The year is nearing its end, but scammer season is eternal.
A few months ago, travel Instagram influencer Aggie Lal (@travel_inhershoes) created a 12-week, $497 course called “How to grow your Instagram,” for her 860,000+ followers. Those who enrolled in her “Master Tribe” were promised the opportunity to go “behind the scene[s] of going from being a broke traveler to becoming a six figure earning travel blogger.” According to BuzzFeed, 380 people enrolled, earning Lal a cool $188,860. Judging by that price tag and the backlash that soon followed, I’d say the real secret to becoming an Influencer is: be hot, and force people to support your shit for an exorbitant amount of money.
“I wanted the price to be a little ‘painful’ so it feels like an investment and will discourage people who are not serious about blogging as their future to participate,” Lal wrote on a since expired Instagram story, “I only want people in my Master Tribe who are driven & committed to this career path, can’t imagine doing anything else with their life. This is not a space for ‘I was always curious how blogging worked but I could never do it or ‘not sure if it’s for me but want to see.’”
The class was scheduled to take place from September through December, but students only received materials for six weeks. One user, who publishes under the pseudonym Wannabe Influencer, wrote a lengthy post on Medium detailing her experience titled, “I Was Scammed by a Celebrity Influencer.” In it, they describe “challenges” put forth by Lal, like asking students to advertise the class on their own channels. “How could we ask our own followers to purchase a $500 Instagram Course that we had barely started ourselves?,” they wrote. “The Instagram Course straight up seemed like a pyramid scheme.”
Another student, Juliet Hatley (@youngblondemom), told BuzzFeed the materials she did receive were unsettling at best:
“Why would we sell this? So she could make more money and we get a 10% commission with an affiliate link? Plus, that is against everything most of our brands were standing for and would have made us look inauthentic to followers...
...[The] videos were barely five minutes long, she was never involved with the students, and made a lot of comments that turned people off such as ‘when posing for pictures try not to look pregnant’ or ‘people who work at Starbucks aren’t living up to their potential. The content was basic information you would find from any simple Google search. Not $500 worth.”
Lal’s course offered a full-refund if students were unhappy with it, but only after the first week, which was primarily introductory materials anyway. Hatley did her research and discovered that the platform her class was on, Teachable, has a 30-day full-refund cancellation policy. Hatley eventually got her money back—save for a $20 processing fee—and was immediately blocked by the MasterTribe Instagram account. Teachable is now in the process of refunding the other students.
Lal offered the following statement:
“It breaks my heart to have let you down like this, it was certainly never my intention! I was heartbroken because this course was by [sic] baby. It took me and my team months to create almost 9 hours of video classes. I want sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart to who anyone who feels like what I shared wasn’t enough.”
Read the full BuzzFeed report here.