Ethan Vanderbuilt – Is MLM a Scam?

Ethan Vanderbuilt – Scam Buster or Scam Artist?

Is MLM a Scam?  According to Ethan Vanderbuilt, “All MLM is a Scam”.  Those are his words as you can see from the screen shot that I included in the video below.  So today’s let’s look at the facts.  Just because a company has an MLM compensation structure, does that make it a scam?  Does Ethan Vanderbuilt have a solid argument or does he have an unfair bias against MLM?  As I will show you in today’s post, Ethan has a clear agenda against all MLM (regardless of reputation or results) and he also has ulterior motives which we will discuss as well.

(you may want to scroll down and watch the Video rebuttal that I recorded for more information – it is much more detailed than even this written blog post)

Additionally, if you want to know what 6 things to look for when selecting a business opportunity so you can discern what is and what is NOT a scam, feel free to download this free video that reveals the 6 traits you should look for in a solid and legitimate business opportunity.

“MLM is a Scam” (but Affiliate Marketing is NOT?)

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If you don’t know who Ethan Vanderbuilt is, he considers himeself a scam buster.  He does reviews of various companies (mostly network marketing companies) and he gives reasons why he believes they are scams.  The problem is that Ethan has an obvious bias and he has some ulterior motives which I want to expose in today’s post.

According to Ethan Vanderbuilt – “anything that is MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) is a scam”.  But as you can see in the screen shot above, he goes on to say that affiliate marketing (such as clickbank and amazon affiliate links) are not scams.  That’s interesting because I know many insurance companies that pay out EXACTLY the same way as MLM companies do (agents receive commissions for selling insurance policies, sales managers receive overrides when they help the agents underneath them to create success, branch managers who are at the top of the pyramid shaped comp plan receive over-rides from the sales managers underneath them and the agents that are recruited at the bottom of the pyramid).  Where is Ethan Vanderbuilt’s scam busting video on all of these insurance companies?  They offer great wealth as a possibility to the agents they recruit.  They pay out exactly the same way as MLM companies do.  It must be a scam too (according to Ethan Vanderbuilt’s logic)

In fact, let’s take a look at another comment from Ethan Vanderbuilt (on another website as shown in the screen shot below) where he indicates that his main criteria for calling something a scam is if the vast majority of people lose money and fail while being offered great wealth, that makes it a scam (once again, why is he not calling insurance companies a scam … most agents don’t succeed.  In fact many of them pay for their own training and their own gas to get to the training which results in “a loss for the vast majority”).

And herein lies the truth about success (in anything) and the flaws behind Ethan’s logic.

The truth is that most people in this world will get average results because most people are average.  Most people are not willing to step out of their comfort zone and endure the pain and frustration that is required on the road to success.  Instead, the average person will look at “the odds of success” as if it’s some sort of lottery ticket or as if their success relies on luck just like rolling a pair of dice.  Average people will look at what’s “probable” based on how many other people succeed and fail.  Winners don’t look at what’s probable.  Winners look at what’s POSSIBLE.  Winners will see that 5% of people are making life changing income and they’ll say to themselves, “Why can’t I do it too” while average people will say “Oh 95% of people don’t make money, I probably won’t either.”  Winners know that if somebody else was able to create success, they can do it too if they put in the work to create the life and success of their dreams.  Unfortunately, Ethan Vanderbuilt panders to the weak minded people who are looking for what’s probable.  He panders to the people who want to blame something outside of themselves for their failure so they don’t have to take personal responsibility.

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Affiliate Marketing Success vs. MLM?

So according to Ethan, MLM is a scam because the vast majority of people suffer losses and don’t succeed, but affiliate marketing is not a scam because … why?  I’m confused here.  Is Ethan Vanderbuilt under the impression that the vast majority of people DO succeed in affiliate marketing?  Even Clickbank would tell you that’s not the case (have a look at the screen shot below from Clickbank’s own website).


So Ethan Vanderbuilt says that Clickbank is NOT a scam and YET it meets his exact same criteria for why something should be a scam.  (According to Clickbank themselves) The vast majority of people do NOT make money.  Clickbank clearly states that “only a small percentage ever make enough to quit their day job or significantly change their lifestyle”.  What’s interesting is that this article on Clickbank (which you can read for yourself here) goes on to say that the main 3 reasons most people fail is that they lack desire and dedication.  They don’t pick a system and follow it and they don’t make the time to become successful.  That’s funny … those are the exact same reasons why most people fail in MLM and yet according to Ethan Vanderbuilt, it’s the MLM company’s fault when a rep fails at network marketing, but with affiliate marketing it’s not a scam when somebody fails.  Why are Ethan’s rules and scam criteria different for affiliate marketing than they are for MLM?

