June 17, 2024
Beware of This New ‘Get Rich Quick’ Scheme on Social Media

Getty Images/Zooey Liao/CNET

They’re all over TikTok and Instagram. A social media reel of someone claiming they’ve unlocked the keys to financial freedom, all thanks to a digital course they signed up for a few weeks ago. They say that if you just spend some money upfront to learn their affiliate marketing strategy, you, too, can start raking in thousands in passive income.

Headshot of Jannese Torres

Jannese Torres, author of Financially Lit! and CNET Money expert review board member

It’s easy. And it will change your life.

Hmm. Where have we heard this before? Oh, that’s right. It’s the pitch we get from every multi-level marketing “opportunity” that swears it isn’t a pyramid scheme.

Yes, affiliate marketing is real, and yes, you can earn money from it. But MLM scams are misleading. Instead of making money by selling products, you make money by pedaling the same course offering with your own branding to sell with 100% profit, thanks to master resell rights. If you were to diagram this money-making strategy out, it would cascade down into a triangle or “pyramid” shape.

Ringing any alarm bells, yet?

MRR courses are often advertised as a way to start your own online business or make money by selling digital offerings. But what many don’t realize until it’s too late is that a large portion of these “opportunities” work just like MLM schemes. As a personal finance expert who uses social media and a podcast to promote good money habits, I don’t want you to fall victim to a scam that promises financial windfalls it can’t actually offer.

Read more: Watch Out for These Student Loan Forgiveness Scams

What are MRR courses and where did they even come from?

The idea of reselling rights isn’t new. It actually comes from old ways of selling books and magazines. Just like stores could sell books they bought from publishers, in the digital world, creators started letting others sell their digital stuff too. As the internet grew, so did the market for digital things like e-books and software. MRR courses came about as a way for creators to sell their digital products along with the rights for others to resell them.

Today, MRR courses are popular on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, especially among folks who want to make money online. But there’s a problem: many of these courses aren’t as good as they claim to be. They promise big success, but a lot of times, people end up disappointed. So while the promises used to market MRR courses can be exciting (“earn $10k in one month!”) — many of them overpromise and are borderline predatory.

Are MRR courses pyramid schemes?

MRR courses aren’t considered pyramid schemes, but they have some overlapping practices. Pyramid schemes are scams and are not legal. You’re required to buy products or inventory upfront or regularly, even if you’re unable to sell it.  


In a pyramid scheme model, money flows up to the top. The most people you add to your downline, the more money you can make.


MLMs are often linked to pyramid schemes and the two can look very similar. An MLM isn’t a pyramid scheme as long as it pays you based on your sales of products or services. However, with an MLM, you may still earn a commission of your recruit’s profits, resulting in a similar downward pyramid shape. And while some MLM setups may help you earn money if they sell real products or services that people want to buy, it can be hard to tell the difference between real opportunities and scams.

MRR courses could be considered a type of MLM, depending on how you earn money. These courses focus heavily on getting you to recruit others to join in order to make money by selling the same course to them. They, in turn, are encouraged to rebrand the course and send it to their followers. And so on. It’s a setup similar to traditional MLMs, and it’s raising the same red flags.

Also, MRR courses often make big promises to attract those who are trying to make money fast. They show stories of people who supposedly got rich quickly and claim that anyone can do the same if they buy the course. But for most people who join, the reality is different. They often end up not making much money, and some even lose the money they invested in the first place.

So are MRR courses scams?

Not always, but they can be. But if you’re interested in buying a course to learn more about a particular skill — like affiliate marketing — be thorough and research the course and the person selling it before buying. While social media may sing praises about how a specific course helped them earn $20,000 overnight, that doesn’t mean you’ll have the same results (and many people won’t). Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Check if the person or company offering the course is known for doing good work by looking at reviews from other people who took the course. See if the person teaching the course knows what they’re talking about and if others who took the course got good results.
  • Look at what the course teaches and make sure it covers what you want to learn, it’s well-explained and up-to-date. It’s also important to see if the course is interesting and keeps you engaged while learning. 
  • Don’t forget to check if the course comes with any extra help or a community where you can ask questions. 
  • Think about whether the cost of the course is fair for what you’ll learn, and if there’s any way to get your money back if you’re not happy with it.

Be careful when it comes to MRR courses — especially if you’re buying one to start making money online. They might seem like a great way to earn cash fast, but if you’re not careful, you may find yourself ensnared in a messy MLM scheme that can cripple you financially.

Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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