)
June 01, 2020

In reply to by Gil Alona (not verified)

Hi! I am total agree with you, I did not earn any money, since I became an OTA student in September 2019, just keep losing them, especially when I relied on their instructors with 30 years experience, Just want my money back! Very disappointed!!!!
v knight (not verified)
May 28, 2020

In reply to by Guest (not verified)

I have the same experience in KCKS. I wonder how does a person have their concerns in this case addressed.
Guest (not verified)
February 14, 2020
possible to get statistics from them, how many have made and how many have lost money after doing this course, for eg from 100 students 50 have made 50$ and 50 have lost 50$ in a given year.
past student (not verified)
February 14, 2020
Well its about time!
Guest (not verified)
February 14, 2020

In reply to by past student (not verified)

I want my money back too!! OTA has been awful. I still trade the market but not using a single thing that I paid a substantial amount of money for. OTA is a total scam
Guest (not verified)
February 14, 2020
Everything is true here, i bought that mastermind status. its really a scam.a well planned scam.
S.B. (not verified)
February 15, 2020
Hey FTC, you forgot to mention their Toronto, CANADA office: Online Trading Academy Toronto 200 Yorkland Blvd., Suite 1100, Toronto, ON M2J 5C1
A.S (not verified)
April 20, 2020

In reply to by S.B. (not verified)

The strategy they sale doesn't work...it's a scam,they just want to sell you the magic strategy that doesn't work... Sales person pressure people to buy,they pressure me to spend 23 thousand dollars than 21 thousand and then 17 thousand....who does that is the strategy work so well?!
Guest (not verified)
February 16, 2020
I am a london student of OTA, I have lost over £101,000.00 following their strategies in online tradings. In addition to that, I have paid over £10,000.00 towards trainings + mastermind. Please help!!!!
Guest (not verified)
February 18, 2020
We got the MM program and lost $4000 with their strategy. I decided to stop and try with paper money and can't seem to make it work. But I wasn't gonna wipe out my real money on a strategy that doesn't work. Not only am I out what I lost in my account with their startegy but I'm also out all the money we had to pay for OTA. I tried options and futures and the strategy doesn't work.
Anonymous (not verified)
February 18, 2020
I lost my home, right after I lost my home; because OTA deception.
Katscan (not verified)
February 19, 2020
OTA have some great instructors but the system doesn't really work. I have tried and will keep trying but I was also told I could pay back my tuition fee of $26k with my trading. Has not happened. Not made a single $ yet and been trying for a year.
IronMAN (not verified)
February 19, 2020
NJ OTA is the worst center ever, they sing me up for the course for which I paid 22k ( Core, Future and Option asses class) in 3days intro class they claimed money can be easily made by Supply and Demand strategy, once sign up for the course I have found out there is another level for which I have to pay extra, they never disclose this information while I sign up for the course, instructor is coming to NJ center are only promoting Master Mind package which is 50000, I have never made any money by using Supply and demand , I really need all my money back from this scammers, When signing up for course I being told that this is lifetime retake course you can come any time and retake your course, once I attended my first class and after a month i try to retake it center told me you are going to be in waiting list and we will call you if anyone cacels which they never ever return any call, i have write many email to OTA but they all forwared to locat NJ center which thewy dont care because they alredy got my money, all Student Support are nothing but sells person any time you ask for help instead helping you they tryt to sell another course
Guest (not verified)
February 23, 2020
I’m a victim of Online Trading Academy still battling to pay the loan without making any money from the strategy. It’s a daylight robbery
Privacy please (not verified)
February 25, 2020
Has the location been decided? I thought it was in Illinois
Guest (not verified)
February 26, 2020
As a former employee and one who (for a minute) bought into the scheme and had my father in law purchase a $20K package...I hate to say but I knew it. I felt like I was scamming people, old people particularly and I knew those sales tactics were beyond aggressive. The only thing the company focused on was sales. Sell sell sell was the constant theme. This is karma and she bites! That owner should have to return ALL of those millions that he pocketed.
Guest (not verified)
March 25, 2020

In reply to by Guest (not verified)

As a former NYC employee, you are 100% correct. I was Ops and in the beginning of my time there, management was very careful not to give false hope and was as honest as a salesperson can be. Fast forward through 3 different senior managers and a completely new sales staff and they were all lying and deceiving. I never lied to a potential student and was ultimately fired for not playing the game.
Richard Reynolds (not verified)
February 27, 2020
In May of 2018 I heard a radio advertisement about an outfit called Online Trading Academy. They touted a 2 day seminar, $299 cost. At that seminar they very smoothly showed us their plan and how easy it was to make money. Among the things they didn't mention was length of time it might take to grasp their education. I bought into their program to the tune of over $51,000. Another important item they never mentioned is where the learning centers were. I'm in Oklahoma; the closet centers are Kansas City & Dallas. I can hardly travel to either on a weekly basis for instruction. Their entire presentation was not reliable nor truthful. Very disappointed. Happy the FTC is getting involved so others will not lose their hard earned money.
Joseph Solymossy (not verified)
March 02, 2020

