Hazards of Doing Online Health Coaching

How to Be Discerning Without Becoming Cynical

We are living in a time of unprecedented ability to reach anyone and everyone with internet service. On one hand, we can reach many, many people with very little cash outlay.  On the other hand, we sometimes reach people we’d not choose to do business with.  Then there are those who prey on small business owners.  The trick, I believe, is to be discerning without becoming cynical.

Aside from the hacking, phishing, password security, and information protection, there are the people who manipulate and scheme to relieve us of our money.  I’ve run into plenty of those in the years my company was brick and mortar and even more in the last 6 years with my business solely online.

Thankfully, this business doesn’t have a shortage of good people who are earnest in getting help and in helping.


Cathy Sykora

Cathy Sykora

Founder, The Health Coach Group

Cathy helps health coaches build and maintain successful businesses that improve the lives of others.

Separating truth from fiction.

It’s nice when someone contacts you in an email telling you that they have an overabundance of spendable money and the whole family needs health coaching.  How much does it cost and where do we send the money.  But, something inside (intuition) tells you something isn’t quite right.

It started with someone figuring out how to get into the backend of our site and stealing and using our programs.  Most health coaches have a desire to change the world and do good things.  Thankfully very few would do anything like this one did.

Then, we’ve had people buying our programs and disputing the charge and continuing to use our products.  We had one coach, a doctor, who even had our people brand every single program and customize the site.  We agreed to put it on payments for her.  Then, after she got it all, she contacted PayPal and told them she never received anything and got her money back and stopped making her payments.  Luckily we had delivered it to her three times in three different ways and could prove it.  They returned our money, but she still owes us over $1000, and we won’t see it unless she grows a conscience.

This is an email that was sent to one of the health coaches in our directory:

Hello Again,
Thanks so much for your interest in working with us as a health care,we are from Philippines, and relocating to United State in (Hawthorne,NJ) as foreign investors, I and my wife are into Wine
Production/Supply. and that is what we are coming to establish over there as well,We are friendly and reasonable hard working family, she is actually interested in (autoimmune diseases),and she is dedicated, humble.
I would like to know how many time in a week she can come for appointment.
Also let me know your available times and days to coach her and also your charges per hour.
Your service will be required for 6 months from 25th of November until 25th of May.

There are a number of red flags here that make me think this is a scam.  I wouldn’t respond to this.  It looks like they already have had some conversation going.  You don’t want to miss any business, but you want to be careful.  There is no reason for a potential customer to tell you that they’re friendly, reasonably hardworking and dedicated and humble.  The also don’t normally tell you their business positions unless asked.  Then there is the statement that the wife is “interested” in autoimmune diseases.  Most customers are suffering and more interested in asking how you can help them to overcome their problem.

A few months ago, we had two disputes on charges.  After we traced everything back, we found that someone must have signed up as an affiliate and then run someone else’s credit cards through to purchase products.  The perpetrator was paid an affiliate fee and then the disputes were filed.  We were out two sales as well as affiliate commissions on the bogus sales.  It was at this time that I made the rule that only customers could be affiliates.  This same person signed up again multiple times and tried to do the same thing.  We were careful, had put fraud rules into place and caught it before it was a problem.  This person even had the gall to contact customer service and ask where their commissions were.  We had also stopped accepting credit cards that came from their location (we were able to trace the IP address with Infusionsoft,) and had returned the funds to the poor people who’d had their credit card numbers stolen and used.

The problem is, the merchant services did nothing to go after these people.  There must be some kind of disconnect in all that.  Since it seems like the malicious hackers and the scammers are allowed to run amuck, we as business owners and consumers have to be extra leary.

Be careful and be discerning, but don’t let these pesky thieves derail you from your purpose.

What are your stories?  The more we talk, the less they can take us by surprise…share here in the comments.



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  1. Tamuria

    So glad I’m not selling through my site. I still have an issue when people book into my classes, drag their feet about paying a deposit and opt at just before the workshop is due to start.Luckily, I don’t keep spaces for people who don’t pay the deposit. My classes are small so I can’t afford to be turning real customers away.

    • Cathy

      I’ll have to do a blog on how to prevent that! There are ways to stop that from happening. I don’t mean to discourage people. It definitely isn’t worth ruining the good for the little bit of thievery that can be reduced with preventative steps.

  2. Beverley Golden

    When it comes to writing work, I have been quite fortunate and have not had any issues with being paid. Sometimes it might take a bit longer than agreed upon, but generally it isn’t onerous and I do not have to go after people. In my health and wellness world, everything goes through a centralized system, so luckily, I am not officially selling anything I have to collect money for. The internet certainly has its amazing and not so amazing sides to it. Sorry to hear about the not so amazing experiences, but it sounds like on the whole, you have had mostly good experiences with honourable people. Thanks for sharing the possible dangers and how to spot them, Cathy.

  3. Joyce Hansen

    Thanks for the heads up, Cathy, I’m sure there are many people, like myself, that didn’t know that these payment scams were going on in the health and wellness field. We shouldn’t be surprised, but many times we have faith that customers will honor their agreement. I’ll be definitely we sharing this with others as a good practice warning.

    • Cathy

      I doubt that it’s secluded to health and wellness. I do think that it should be talked about more.

      Don’t lose that faith, for the most part our customers are intrinsically good people.

  4. Lorii Abela

    Wow! Never looked about affiliate program that way. That is something I have to be alert about. So haven’t you found a solution to remedy how to scrutinize a potential affiliate instead of just inviting customers to be affiliates?

    • Cathy

      Good question. We are sticking to the requirement to be a customer and to have had experience with the programs so they can answer questions honestly and be proud of promoting our programs. We do have a few cases where we’ll partner with companies with similar values and the same customer base.

      Don’t be afraid, just be careful.


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