Aug 16, 2013

Bizarre Scams: International Hot School

When I think of scammers, I imagine a group of people who live out in the woods, wear dark clothing, and spend hours daily interacting on craigslist. While my description is likely 100% accurate for at least one group of friends, the reality is, scamming comes in many different forms. Since the unemployment rate is so high in the U.S., I imagine some folks probably hop on the trend, as way to creatively make some cash...this seems like the likely explanation for the story you're about to read.

I received a first hand bizarre account of how a friend of mine almost got scammed through a woman she met at a yoga conference. She wanted me to share her story with you.

This story is written by Jessica Walsh, owner and blogger at YogiDance.

I recently was almost the victim of a scam. There are many of them out there, and I’ve heard stories, but never experienced it until last week.  Let me start at the Yoga Journal Conference in NYC. I met a seemingly nice woman there who I chatted with for a short time. I exchanged information with her since I visit the city fairly frequently and thought we could get together next time I was there. I thought it was cool to meet someone who seemed so nice, and only thought good things; not associating people who go to yoga events with trying to scam you. Well, I was wrong! 
About a month later I was in the area and we met up for lunch. We had a nice conversation, she told me about herself and I told her about me. I went on about my business and career goals. This is when she told me that in a few hours she was going to this event called, Superstar Machine. Where successful career and business people help you achieve your goals and give you advice. “It’s by invitation only,” she told me, and I thought, wow this is really cool. What a great opportunity that would be. Unfortunately I had to get home and was not able to go with her. I was bummed, but said maybe next time I could come to it, because it’s monthly.
We caught up after a few weeks with a phone call. I was telling her what was going on in my life, and shared a situation I was having with a guy I was interested in. “What do you think I should do?” I asked her. “I think you should come on International Hot School!” She exclaimed. I never heard of it before and she told me that it is a monthly conference call, like a talk show type thing where you get advice to help with your “man woes” and it totally transformed her relationship with her boyfriend. I’m always interested in improving how I handle my relationships and thought it would be interesting to check out. She said she’d see if she could get me on the call because you have to be invited. Low and behold, I was invited to join the call one night. 
I called in, and was joined by this girl and her friend who were, “super hotties” and they told me and whoever else was on the call how great it is and how much better your life will be and guys will just be so attracted to you, and you learn how not to be a “crazy bitch.” That’s about when I realized that she was selling to me. Which I thought, okay this is a little strange but I’ll just go with it. I thought this girl was my friend and I wanted to keep it that way. After they hyped it up, and sold it completely over the top for a good half hour, we finally get “International” on the call, the man who gives advice to these women, supposedly. They cut us off early and we go into the “party room” another line where they try to really sell it to us. That’s when they finally say that it’s $100 a month.
I immediately start thinking about how I’m going to tell her nicely that I’m not interested. They go on and on about how it’s such a great energy, and no more crazy bitch and the most over the top stuff, but really targeting women’s weaknesses and being super manipulative. Finally they say that they have to discuss whether or not we’re the right fit to join International Hot School and they will let us know tomorrow, then we have one day (or something like that) to join. She calls me the next day so excited to tell me that I got in. Wow, I was so surprised, obviously not. I politely told her, “I am on a budget and do not have the money for that right now, but thanks so much for thinking of me and sharing it with me. Maybe in the future I’ll consider it.” 
Well, she wasn’t hearing it, so she got her other friend on the phone and she was supposed to take my payment. I reiterated that I’m not able to do it right now, and they then told me it was lame that I couldn’t afford it. To which I thought was rude. She said it would bring me money to do this, and would be so great for my life and career. Then I asked, is there a website for this? Do you have online resources? No to both. I told them that I wasn’t comfortable giving my credit card info over the phone. She was like, I understand that. I continued to say that I would expect to see a website, so there’s some credibility and I just don’t think this is something I can do, sorry. 
Then their whole nice attitude quickly changed and they were like, uh I guess this isn’t right for you. Well, good luck out there! So we hung up and I was really surprised at the whole thing and not sure what to think of it all. Then half hour later this girl, who I thought was my friend calls me. I answer and she says, “what happened on that call? You were acting really lame!” I thought, what is she trying to do, this is so strange. I said I was sorry and I just didn’t feel comfortable doing it. “Don’t be sorry for me, I’m sorry for you! You are going to have such a hard time. Good luck out there. Bye.” That was that, and I was glad it was over! 
I just couldn’t believe what lengths this girl went to to try to sell this to me. They mentioned that the Superstar Machine is run by this same “International” guy, so she was trying it right from the start. It was really a shame to know that these women are perfectly fine with exploiting other women’s weaknesses and I just had to share my experience. I hope that no one else falls for this, and if you hear of either of these things, RUN!!  

