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The Latest Yoga Scam Happened to Me (March, 2022)




I got an email a few days ago that said exactly this:


Hi,

Hope you’re having a great weekend ?

I’m Melinda Carter !

I got your info from the website.

Are you available for yoga training for my twin girls ?

I want to know if I can get my girls into yoga training with you if your studio is open and running…

Where do you service ?

Kindly get back to me at your convenience,

Thanks

Melinda Carter.


I realized there were a few weird punctuation placements and strange ways to use the English (American) language. But, I live in a university town filled with international students. There are families here from all over creation; I decided to give Melinda Carter the benefit of the doubt. After all, perhaps English is not her first language.


And, I’m very nice. I’m empathic, actually, and really feel everyone’s pain. (It’s here that I often find myself getting into trouble.)


So I emailed Ms. Carter back a very short and sweet note:


Hi there,

Thank you for reaching out to me. I’d love to chat about it with you. I’m located in Ithaca, NY. Are you in this area? How old are your girls?

Give me a call and we can set something up: (phone number edited out).

Thank you!

Best,

Jenni Sol


Within minutes, she responded back with:


Thanks for the reply Jenni,

Yes we’re located in Ithaca area NY.

Actually I’m hearing impaired !

So I can only communicate via email or text. Due to my hearing issue.

I want to make an appointment for a surprise yoga training and exercise for my twin girls in your studio.

Can you get back to me with the total estimate cost for 8 weeks private

training for my twin girls (Aged 17) an 1hr daily twice a week ? They can start training on the 22nd or 24th of March 2022 Tuesdays and Thursdays 5 to 6pm if you’ll be available to train them ? Or what are the best days and times that works for you ?

The girls don’t have any yoga experience and none of them has injury, they need focus, strength, agility and flexibility training and they will be coming with a private driver transportation for the full session, because I won’t be coming with them due to my current health status.

I’m organizing this as a birthday surprise package for them so I’ll be responsible for the payment.

Their names:

Jane Carter

Jennifer Carter

I want to make a down payment ahead before they come in for training.

Can I make reservations with my credit card ?

Looking forward to reading from you soon,

Best wishes

Melinda Carter.


My guard immediately went up. I was just telling myself I really needed a few new clients to work with when the first email from ‘Melinda’ came in, but there were numerous RED FLAGS about this last email specifically that screamed “FRAUD ALERT: DO NOT MAKE AN OFFER!”


In order of weirdness:

  1. ‘Ithaca area NY’ was just strange.

  2. Hearing impaired, you say? And, you can ONLY communicate via email or text due to your hearing issues? Hmmmm…..

  3. A ‘surprise yoga training and exercise in MY studio,’ you say? I haven’t even opened my studio up after Covid. What makes you think I operate out of one? My website clearly states I teach ONLINE.

  4. A ‘total estimate of cost’ to be paid by credit card for two teen girls, named ‘Jane’ and ‘Jennifer’, neither whom has any experience with yoga? And you want to pay for private sessions twice each week for eight weeks? With a down-payment? Do you even know how much that will cost? (Most people do not, so I’ll give Ms. Carter a pass here. To put it into perspective I would charge ~$2400 for this full package, on the low end.)

  5. AND they will be chauffeured around by a private driver because you can’t drive them due to your hearing issues?

Geez, are you a millionaire blase mother or something Ms. Melinda Carter? Because from an unsuspecting micropreneur’s perspective this sounds WAY TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.

I was getting ready to pen another short, sweet email in response, complete with some skepticism, but with a YES-I-can-take-on-this-job answer; I must admit I was more focused on Ms. Carter’s hearing impairment issue and her love for her daughters, than really seeing what was going on. I felt all the red flags, and even read the email 10 times before I decided to err on the side of compassionate caution.


In my line of work yoga professionals do legitimately see new students all the time. Some of these students are quite young, and their parents might have been the impetus for them starting a practice. Also, some people who come to yoga have BUTTLOADS of money, and they show up in all the latest bougie yoga-wear (Lululemon, anyone?). So, I wasn’t as guarded as my partner was when I showed him the string of emails.


My loving partner immediately searched ‘latest fitness scam’ online and found a blog post, among lots of other resources, that all pointed to my situation being a total financial scam.

The racket is as follows:

  1. The scammer emails the naive yoga professional about a situation that looks seriously promising, and surprisingly easy to put together.

  2. The scammer is usually ‘hearing impaired’ and cannot talk on the phone, nor meet in person.

  3. The scammer relays that money is not an issue.

  4. Once the yoga professional agrees to provide the service, there is a specific financial institution the scam needs to be processed through. (PayPal and Venmo have ‘screwed them over in the past’ and the only way to get paid is through a weird international bank.) The yoga professional is told to download an app for that financial institution, and money will be sent.

  5. The money is then transferred in either a full amount, or an amount that is higher than the original quote.

  6. The scammer then demands money back due to over-payment (or some other false story).

  7. The naive yoga professional does what any good business owner would do — make it right by doing what the customer wants.

  8. The very naive yoga professional has effectually given the scammer ‘money back’ as well as her bank account numbers.


Luckily I didn’t wait around long enough to find out what might happen to my bank account, even though it occurred to me to play the game a bit and shame Ms. Carter for thinking this was going to be a profitable shakedown.

For fuck’s sake, HOW DO THESE SWINDLERS SLEEP AT NIGHT? Do they have zero moral compass? I’d really love to have a conversation with one of these jackasses. The yogic side of me wants to be curious, but I honestly just want to break their balls.

(If you’re interested, here’s the blog post my partner forwarded on to me. It’s almost verbatim what happened to me: https://www.lisacunninghamyoga.com/single-post/2019/03/04/the-latest-fitness-industry-scam)


I decided to write one last email. Because I’m nice and try so damn hard be peaceful and filled with love, I sent the scammer/Ms. Melinda Carter the following email:


Hi there,

I actually do not do surprise packages for new students. Sorry about that. In my experience it does not go over well. Additionally, I do need to speak with my clients before giving them a service — there is so much for me to know and understand as a teacher. I need to make sure they are safe during our practices together. I apologize if this isn’t accommodating to your needs; my intentions are to keep the safety of all my top priority.

If the girls are serious about yoga, they can reach out to me. I appreciate your understanding.

Thank you,

Jenni Sol


I likely should NOT have apologized for my decision in the follow-up, but again, I’m too nice. But, I’m not stupid.

What I really should have said was: “FUCK OFF, SHIT-FOR-BRAINS. I DON’T DEAL WITH LOW-LYING SCUM OF THE EARTH.”But that wouldn’t have been very yogic of me.

So, dear reader, if you get a strange request of service in your business that sounds too good to be true, IT LIKELY IS. Do some research first before saying YES, and have someone else look at whatever proposal is coming in from the inter-webs, especially if you have a difficult time saying NO to other things in your life.


I’m so lucky I saw some red flags and had my loving parter to reiterate that I wasn’t being crazy for feeling something was WAY OFF.

B

e careful, be safe. Be SMART. Protect yourself, your family, and your business. Tell those freaks to back off, and shame them into realizing their own personal hell. They actually deserve it — karma is a bitch.


Oh, and I still haven’t heard back from Ms. Carter, in case you were wondering. I hope she’s rotting somewhere evil.


Much love, Jenni Sol

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