A Cautionary Tale For My Coaching Friends

At last, I obtained my first coaching certification (Pn1). I diligently linked my listing on the certification list to my newly launched website. Within twenty-four hours, emails from potential customers started pouring in. And, while none of them were from the widows of Nigerian princes, there was still something fishy about them.

  1. The were all Yahoo email addresses.
  2. Everyone person’s name contained the two-first-name phenomenon:
    • Mary Lynn
    • John Edward
    • Britney Joan
  3. The email address names never matched the person’s name (e.g. Mary Lynn’s email address was ericbrown28413@yahoo.com
  4. They all said the same thing, “I want to hire you for personal training. Do you take credit cards?”

With some clever use of The Google Machine, I was able to confirm my suspicions that these were scams and that Precision Nutrition coaches were a prime target. I promptly wrote a filter to trash these emails and while I still get them, I never see them unless I happen to go fishing in my trash folder.

Two years later (and two days ago), I received the text message you see in the picture above. On the very same day, I also received this email:

Different enough to foil my filter but still smelling enough like that scam to set off my bullcrap detector.

But, what a work of art. The sender is hearing impaired so that explains a preference to reach out by email. Furthermore, there seemed to be some semblance of due diligence. The sender wasn’t going to just hand over his credit card. He or she was going to check to make sure I can support his needs.

I say “he or she” because the wording in the email from “william james” is almost exactly the same as the wording in the text from “Linda.” The areas of support they sought were identical AND they both chose to InitCap the word “Anger” in “Anger management.”

While suspicious, I don’t like to judge. It’s something they taught me in Duke IHCPT. ?

I responded.

Thanks for reaching out. To kick things off, it’s best if I know who I’m communicating with.

I wanted to see if the sender would say “Linda” or some other name in which case I would have all the confirmation I needed to cut things off. My potential client replied:

I will like to know the coaching for 3 ladies in my family, so i want you to get back to me with total estimate for 2 times in a week 3 (Females) for 4 weeks and I want the session to be 1 hour, so I will like to know the total cost for the service asap..

He or she did not take the bait (for brevity’s sake, going forward I will just say “he”). While not wanting to offend what may be an authentic client in need, I responded as follows:

My normal fee for that situation would be $4000 for the full 4 weeks with 2 sessions per week. However, I don’t accept new clients without a screening conversation. When can we schedule that? I can set up a conference phone call for you and your family.

Okay, I’ll drop the name thing but even if this is a genuine request, I’m not taking on a client who cold calls me without having a live conversation first. Especially, in areas in which I have little experience. And he said:

Thanks your price is attractive and okay. I want you to know that the ladies will start their coaching session on the 13th of June 2017and I prefer Tuesday, 10:00, so I hope those time is open?

Well dang, I knew I wasn’t charging enough! I think I left money on the table. And he’s already putting “the ladies” on my schedule. So I said:

What time zone are the ladies in? We can get started that week pending a successful screening call and receipt of payment for the full set of sessions.
In order to hold the 13th, the screening would need to be complete by June 1. When would you like to schedule it? What phone number should I call? And, so I can prepare the invoice, how will you be paying?
Thank you for your business.
I’m nothing if not polite. And the reply…
Yes i will be making the payment now to secure the appointment
What is the name of your credit card merchant ?
And that’s when the proverbial rubber hits the road. There is never a need for a client to know who your credit card merchant is. But, I played along:
When it comes time to pay, I will send you an invoice through PayPal and you can pay by credit card directly through that vehicle. But before we get to that, when is a good time for me to call the ladies and what number should I use?
I’m not giving up. And he said:
Oh am sorry am having issue with paypal do you have another merchant you using to charge card Thanks
My first impulse was to respond with something to the effect that I’m done playing games and that he’ll have to find another patsy but since I couldn’t be sure that this wasn’t Grucifer, The Dark Overlord or some other superhacker group that could threaten my digital existence, I opted to just shut down communication.
Meanwhile, my texting buddy Linda is on radio silence since I requested a live call.
I regale you with this cautionary tale for two reasons:
  1. Forewarned is forearmed, or something like that.
  2. What would you do?

UPDATE: Radio silence continues from my good friends Linda and william james. But now, five days later, this popped into my mailbox:

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