28 comments:

  1. This same thing happened to me, with TWO of my supposed friends, who I've since not really talked to since I rejected the idea of $100/month. So strange, but I'm curious as to what it is they're scamming since one of them I know pretty well and she claims it's saved her relationship… I will always wonder, but not enough to spend that kind of $!

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    1. Thanks for your comment! I agree that the state of wonderment can be handled when the only way out is cash money.

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    2. The only way out is cash money? This whole blog is very strange to me. When I left SSM I didn't have to pay anything. In fact they gave ME my money back because I wasn't using the rest of the month.

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  2. I joined Superstar Machine for about a year...and then finally realized it was truly a classic CULT...like, no joke. Anyone who gets invited to this, listen to your intuition tell you it's creepy...rather than your desire to fit in with a group of strong-SEEMING women...these women are actually wrapped around the teachers finger. Quite the opposite of strong. Cults aren't cute.

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    1. I'm still kind of flummoxed and flabbergasted that you could even be talking about the same teacher that I learned from. Sorry for so many posts but WOW! This is not at all what my experience of Superstar Machine was like. I loved International and he seemed like a very honest guy with a lot to teach and a lot of integrity. I just decided it was a good time for me to go out on my own. Anyway... Hard to believe you could be talking about the same person. Did you ever talk to him about how you felt? Or I guess it was scary for you since you felt manipulated?

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  3. cult is another word for community. not a scam. for $100 a month you aint being scammed sister.

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  4. Was in this cult as well, so yeah. Also it was much more then $100 a month, it was more like $300 and that was only to be an "audience" member. If you actually wanted to talk to the guy you had to pay much more then that. Creepy and manipulating.

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  5. This happened to me too… One of my cousins invited me to join. The scripted language, pressure to write on the blog, and the monthly events were bizarre and exploitative. First red flag was that this organization is for women only but it is run by a man (former screenwriter in Hollywood). He holds monthly events during which he exposes members' deepest vulnerabilities, stripping away their (healthy/adaptive) defenses, and prompting them with leading questions so they respond in an inspirational way. He even came onto some of them on stage. Creepy sexual undertones… The organization targets women who admit that this is their last ditch effort to make a better life for themselves because every other type of self-help effort has failed them. One of the most corrupt aspects of this organization is that in order to ascend, you have to pay larger and larger amounts of money per month. And they are explicit about how special you can be if you move up into the higher echelons of the org. I started to ask questions about what they were doing with my money. Is their overhead? Do you pay staff? If not, what are the dues used for? They refused to answer any of my questions and attributed them to my "trust issues". Wow. I asked about it a second time to which they responded that I wasn't suited for Superstar and should consider leaving. Then they basically told me to leave. I withdrew from the organization and my cousin wouldn't talk to me after that, saying that org leadership advised her not to discuss it with me. This is a cult by most definitions and bottom-line- it preys on vulnerable, emotionally damaged women. Beware.

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    1. This is a cult. You hit all the points. It's a bunch of super emotionally unattractive women who need and seek help from an unsuccessful so-called Hollywood writer who appears to be stuck in the past with constant references to his Harvard attainment and his father's success. Poor guy. He didn't make it in Hollywood so he decided to spiritually rape women who work as receptionists, hostesses, waitresses, baristas, etc. to make them feel like they are superstars. I don't know any celebrity who would clean toilets as free labor. This is clearly a corrupted form of selling seva, service.

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  7. http://www.citypages.com/news/cult-status-6702673 this is not an article about Superstar Machine but you should sign up for Superstar Machine or Hot School if you are interested in having a similar experience.

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  8. I had the same experience. I spent 8 months in the cult when I was recruited by a "friend". When I asked about "International" I was also told to trust and not research. Gregory Scherick is desperately trying to live up to his father's success. He's a scam artist. So are the crazy women around him - particularly Shana who once called me "cocky" when I refused their "help". I already had one foot out the door but when my "friend" in the group who was a "Celebrity" (the highest level there next to "icon") slipped and said she "managed" 7 girls I got the F out. Nobody "manages" me. Scientology anybody?