In reply to by Richard Reynolds (not verified)

Isn't it strange that the only comments submitted are negative?. Is the Gov't going to try this in the public arena, or wait until all the facts come out?
James (not verified)
March 02, 2020

In reply to by Richard Reynolds (not verified)

I had experienced the same in Florida. Their marketing strategy was really powerfull. When we went to to the half, they pulled every aside to wash your brain to enroll making you believe that the training is extraordinary and you will make a lot of money. I quit my job, use the money on my saving account and take a loan for the balance. After first training, you have to retake over and over hoping you will finally get it.
James T (not verified)
March 02, 2020

In reply to by Richard Reynolds (not verified)

As a matter of fact, that loan for Online Trading Academy is still on my credit and keep my credit low because I am not able to repay it. After being a victim of their influence I had to go back and get another job
Dave (not verified)
March 02, 2020

In reply to by Richard Reynolds (not verified)

I have been with the OTA since 2009 and also became the MASTERMIND member subsequently. I have been trading since 2014 regularly as a day trader and lost tens of thousands of dollars. The mastermind grid that they promote is a big hoax. It is supposed to provide price levels where to buy and sell. I have used them extensively and failed miserably. The claims made by the OTA at the time of enrollment are absolutely false and can not be achieved. They should immediately return the money received from clients.
Ota Atlanta Student (not verified)
February 28, 2020
This place is a SCAM. Please investigate them. I paid $35,000 and lost lot of money and payment of monthly charges to trading platform. Please bring them to Justice.
Guest (not verified)
February 28, 2020
So glad the FTC is doing something about these people. I joined OTA in October2019 as a Mastermind Student. and it wasn't $50,000 it was $ 61,000. all with the same pitch, that I would be able to pay off the remainder of the loan ( had to put $15,500 down) and after months of attending classes EVERY dayj I honestly don't see this system working AT ALL. Really wanting to get out of this contract, Hopefully the FTC will be successful in shutting these scammers down.
Taken (not verified)
February 29, 2020
Do we victims have any hope for getting a refund? I just paid off my $30,000 loan with credit cards a couple weeks before this lawsuit was announced. They made it sound like it would be no problem making all that money back before the 0% interest period expired. Instead, I took my $10,000 out of my savings account and lost it all in a few months. I didn't even know where it went because they don't even teach you how online brokers like Tradestation charge fees. now instead of the nest-egg I was building, I have insurmountable credit card debt. Also, they claim that the financing company (UGA) is a third party that they have nothing to do with. Perhaps that could be another lawsuit if its not true. How can I help?
Joann P (not verified)
May 25, 2020

In reply to by Taken (not verified)

I also feel like I was scammed - right from the beginning. Just recently paid off debts from my 2016 tuition.
Brendan K. (not verified)
February 29, 2020
I became a "student" in 2014 after retiring from full time work. My observations are not on the sign-up process (which is embarrassing), but on some of my experiences in their educational program: (1) The quality of the instruction provided in the online "XLT" programs is wildly inconsistent. While the instructors may be, or have been, exceptional traders, about a half of the instructors are incompetent as teachers; they are easily sidetracked by comments from online participants, and some even have "buddy-buddy" conversations with some of the participants, which detracts from the pretext of a professional atmosphere. Secondly, these instructors are usually not prepared for their assigned sessions and fail to provide a strong rationale for an "educational" trading opportunity. One options instructor advised a trade that took a negative vega options position on a stock that was nearing its quarterly earnings announcement, and which historically showed increased implied volatility going into earnings. The particular options were expiring after the earnings date. His goal was to "collect theta" and then close the position before earnings. His lack of knowledge on how theta is determined, and the interplay of the other Greeks was disconcerting. (2) Training program continuity is non-existent. There was one instructor who ran an advance options trading series based on his experience as a professional market maker for a well-known firm. So I gravitated to this program after going through the basic options trading program. Unfortunately this instructor left OTA, but OTA did not find a replacement to keep the advanced program going. Instead, they just stopped it. (3) OTA sends out a weekly "Tips from the Pros" article, usually featuring a trade executed by Mr. Seiden, based on information provided to "Mastermind" members. The articles can be subscribed to by anyone, even non-members, as they are merely enticers to join OTA. I suggested to OTA that they also provide examples of (the many more) proposed trades that do not work, with some explanations, and they replied that they would "consider" it.
To soon old ~t… (not verified)
March 01, 2020
I started back in 2008 watching the cdrom trade classes then eventually, purchased the live classes and online programs a few years later. I had a career path that I desperately wanted to get out of and become a full time trader. So I cashed in 30 years of hard work to date and decided to focus full time on becoming a trader. I gave it everything I had with complete discipline and focus for 7 years, 24-7 I totally emerged myself into becoming a trader by the book. “I believed in OTA and the process beyond the shadow of a doubt” After 15,000 plus hours of studies and watching the markets on an emotional roller coaster of pain and hope the best I obtained was “Breakeven trader status” after years of hard work. My biggest setback was actually the cost of living while sitting at the screens and “choosing” not to work while I studied with the hopes of turning the corner on an emotionally painful and frustrating endeavor. The hardest part was feeling like I failed my family week after week. Maybe human performance in the markets succeeded before the advent of computers, quants, algorithms and now the introduction of Artificial trading platforms which make human performance in trading a statistical event of the past, like floor traders and trading pits So in truth I mislead myself in thinking it was doable and wanted to believe because I put my family's entire financial future and well being on the line to overcome the odds of a statistical fact that human performance has a 90% failure rate trading before you even start. Ironically we are trained to look for trades that have high statistical odds of success but ignore the first glaring statistical fact before we even start, that over time we are up against a 90% failure rate. What human being in their right mind wants to “Look bad or be wrong” so the conveyor belt of the markets keeps grinding out liquidity using the hard earned equity, sweat and tears of new traders attempting to overcome a statistical impossibility of success all the while new traders keep the struggle of overcoming doubts and failure in the shadows of personal failure. The challenge is not isolated to one company but the entire trading system is setup to strip the accounts of the masses and transfer it to accounts of AI platforms that are void of feeling emotional pain of the volatility. Human beings are statistical wired to fail at trading, just take the opposite side of a trade of most any “human trader” and you will have a high probability of profits over time. The entire trading industry needs to continuously “Remind novice traders” . That in the process of trying to find a statistically high probable trade you have a 90% probability of failure if you “keep at it. So as I watch 1000’s of new traders over the years full of excitement in online classes I feel sorry for them and the pain that most all will go through, statistically the human mind is not built to succeed at trading. That being said the entire trading education system today creates far more emotional pain and financial losses to individuals and their families financial well being then any benefit that is perceived to be gained. So should one trading education companies get hit with a lawsuit or should regulations be changed for all trading education companies? Do current regulations support taking advantage of a 90% statistical failure rate and human weakness if you do it by the book and walk a fine line?
Kristina (not verified)
May 03, 2020