What are the Real Motives of Ethan Vanderbuilt?

The truth is Ethan Vanderbuilt is a marketer (not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I’m a marketer too).  But he’s using what I call the bottom feeder approach.  Allow me to explain.

The word “scam” is a great marketing word because it gets people’s attention.  Just think about how the news outlets use these kinds of words to get people to tune in and pay attention to the evening broadcast.  This is the same thing Ethan is doing.  Words like “scam” and “scheme” and “fraud” … they all elicit fear.  They grab attention.  And on the internet … these attention grabbing words help to drive traffic which is exactly what Ethan Vanderbuilt is after.  He gets lots of traffic by grabbing people’s attention with this kind of marketing strategy and then he monetizes that traffic by placing YouTube ads in front of his YouTube videos.  He monetizes his website traffic by placing ads all over his website (some of these ads are from network marketers of all people … interesting!)  And by the way, I’m not against Ethan monetizing his traffic.  I just want people to understand that Ethan is not doing this as a selfless act to the world as he would want you to believe.  He’s running a business!  Make no mistakes about it.  And selling advertising space on his website and on his YouTube videso is just one way that Ethan monetizes his traffic.

Additionally, I don’t know if Ethan still promotes a program called Wealthy Affiliate, but I know for a fact that he did at one time.  That’s interesting.  If somebody buys Wealthy Affiliate and they don’t succeed at selling affiliate products (as Clickbank clearly states is the case), aren’t the vast majority of people suffering a loss? This is Ethan’s very same criteria for calling MLM a scam.  And yet affiliate marketing (which he endorses) is NOT a scam?

Now just to be clear, I am FOR both affiliate marketing AND MLM.  They are both low risk, low overhead ways for the average person to start a business from home and make a supplemental income.  I’ve been successful with both.  And I know what it takes to succeed in BOTH.  I make multiple 6 figures a year in affiliate marketing and I have built large teams and have residual income streams inside of MLM.  I know what it takes to succeed in both.  But I also know why most people fail and I know what to look for in an opportunity to increase the chances of success (if you want my list of 6 traits to look for, be sure to grab that free video here)

Do Most People Really Lose Money in MLM?

According to Ethan Vanderbuilt, most people lose money in MLM which is his main criteria for calling it a scam.  And he backs up these claims by using the income disclosure statements provided on the various company websites.  But here’s 2 very important things that most people don’t realize and what Ethan Vanderbuilt doesn’t seem to take into account about these income disclosure statements.

#1 – People in MLM are receiving a product for their money

Is it considered a loss when somebody spends their money and receives a product in return?  No!  That’s not a loss.  That’s a transaction.  If you don’t want the product or you don’t use it, then don’t join the company.  That’s a pretty simple solution.  But don’t blame the company for the fact that you bought a bunch of product that you either didn’t want or didn’t need and then claim that you ‘lost money’.

Let me give you a better example that might make more sense.  Growing up, I wanted to be a famous musician.  More specifically, I wanted to be a rock star.  My parents spent money on guitars and amplifiers and music lessons and yet I never got a record deal.  I never sold out stadiums and today I don’t make any money doing music at all.  Is music a scam?  It must be a scam because most people who want to get a record deal never do and Ethan Vanderbuilt (based on his other logic) would probably argue that my parent’s ‘lost money’ by purchasing all of those guitars and amps and music lessons.  Of course any person with half a brain would realize that they didn’t LOSE money.  They got a product or a service in exchange for the money that they spent.  If I don’t make a return on that investment, that doesn’t make it a scam.  It just means that I didn’t have what it takes to succeed.

Why is it any different for MLM?  For heaven’s sake, let’s start putting on our big boy and big girl pants and taking responsibility for our own successes and failures and let’s stop letting these bottom feeders like Ethan Vanderbuilt hand out a scapegoat for so many weak minded people who are simply looking for an excuse to NOT create success in their lives.

