The Elevation Group claims to give users the “black box investment strategies of the ultra rich,” and teach investors how to earn a guaranteed 6-10 percent return with no risk of principle.However, when Better Business Bureau asked the company to back up those claims, the response lacked substantiation.
BBB recommends consumers be wary of any too-good-to-be-true claims made by financial advisors or self-proclaimed “investment gurus.” Such claims are often unsubstantiated and can sometimes be a red flag for a scam.
BBB received more than 150 requests for information about The Elevation Group in the last 12 months. The company is listed as a wealth building seminar, a category BBB considers to be an inherent problem. Consumers have alleged that similar seminars do not provide the promised returns or are outright scams.
The Elevation Group offers investment advice in the form of articles published on its website, which members pay to access.
In a free introductory webinar on the company’s website,owner Michael Dillard paints a grim picture of our country’s future. He makes a number of predictions, one of which is the collapse of the U.S. dollar. He claims he can help consumers avoid financial ruin during this collapse with the secret investing techniques he has collected. To access these secrets, he charges as much as $197 per month.
In December, BBB questioned several claims made in thiswebinar as well as his claims of a guaranteed return, no risk of principle and thatinvestors could pull 100 percent of their money out of the investments atanytime and without paying any tax.
Dillard responded that in order to provide proof of the investment claims, he would have to consult with the certified financial planner who provided the strategy. However, he never provided any substantiation for the claims, nor any information about consumers who have earned the promised returns. In fact, the site he provided for the financial planner showed no claims of guaranteed returns, liquidity of assets or safety of principle.
As for his claim that the U.S. dollar will collapse, he provided the following statement: “Fact: No fiat currency in human history has ever lasted into perpetuity. One-hundred percent of all fiat currencies ever created, have come to an end.”
A fiat currency is simply any currency that derives its value from government regulation or law rather than a hard asset, such as gold or silver reserves. The U.S. dollar, British pound and the Euro are all examples of fiat currencies.
In addition, BBB found Dillard sometimes contradicts his own statements.
While The Elevation Group’s webinar began with a disclaimer that these predictions are Dillard’s personal opinion, he continuously used phrases like “This is reality,” and “This will happen.” When BBB asked him whether he was stating fact or opinion, he responded that the questioned claims were opinion, but were also “mathematically proven.”
Dillard did not provide the mathematical proof that he cited— though he did cite some statistics about the national debt — nor did he respond to BBB’s request that he provide the source for each of his claims. Instead, he said he gathers his information from a variety of sources, and provided links to several websites. He did not respond to BBB’s second request to clarify which claim came from which source.
Dillard also stated that his advice comes from interviews with licensed financial professionals, though many of the articles on his website are authored by “The EVG research team.” BBB asked him to clarify how he verifies the credentials of each expert he interviews, but Dillard did not respond to that request.
When looking into an investment opportunity, BBB offers thefollowing advice:
- Do your research. Check the business or investment firm’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org. Also, check out BBB Smart Investing for smart investment tools, advice and tips to avoid scams and fraud from BBB and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.
- Avoid high-pressured pitches. Do not feel pressured to “act now.”Take time to research any possible investment yourself. Any legitimate companywill give you the time you need to make the decision best for you.
- Confirm registration and licensing. Before investing any money, make sure the investment advisor or representative is registered and licensed.You can reference the Central Registration Depository through the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissioner the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
- Watch out for red flags. There are a variety of investment scams out there. Look for the following red flags:
- Requires a large upfront investment. Untrustworthy schemers might try to convince consumers to pay a lot of money upfront so they can get out of town with a large haul, rather than wait for the funds to trickle in.
- Promises high returns for low risk. Every investment comes with a level of risk. Typically the amount of risk increases with the potential return on the investment. If the seminar is trying to sell an investment scheme that claims a high return with little or no risk, beware, even if it comes with the promise of a money-back guarantee.
- Relies on off-shore investments. Presenters may try to give their scheme an air of sophistication by relying on overseas investments such as foreign currency, property, stocks and bonds. Also, they might falsely claim taxes can be avoided by investing overseas.