Be wary of 'get rich' ads on YouTube, say experts

Some are by unregistered entities, others tout business courses run by self-styled 'gurus'

Many of the ads claim that one can get rich by investing or taking part in a programme.
Many of the ads claim that one can get rich by investing or taking part in a programme.PHOTO: ST FILE

Will giving 30 seconds of your time to someone in a YouTube advertisement actually help you get rich?

Ads on YouTube, like those by LeapVista, claim they can change your life, if only you click on the provided link.

Doing so on the LeapVista ad takes users to a page to sign up for a Web class which will teach attendees the "closely guarded secret" of selling products on Amazon.

The class is essentially a guide on how to utilise the Fulfilment By Amazon (FBA) service, which allows sellers to sell products more efficiently through the platform by having Amazon handle storage, packing and delivery.

Other ads tout a variety of products and courses, including investment schemes, insurance, marketing classes and courses on starting a business.

Many of them claim that one can get rich by investing or taking part in a programme.

The Straits Times checked out six entities with such ads running on YouTube, and found that three, which were touting investment and insurance products, are not registered businesses here.

The other three, which include LeapVista, touted courses run by self-styled "gurus". None responded to queries.

Last month, it was reported that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) was looking into misleading insurance advertisements.

This was in response to a YouTube ad offering critical illness cover, claiming clients could "claim up to 500 per cent" if diagnosed with over 100 types of illnesses. The ad also claimed customers could get a full refund on all premiums if they did not make any claims.

MAS said it regulates such ads, which must provide a fair and balanced view of investment products. Outside of investment products, however, ads claiming one can learn to become rich after attending a course are not within MAS' jurisdiction.

  • Ask, check and confirm: MAS

  • The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) strongly encourages consumers to deal only with entities regulated by MAS, so they will be protected by the laws administered by MAS.

    Before committing to an investment, consumers are advised to always ask, check and confirm to avoid any potential scams. ASK: Ask as many questions as you need to fully understand the investment opportunity. If the company is unable to reply or avoids answering any of your questions, be wary. CHECK: Check on the company, its owners, directors and management members to assess if the opportunity is genuine. CONFIRM: Confirm the company's and representatives' credentials by using available resources. Publicly available resources:

    • Financial Institutions Directory: a list of financial institutions regulated by MAS and the regulated activities they are authorised to provide.

    • Register of Representatives: a list of individuals who conduct activities regulated by MAS.

    • Investor Alert List: a list of persons unregulated by MAS who may have been wrongly perceived as being licensed or authorised by MAS.

    Regardless of whether an entity is regulated by MAS, it is an offence to operate a fraudulent or deceptive business.

    If investors suspect there may be some criminal wrongdoing or fraud, they may wish to report the matter to the Commercial Affairs Department.

Mr Kelvin Goh, 41, head of wealth advisory at OCBC, said many of these ad "gurus" are simply conducting courses on marketing, investment and starting a business. They are not selling an investment product, but instead up-selling the possibility of one getting rich by having better business strategies.

Such courses include those on affiliate marketing, which is a type of marketing done by affiliates who are then paid for each visitor or customer they bring to the site.

Asked if such courses can indeed make one rich, Mr Goh said it was possible, but cautioned that not everyone is able to do it successfully.

"Everything is always possible. But realistically speaking, it's very difficult to get rich overnight, and involves incredible amounts of risk at times," he said.

"Many of these ads I've seen make certain claims, but you have to take that into context and some of them may not apply to your own personal situation."

He added that much of the advice shared at such courses can be gained from library books.

Mr Goh also said getting a certified financial consultant would always be preferable when looking at investments.

"My colleagues go through rigorous training, and have to go through and pass a set of tests administered by the regulatory bodies before they are allowed to practise," he said.

Ms Yeo Wenxian, head of POSB and DBS branch banking at DBS Bank, said its wealth planning managers (WPMs) also have to go through robust training programmes and obtain the relevant licences before they can advise customers.

She said: "In accordance with our company policies and processes, our WPMs do not market themselves or their services via ads or on social media.

"Only in a case where a product has guaranteed returns will our WPMs state so to our customers, and this will also be documented within the product package itself."

Professor Ang Peng Hwa, chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS), said it twice received feedback on LeapVista's advertisements last year. However, these were outside ASAS' purview.

He said consumers should conduct their due diligence before signing up, and note that past performance may not be indicative of future results.

"For LeapVista's advertisements, we note that these are for educational courses that claim to teach people to set up their own e-commerce businesses and not investments," he said.

Prof Ang added that the guidelines of the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice state that all advertisements should be legal, decent, honest and truthful.

He said: "Advertisements should not mislead in any way by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise."

Consumers who find that advertisers did not deliver on the claims in their advertisements may write to ASAS at asas@case.org.sg and include a clear copy of the advertisement.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2021, with the headline 'Be wary of 'get rich' ads on YouTube, say experts'. Subscribe