'Free' real estate investment seminar could cost tens of thousands
Austin, TX ? BBB warns local consumers to think twice before attending Armando Montelongo?s ?Mega Millionaire Round Table Live? seminars being held in Central Texas next week. According to the company?s website, daily seminars are planned in the greater Austin and San Antonio areas during the week of May 23 ? 27, 2011. These seminars promise to help consumers ?learn to make cash? with ?no money? and ?no credit? by flipping properties they purchase for ?pennies on the dollar.? However, dozens of consumers have contacted BBB to complain that they did not get the real estate selling information they expected and to request help getting a refund from the company.
Armando Montelongo Worldwide Inc., the San Antonio-based company that hosts the seminars, is generating complaints alleging that consumers who attend the company?s free seminars are encouraged to attend another 3-day seminar for a fee of $1,497. Several consumers who paid an upfront fee to attend the second 3-day seminar allege they did not receive the information they expected about how to make money by flipping properties. Some consumers also claim they were further pressured to agree to yet another educational package in order to learn more about Montelongo?s property investment secrets, for prices in the tens of thousands of dollars.
A local Austin consumer* signed up to attend one of the company?s free seminars after seeing Armando Montelongo?s infomercial on TV. After the first seminar, the consumer agreed to pay the additional $1,497 fee to attend the next seminar, but then decided to cancel her purchase immediately. The consumer told BBB she was instructed by the company to call an 800-number within 3 days. She did so, but never received a refund. The consumer was later instructed by the company to go to the second seminar in order to receive the refund in-person. However, the company then insisted that her attendance at the event meant she was not due a refund.
While at the seminar, this consumer told BBB she overheard ?a lot of people were complaining about the price, and the [real estate investment] course.? The consumer stated that ?realtors and mortgage brokers were there, and all the information being provided was stuff they already knew.? The consumer then filed a complaint with BBB and disputed the charge with her bank in an attempt to get her money back.
BBB contacted Armando Montelongo Worldwide Inc. in June 2010 with concerns regarding the company?s advertising and concerns about the pattern of consumer complaints. It was not until May 5, 2011 that the company provided a written response to BBB?s concerns. In their response, the company stated that they have changed some of their advertising claims. The company also stated that consumers are expected to cancel their purchases using the procedure outlined in the terms and agreements provided at the time of purchase.
On May 16, 2011, BBB sent a letter to the company requesting an explanation of what action, if any, they would take to prevent similar complaints from arising in the future. BBB also called the company to offer the opportunity to address BBB?s concerns verbally, but was informed to expect a complete response in writing.
Armando Montelongo Worldwide Inc. has received 60 total complaints in the past 36 months, 52 of which were received in the past 12 months. Of the 60 complaints, 16 have been ignored by the company. Consumers who attend the seminars are strongly advised to read all contracts and materials prior to agreeing to a purchase with Armando Montelongo Worldwide, Inc. For more information, click here to view the company?s current BBB Business Review.
Before registering for a seminar, BBB advises consumers to look for the following red flags:
‧ A required, large upfront investment. One of the most common complaints BBB receives about investment opportunities is when consumers pay fees and do not receive the promised income.
‧ A promise of a high return for low risk. Every real estate venture and financial investment comes with a level of risk. If a seminar offers a plan claiming large returns with little or no risk, beware, even if it comes with the promise of a money-back guarantee. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
‧ The use of high pressure sales tactics. Seminar leaders often try to get consumers to sign up immediately. They may claim there are only a few spots left or that you need to get in on the ground floor today to see the largest earnings. A reputable company will encourage consumers to take their time to do research before buying in.
* Local consumer available for interview upon request.
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