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  9. I had the same experience. I spent 8 months in the cult when I was recruited by a "friend". When I asked about "International" I was also told to trust and not research. Gregory Scherick is desperately trying to live up to his father's success. He's a scam artist. So are the crazy women around him - particularly Shana who once called me "cocky" when I refused their "help". I already had one foot out the door but when my "friend" in the group who was a "Celebrity" (the highest level there next to "icon") slipped and said she "managed" 7 girls I got the F out. Nobody "manages" me. Scientology anybody?

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    1. I'm shocked to see these stories on this site because I my experience in Superstar Machine a year ago was starkly different. Shocked. Wow. Doesn't even sound like you are talking about the same people I was working with...

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  10. Glad you got out Babe NYC! I am excited to see more people leaving and speaking out about the insanity that goes on there in the name of "peace on the planet".

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  11. http://thehairpin.com/2011/09/the-best-time-i-almost-joined-a-cult/

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  12. Superstar machine is a scam and a cult that utilizes deceptive recruiting techniques to bring new women in to be brainwashed.

    If you have been invited to a meet-up or an event by a woman you just met or even an old friend you are being actively recruited into a cult.

    The woman who is connecting to you does not care about you. She only cares about her quota.

    Real help is available through trained professionals in the real world.

    Women in these groups go on "Star Scouts" with other members. Meaning they spend an hour and half in cities like Los Angeles, NYC, Portland, Oregon walking around looking for women to bring in the group.

    They start off the conversation by complimenting you to get the conversation going. Then if it goes well they will ask for your number. Then they will reach out within 24 hours to set up a coffee or tea date. This is not because they want to be your friend. This is because they are feeling you out for a "need" if no need is felt they will stop contacting you.

    If a need is felt the words "Superstar Machine" will be brought in. If you seem to like that they will bring in the word "International". After that you will be invited to meet a Crew Leader or Alternate (someone who has been in the group for a while) and they will tell you it costs money. Monthly subscriptions are between $150 to $800 dollars a month. There is no graduation.

    If you make it past that step and don't run away after the "money hurdle" is mentioned you will be invited to watch part of the "Global Conference" which is a monthly video conference where Crew Members all meet together to have a video conference with members around the globe.

    You may also be invited to a "meet up" which is just a video conference led by a devotee to a group where you will discuss how Superstar Machine is making your life amazing.


    It may be fun to get all the attention at the beginning. In cult speak that is called "love bombing" you get the attention until you sign up.

    Then the brainwashing comes in and you will be trained that everything good in your life comes from the group and International. You will be trained to bring "success" back to the group. If you bring the success back you will be rewarded with kudos from the members. If not a leader will train you to see the success.

    Then you will be invited to "Team International" and told that you will be given life skills to help your real life. Team International is where you are trained to bring new women into the group. It is an hour call on Wednesday evening that trains women to deceptively recruit others.

    If you make it past "Team International" and you are invited to "Epic Connect" you get to meet at the Roger Smith Hotel in NYC once a quarter and meet with the women who are most brainwashed and hear about the non profit Shana is forming called "New World Experiment" and you get to see International.


    The monthly fees for Superstar Machine:
    Audience $150 - $200
    Fanclub $400
    Megastar $600
    Celebrity and Icon $800


    This group has been around for just about 5 years and around 70 women are involved.

    If you have experiences with this group. Please post! and if you are joining a cult at least get into a sexy one!

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  13. I've been reading all of these comments. For those of you who were in this "cult" and left, aren't there positive things you can say about it? Such as the ability to get more connected to your emotions and intuition? What about all the teachings around belief systems that don't serve you anymore? What about learning who you really are? I've read lots of negative. Surely there are positives that came from learning about consciousness?

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    1. Dear “Unknown.” Your response comes across as a way to undermine the credibility of those who are brave enough to speak out about what really goes on behind the curtain. Would you ask a woman who has gotten out of an abusive relationship to focus on the “positives?” Shifting the focus away from what is being addressed here seems like a way to deny the women's reality and to detract from the deception and psychological manipulation that they have experienced. I wonder though, is gaslighting and deflecting from the issue at hand of any service to anyone who may be reading this? Somehow, I feel uninspired by your idea of “consciousness” – seems more like a state of denial and unconsciousness to me. Perhaps you have heard the following words of caution, found in the Bible: “You will recognize them by their fruits…So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit." It appears as though this organization that you are reluctant to call a “cult” is bearing some highly questionable fruit, as evidenced by the testimonials of those women who have left and now live to tell the tale. From the accounts of women who have spoken here, there is a very apparent disconnect between the claims of the organization and the experienced reality. Clearly, if it lived up to the promises that you are listing here, these women wouldn't feel so compelled to share what their actual experiences were, which are far from “positive.”

