Saturday, August 18, 2012

Massage Online Professor - Buyer Beware

Three days ago I had the misfortune to learn about the school Massage Online Professor run by Karen Zaharatos. Lets note that up until this time I had never heard of the school, or Karen  Zaharatos , but since this I have learned way more than I ever wanted too. A dear friend of mine had signed up and paid for some of their courses. The online format worked well for her because she is a single mother who is also taking care of her parents who were injured in an accident. She has been trying to continue on with massage therapy for a long time but life and finances had kept her from fulfilling that dream. That is until she learned of Massage Online Professor which seemed like the perfect solution, she could do the classes at home log in to take the tests, and it was within her price range.

Now that would have been all well and good except that three days ago my friend went to log in and take the test. Now she had logged in once before but found that the test included more than just the one classes curriculum that she had finished studying and so as she explained she decided to wait to take the test til she had finished all the courses she had purchased. Being that she is a single mother with a whole lot of stuff on her plate including injuries from an accident she was in keeping her from being able to sit and study for long periods of time, this took her a few months. Now as I understand it she was told she had a year and so she wasn't that worried.

She then tried to log in three days ago and found that she couldn't, she had been locked out. So of course she sent them emails trying to rectify the situation and get things sorted out so that she could take the tests and finish things. Now Massage Online Professor gave her a story about how they have been dealing with "cyber-stalkers" and so had changed passwords, but when she tried she was told was needed to log-in it didn't work and so she had to keep corresponding with them. This apparently made them label her a cyber-stalker as well.  

This was the time I heard about it because needing to get her frustrations out she posted her frustrations on her Facebook wall. Now this is a friend who I have never ever heard say a mean word or do a cruel action to anyone. Even in her frustration she didn't bash or bad-talk the school just posted her frustrations, her desperation at the thought of being out a lot of money as well as having to redo the classes all over again at a new school. I could understand that feeling and being that I feel protective of my friends I went to look at Massage Online Professor's Facebook page hoping that maybe I could send her a letter vouching for her or maybe help out in some way and clicked "like" so I could see the wall. That was when I saw that they had posted her personal information, name, address, phone number, etc  on the wall along with an accusation that she was a stalker from "the NCBTMB." Now if this had been information that was readily available from her Facebook that is one thing but as my friend explained that information wasn't available to the public and was from her admissions information. That right there was a huge red flag because that is so unprofessional not to mention illegal. Any business that feels it is ok to post clients personal info like that should be investigated in my opinion. 

Let me emphasize that my friend did not attack these people, nor did she throw accusations at them, in fact she was trying to give them the benefit of the doubt and instead was being way nicer than I might have been if I had been her. She was expressing frustration over these supposed cyber stalkers for creating such a situation that would make this company not trust her now. Then when they started attacking her personally and posting her personal information, and saying on their page that she is a harasser and a stalker she just tried to defend herself and get to a resolution to the problem. 

Then things just got weird, they kept posting extremely weird messages on their Facebook wall which really made me question the company because half of them were incoherent and the other half sounded like paranoid babbling. I also saw that my friend had had two friends try to stand up for her in her defense and their information was posted as well including IP's that they had written emails from. They also took the time to say that while my friend was writing to try get the log-in situation fixed that their software shows that she was also taking (and passing) the test in question.... except that she was never able to even get to the test because of their paranoia. That is when I started to google more about the company because things were seeming very fishy. What I found is numerous places where an account under the name Massage Online Professional or variation of the owner Karen Zaharatos attacking others and bullying anyone who dares to speak up about things they have done declaring them part of some conspiracy against them. I also found a story that sounded eerily similar to what my friend was going through along with multiple blog posts on the Massage Online Professors own blog ranting on and on about this so called conspiracy. They also show numerous stories of how they have pulled this same sort of thing on other customers. Revoking access to their accounts, locking them out of what they have paid for, and then accusing them of being part of some nefarious scheme all because they made a mistake or didn't log in at the times MOP thought they should. Then they post about them on their website, sharing private business communications, and personal info and publicly brand them as some sort of cyber terrorists. 

The link above has two names at the top of their list which they declare 
We are finding an underground syndicate of professional harassers who seem to be attached to the NCBTMB and cyberharassing and cyberstalking Massage online Professor. We learned they are even making bogus complaints to other approval agencies purposely to harm Massage online Professor for being ethical and honest to fellow massage therapists and informing them of their massage laws.
We at Massage online Professor treat all our students with respect and kindness but after the tenth redundant email ignoring questions and simple instructions will have an effect on a business and their attitude. The following list below are people who refused to say if they have any association with the NCBTMB after asking each one at least six times.
These names are the two who tried to defend my friend and help her out and they have now been named as being professional harassers, and all they did was try writing to this business to help their friend. I can assure you they weren't asked if they were associated with the NCBTMB "at least six times." I was also named publicly on their Facebook page numerous times as being part of this underground syndicate and yet all I had done was like their page to see what was going on and help my friend somehow. Let me state that I did like their page 3 separate times, because I would be told about another thing that was said and when I would go on the page to see for myself I would notice that the like button was there again, I have had Facebook pages glitch on me like that before where the like wouldn't "stick" ad I would have to "re-like" it. I figured this was another one of those cases. I later found out that they had been deleting my like... however they didn't block me from the page ... maybe they don't know how? Yet that was all it took for them to publicly name me as part of this supposed cyber terrorism ring... they never contacted me other than to throw my name around on their Facebook page.  

This is defamation/libel and it is not at all cool. What Massage Online Professor is, is a cyber bully they have shown that through their actions. They claim to care about their students but they don't hesitate to treat innocent people like complete scum and they are profiting from this because they have instilled a no refund policy that hurts trusting customers like my friend. They throw around accusations with an air of insane paranoia, and you know what I am sorry if they HAVE actually dealt with some drama in regards to their statements about the NCBTMB (which until that day I had never even heard of before) but their paranoia now has made them become a toxic and very dangerous company especially when innocent students who are just trying to make something of their lives are getting caught in the crossfire.

Part of me wonders if there is even that much drama from the NCBTMB, could it all be the ramblings of a paranoid person? Or could it be that they have realized that with the non-refund policy they have in place that this actually profits them, to create such a web of accusations and conspiracy so that they can take a persons money without the person putting up to much of a fight?

I really can't say, I don't know either way, I just know that from what I have seen and experienced this company doesn't hesitate to toss accusations at and label innocent people with libelous statements in a public forum. They also show on their own blog how they mistreat and play games with their customers, but all I can speak of for sure is what I have seen and experienced. So I want to warn people away from doing business with the company 
Massage Online Professor because they haven't seemed to hesitate in taking peoples money and then block them access, and should anything go wrong they have stooped so low as to post private personal information about people publicly, lied, and defamation/libel isn't past them either. If you are thinking of getting involved with them I beg of you to do your research, and think about instead going through a different school with a more professional business manner that you can be guaranteed you won't be wasting your money, or your time and hard work. I really do want to save anyone else from going through this kind of thing. Which is why I write this post today. 

Edited to Add: Now two days later I was informed that they have now taken to filling their Facebook page with private personal communications that their students have written them. They are also posting the results of these students tests and other information that should, if they were any kind of reputable company, be kept confidential. It is scary to me to see what they are doing, even scarier when I know one of the innocent parties who were on the receiving end of their unprofessional behavior, and it saddens me to see them do this to more and more people. I don't know if they can be stopped because honestly they are still profiting from this because of their supposed no-refund policy and so they can screw anyone they want over. So it seems the only thing that can be done is to get the word out to potential students.