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Beware Fake or Unauthorized CPA Review Sellers

Back in the day, I used to get people who claimed to be former Becker students calling my CPA review company for the 35% discount we offered to past students of an equivalent CPA review program. Because we weren't interested in offering several hundred dollars in savings to just anyone, we needed to see a receipt or some other proof of purchase before applying the discount. 99.9% of the time, those who were claiming the discount could easily provide SOME type of documentation, even if that ended up being a shipping confirmation with all the prices asterisked out (which is how they do it if your firm pays for it).

But 0.1% of the time, the person claiming the discount would get upset when we asked for a receipt. "What do you mean?!?! Why do you need a receipt? Don't you trust me??" Well it would have been nice if we did but no, we didn't, blindly trusting people is not how you run a business. "I'll send you a photo of the books, does that count?" Well no, it didn't, because anyone could buy Becker books off eBay for cheaper than the discount we were offering, defeating the entire purpose of a discount for those who have already paid for a full review course from another provider.

Long story short, very rarely did those cases turn into the person getting a discount. Usually it was because in order to qualify, they actually had purchase the review course and in most cases, they hadn't. Either they inherited books from a friend or got software off Craigslist or who knows. It's the "who knows" that scares me.

I've noticed several "resellers" of Becker material specifically lately and unless something has drastically changed since July of 2011 when a Becker rep told me they do NOT authorize resellers, you could be getting anything when you indulge in an unauthorized third party product. I mean I've seen people selling PHOTOCOPIED Becker books stuck together with binder clips and rubber bands being passed off as real Becker books. That said, I've also seen carefully bound, *almost* dead-on bootlegged materials that were completely identical to the real thing.

"Becker Professional Education does not support materials purchased through unauthorized dealers. Only materials received directly from us are guaranteed to be authentic. Unauthorized dealers, such as CPAPassmaster, are either in violation of their license with Becker or selling counterfeit materials. Counterfeiting is illegal and purchasing counterfeit products supports this illegal activity. This type of activity is especially troubling since it is occurring within a profession whose foundation has always been and always will be based on ethics and integrity." Becker spokesperson Molly Tarantino told me last year.

While the rules on reselling your personal materials may be a bit sketchy (consult your CPA review course for their specific rules on this – I know our agreement specifically stated that you couldn't resell your materials but how can anyone enforce this?), I think it's pretty clear that these pop-up sites selling other company's materials should be approached with caution. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Becker is $3,000, how on Earth could a legit outfit sell the whole shebang for under $1,000?

Be careful and be smart, folks. You're not going to be tested on the ethics exam about doing the right thing with your CPA exam materials but you know and I know that bucking the system is considered a major faux pas.