In reply to by To soon old ~t… (not verified)

Thanks for sharing this. I’ve lost a lot of money trading too, including 75% of my savings and I wish had gotten a good mentor before starting out. When the market was good I was doing well and attending the 3-day seminar at OTA made me even more hopeful I could make millions trading within years. However, when turbulent markets hit I sold off at the low prices because of uncontrollable anxiety. Even though if I held I would have suffered much lower loss or recouped most of them. It’s the human emotions that we are up against, greed and fear, that I find make trading rob my peace of mind and money and now I wish I had never even started in the first place. Otherwise during this financial crisis I’d still have all my cash and have spent the time I wasted in more productive ways.
Marc Futterman (not verified)
March 01, 2020
Hey FTC, I'll be happy to support your suit. They're full of it. Thieves.
Steffan Carroll (not verified)
March 02, 2020
Why does the FTC only post comments from people with a negative experience of OTA? I've had a positive experience and tried to post a report of my experience on 3/1/2020. So far, it has not been approved.
FTC Staff
March 11, 2020

In reply to by Steffan Carroll (not verified)

This is a moderated blog; we review all comments before they are posted.  We expect participants to treat each other and the bloggers with respect.  We will not post comments that do not comply with our comment policy

Guest (not verified)
March 02, 2020
can I stop paying to them and get my money back? how do I do that?
Guest (not verified)
March 02, 2020
they're still collecting loan payments on credit card under "sage. professional services" instead of "online trading academy. education" but they were barred from it
Dallas User (not verified)
March 03, 2020

In reply to by Guest (not verified)

Is the FTC also investigating the "Pro Picks" addition to this entire scam? After completing all of the forex classes, i used the pro picks solid for 3+ months to test the strategies and theories. Complete BS - I lost trades 80%+ of the time, not 50% as noted. They were unrealistic trade parameters to meet their income claims. Still paying off the training loans too. All of us just trying to be more successful, disappointed to say the least.
Ctrade101 (not verified)
May 24, 2020

In reply to by Guest (not verified)

How can I get my money back? You can learn more on YouTube than with OTA. I took classes in New Jersey campus back on 2010 and to be honest I did the opposite off what they was teaching. And workout very well. Back on 2010 they was teaching about shorting the market. I remember like today the instructor telling me to short Costco stock. What a joke.
Guest (not verified)
March 03, 2020
Too bad you are totally one sided here ... you are only posting comments that support your article and ignoring any counter information. Shame on you!
Sara (not verified)
March 06, 2020

In reply to by FTC Staff

So why aren't the positive comments about OTA posted here? Several of us posted positive information about the program, but it's not listed here.
FTC Staff
March 10, 2020

In reply to by Sara (not verified)

This is a moderated blog; we review all comments before they are posted.  We expect participants to treat each other and the bloggers with respect.  We will not post comments that do not comply with our comment policy

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