#2 – Many people are reps JUST because they want to get their product for free

The 2nd thing most people don’t realize about the company income disclosure statements is that many people are NOT doing the business to go full time or quit their jobs or make 6-figures a year.  There are LOTS of people inside of MLM who just want to refer enough other people so that they can get their product for free every month.  They love the product.  They believe in the product.  They use it.   If the company is offering to pay them for sharing it with others, why shouldn’t they get compensated for referring other customers?  Not everyone gets in to MLM to make a full time income and yet ALL of those people who JUST want their product for free every month are required to be included on the income statements for the company (which to the uneducated analyst would look like a loss of income).  All of the people who just want to make a few extra hundred dollars per month to cover some additional expenses in thier life like their utilities or their car payment … they are also included on the income disclosure statements  (which makes it look like most people make very little money in MLM), but people like Ethan Vanderbuilt look at the income disclosures and they don’t take these facts into account.  They make the assumption that most people are “losing money” when they’re not losing money at all.  They’re getting a PRODUCT for their money, and many of them don’t have a desire to make a full time income at all.

Henry Ford Said it Best


Here’s one of my favorite Henry Ford Quotes:  “Whether you think you can or or you think you can’t — you’re right.”  I’m here to tell you that if you’re looking for a reason to NOT succeed in MLM, you will find it and Ethan Vanderbuilt panders to those people who are looking for a reason why they can’t succeed.  But make no mistake, you can do a web search for just about anything and find out that it’s a scam.  Do a search for your religion + the word ‘scam’ and I guarantee that you’ll find somebody who says your religion is a scam.  Do a web search for St. Jude’s Children Hospital + complaints and you’ll find negative things about even the most reputable charities, companies and organizations.  Let’s start thinking for ourselves and let’s start taking responsibility for our own successes and failures.

Ethan Vanderbuilt Video Rebuttal

I could go on and on with many more facts to dispute Ethan Vanderbuilt and his misguided opinions.  If you want to hear everything that I have to say on the topic and if you want to take a look at a comment I posted on his website that Ethan Vanderbuilt deleted twice (because he doesn’t want you to see it), be sure to watch this entire video below.

Did you like this post about Ethan Vanderbuilt?   Do you agree or disagree with me?  Make sure you comment below and share it with other’s who would find it interesting …

To your success!

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Tyson’s Marketing and Success Blog
Skype: tzahner
Periscope: tysonzahner
Email: tyson [at]

P.S. If you haven’t recruiting anyone (or less than 10 people), you should check out this free “Sponsoring Secrets” Training.


  • Noris Campbell

    Reply Reply September 30, 2015

    Hey Tyson,

    What’s up bro…? First let me say thst this is an excellent review that puts it sll in perspective. I’m very familiar with this guy and I totally agree with your perspective on both his views and the network marketing profession as a whole. It’s clear Ethan has a chip on his shoulder for MLM’s and as you’ve proven his motives are clear.

    If he is speaking the truth he should be willing to stand up to scrutiny, so why does he keep deleting your comments from his website? And as you’ve said what about the FTC? Wouldn’t they have taken action against these companies? Are you telling me that Amway would be allowed to scam all these people for so long?

    To tell you the truth Tyson, when I need some comedy, l watch a short clip of him because I think that’s really what he is, a comedian.

    It’s great to have leaders like you standing up for the industry and not afraid to call it as it is. Listen man!Ethan will just be Ethan. He calls himself a scam buster and that’s what he does best. We’ll just have to let him be.

    Been following you for a while now and I really admire your achievement and wish you all the best in the future. Big up everytime.


  • Shane

    Reply Reply October 2, 2015

    HI Tyson well said love your video i get pepole all the time traying to tell me MLM is a scam i say to them well why is my company still in business after 10 years they dont come back with any thing becauss they know i am write

  • Lee

    Reply Reply December 2, 2015

    It’s funny how Ethan claims ALL MLM companies are scams….

    However, I happened to live in the Orlando, Florida area…and in downtown Orlando, there is this big arena called “Amway Center”.

    Now just for example, Amway is an MLM company that has been around for over 50 years…..makes billions of dollars in sales per year…and owns an arena….and the owner owns a major basketball team, the Orlando Magic.

    Wouldn’t the FTC shut down Amway if it was a scam????

    I don’t agree with all of his scam claims either, because they’re not true.

    Many MLM companies that he claims are scams have been around for decades…and sales are going up.

    Great video man!

  • Dan

    Reply Reply January 29, 2016

    Thank you for making a pragmatic, thoughtful video debunking Mr. Vanderbuilt’s one-sided claims. It doesn’t take much digging to discover that Ethan Vanderbuilt is not the benevolent “scam buster” he proclaims himself to be, but that he does indeed have a profit-driven agenda of his own.