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    2. Wow. I really feel for your experience. I was in SSM a year ago and didn't feel like there was anything like that going on. When I felt like it was time to go, I communicated that and just left without any problems. Sorry to hear about what you went through.

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  14. Hello unknown. This comment reeks of circular cultic rhetoric. Thank you for reminding me why I left.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Hello Informed, what does "circular cultic rhetoric" mean?

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  15. I am so happy that I found this little site. I first heard about "Super Star Machine" when a good friend of mine casually and humorously referenced a cult that she had once been a part of. When I asked her about it, she said that it was helpful to her in some areas of her life, but ultimately she left it---and when she did there was a fallout, and the people/"friends" that she made there dropped her immediately.

    The next time I heard about it was through the owners of a venue for Super Star Machine meetings. They laughed and told me about this strange new cult-like thing that was happening---and jokingly offered to help me infiltrate it to see what was going on there.

    I took matters into my own hands, and decided to approach the group myself directly one day when I happened to be at the space they rented for the event. They took my information, and then scheduled me for their next event.

    I sat and watched the performance--it really was a performance--of women who reported on how much better their lives were "since International came along." It was really odd to see how these women all attributed the successes in their lives to International.

    Next the man himself took the stage--and what a performer he is. He claimed that we have deep dark unconscious stuff going on, but we can't see it---and he can--and this was the ONLY WAY to get to the bottom of it. Sure, it might be true, I thought, that International has some sort of perceptive capabilities---but the ONLY WAY??? HUGE RED FLAG.

    Then I watched him break a woman down onstage---into tears---really breaking her down---to then build her up---revealing to the audience that now she was finally showing herself authentically.

    By the end of the show, my gut was like GET OUT OF HERE. And then it was time for the sell. We were offered a way of signing up. Those of us who were ready to sign up, whip out the credit card and away you go. I had my doubts, which I shared freely with the girl next to me, who also had her doubts. She and I discussed our doubts---this was noticed---and then we were separated.

    I was obviously more doubtful, so I was left on my own for a bit, while the girl next to me was given a harder sell. Next thing I saw her pulling out her credit card to sign up.

    They came over to me next---asked me if I was ready to go to the next level, etc--I expressed my doubts about this being "the only way"--and Shana was like---then this is not for you---and basically just asked me to leave. I was obviously not drinking the cool-aid, and they were not interested in an honest dialogue, so it was like, just get out.

    Ironically, I told a friend about it, and she wanted to go check it out. When she mentioned my name as a reference, they were understandably skeptical of my friend!! Almost three years later, my friend still goes. I hope she sees the light someday soon.

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  16. I was in SSM a year ago and it was very helpful to me during a difficult time in my life. I never had any weird problems and it didn't feel like a scam at all. The SSM staff and Shana were always very professional and they even refunded the rest of the month that I didn't use in my subscription. I will always be grateful for what International taught me and know that I can come back at any time should I feel that it would be supportive to me on my journey. Seems strange to hear all of you thinking that it is some kind of cult or scam. Very surprising to me because that wasn't my experience at all.

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    1. Ladybugfan--can you say anything else? You've made the same comment repeatedly. We get it. If you have nothing new to add, why do you keep posting? Perhaps you're a plant?

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  17. شركتنا من المتميزون في اعمال الاصلاح بدون هدم او تكسير من خلال شركة ركن البيت التي تقدم الكثير والكثير في عمل اللازم وتصحيح الاخطاء التي تسببها تسريبات المياه فنحن مثلا

    شركة كشف تسربات المياه بجدة تقدم خدمة لعمل الاصلاح بدون اي خراب ونقدم النصيحة للعملاء بالابتعاد عن الاعمال التي تؤدي الي هذا الخراب فتعاملك مع شركة كشف تسربات بجدة لديها الخبرة الكافية تساعدك في الحفاظ علي منزلك كما اننا نتمكن في اننا سوف نرتقي بخدمة لاننا نقوم بالعمل السليم لها كما يوجد لدينا خدمات العوازل التي تمنع التسريبات من الاسقف لكم والحوائط والخزانات من خلال شركة تسمي الاولي في مجالها لذلك نحن نقدم شركة عزل خزانات بالرياض التي تعتبر في عل الخزانات الارضية من الداخل بواسطة مواد متميزة كما نقدم لكم شركة عزل اسطح بالرياض لعمل العوازل التي تمنع جميع التسريبات في الاسقف

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