    I signed up for Wealthy Affiliate for a one-month discount, just to see how it works. I can tell you that they do indeed have a MULTI-LEVEL compensation structure based upon how many referrals a member can bring in, how many referrals the referrals bring in, etc. When questioned about it, Ethan would swear up and down that Wealthy Affiliate is not MLM, but having seen the compensation structure with my own eyes, I don’t know what else you would call it. Basically, Ethan was recruiting people into HIS MLM program while claiming that all others were “scams”. Conflict of interest? I think so.

    I’ll Ethan this – he’s sharp when it comes to marketing. He has identified an audience that is eager to hear his point of view and has told them exactly what they want to hear, factual or not. He has built a business by doling out half-truths and presenting his personal opinions as fact. I’m convinced the only reason he provides the “in my opinion” disclaimer is to avoid potential litigation from the companies he slams, especially if what he presents is factually incorrect or incomplete. He knows how to cover his bases, but not for his readers’ benefit.

    As more and more responses like yours are posted, the word is spreading that Ethan is not doing this purely out of the goodness of his own heart, but also for the benefit of his own pocketbook. I refuse to even visit his website or click on his YouTube videos anymore, not just because his misinformation is so irritating, but also because I refuse to do anything that could potentially put another dime in his pocket. I’m sure Ethan is not happy that he can’t control other sites that are calling him out and censor opposing comments like he does on his own sites, but hey, it comes with the territory. If he’s going to base his business model on slamming other companies with blanket statements and half-truths, he has to expect that there will be scrutiny of his own motives. I think Ethan is starting to realize that the internet is much bigger than just his website or YouTube channel. Granted, he will always have dedicated followers who will readily swallow whatever he says as gospel, but he can’t censor everyone, and the facts will come to light.

    What is it they say about people who live in glass houses?

  • Leilanni Monteblanco

    Reply Reply February 10, 2016

    I once posted on Ethan’s site about my own research on a company I was thinking of joining, and my comment was never shown. That was nearly two weeks ago. I didn’t even dispute or negate his opinions, merely shed light on the fact that the company is in fact
    affiliate marketing. (He had propositioned that it was a scam.)

  • Douglas

    Reply Reply July 5, 2016

    Just adding my experience to the fact the guy isn’t interested in anything but his truth. He won’t post my comments or others on his site that give calm, respectful insights into his commentary against this or that “scam” or scam artist. Look elsewhere for honorable investigations into fraud folks.

    • Tyson Zahner

      Reply Reply July 5, 2016

      That was my exact same experience too Doug. Thanks for sharing

      • Dan

        Reply Reply September 9, 2016

        The catch is that the simple act of clicking on Ethan’s websites or YouTube channels puts money in his pocket. If you visit his sites even to challenge him, you are contributing to his bank account. I steer clear of his sites and YouTube links for that very reason.

  • Dan

    Reply Reply September 10, 2016

    Ethan has sunk to a new low. Here is how desperate he has become to generate traffic to his sites.

    I recently encountered an article written by an author who lists his name as “Garry Melendez”, in which Ethan is criticized for his “scam-busting” practices. The article goes into detail about Ethan’s association with Wealthy Affiliate and income generated by visits to his site. I hesitate to post the URL for reasons which will become clear, but the site contains the following tagline next to the author’s name:

    “Please take a look at our Ethan Vanderbuilt website to find out a lot more with regards to Ethan Vanderbuilt Scam.”

    One is led to believe that these hyperlinks lead to pages with further information on Ethan’s practices, but if one hovers over the links, surprise….they redirect to Ethan’s own website. Hmmm….interesting.

    Could it be that “Garry Melendez” is in fact Ethan himself? Could it be that Ethan has taken to writing negative reviews of himself in order to mislead readers toward clicking on his links and thus garnering a few more of those Google Ad Sense pennies with every click? The author (who ironically writes about Ethan’s SEO income) clearly misleads the leader with his tagline and the hyperlinks therein. Why would anyone who knows (much less acknowledges) Ethan’s revenue model provide ANY links to ANY of his sites? Furthermore, could “Garry Melendez” (aka Ethan) have the article itself set up to generate ad revenue with every click (now you know why I didn’t post the URL)?

    Granted, this may be a bit of a trip into tin-foil-hat land, but I wouldn’t put it past Ethan to drive traffic to his sites any way he could, even by slamming himself with a pseudonym.

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