AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning people about MyTechBestFriend (MTBF), a company that advertises a virtual boot-camp-style training for the tech industry.

The BBB lists the company with an Austin address but said upon further investigating MTBF seems to be based in Houston.

There are 25 complaints and 10 reviews about the company over 2022 from people across the country, the BBB said.

Modelyne Saintelus is one of those complainants.

“I said, ‘If no one’s willing to help me, I have to go to Better Business Bureau to try to… get some justice for this or at least help someone else,'” she said.

She started looking into the program after graduating college during COVID and realizing she couldn’t use her degree involving international work because borders were closed.

She found out about MTBF on social media.

“It’s a program that… takes about six months or less, and you can land a six-figure role… before six months,” Saintelus said.

So, she said she paid about $3,000 to enroll.

MTBF also sounded appealing to Charlie Howell, who already had a job in tech.

“I was actually looking to upskill so that I could get more money or in case I wanted to leave my company and go to another company for different roles,” Howell said.

She said a friend vouched for the CEO, so she went for it and paid $3,700.

Jason Meza, senior regional director for the BBB, said the average complainant paid MTBF between $2,000 and $5,000.

“Consumers are telling us it’s difficult to work alongside this company, to get refunds, to get work, or to get the services that were promised from this company,” he said.

Meza said the agency started looking into MTBF in November.

“Just about every healthy business will receive complaints or negative reviews at some point, but we’re looking for that pattern of negativity that might indicate a substandard business practice or a model,” he said.

Meza said the CEO did not respond to the BBB until KXAN made contact with her this week.

“They’ve indicated they will respond to their patterns and the pattern of concerns that we have and their customer complaints,” he said.

The BBB also found MTBF is not a licensed educational institute in Texas.

MTBF is working with the BBB to resolve all consumer complaints as well as the TWC to get in compliance with the Texas Education Code and any other relevant laws. As far as refunds, refunds have been processed for most complaints and we are working to have that reflected on our BBB profile.

MyTechBestFriend CEO

KXAN reached out to the Texas Workforce Commission, which said it is addressing the company’s failure to register to operate in the state.

TWC said it issued an unlicensed school notice to MTBF on Nov. 17, 2022, and spoke to company representatives over the phone.

“Following the call, TWC received notice that the school will seek licensure,” a spokesperson wrote to KXAN. “To date, MyTechBestFriend has not begun the registration process.”

Meza said at this point, it is yet to be determined if further investigation will be needed by another entity, like the Office of the Attorney General or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

So far, no charges were filed against the company by enforcement authorities.

For now, the BBB’s rating for the company is an ‘F,’ meaning consumers should be cautious before buying services.

“Based on this information submitted to us, consumers are telling us the coursework, the materials — everything that this boot camp promises — is not happening,” Meza said. “For future students… they should consider doing their homework first. And this is just one piece of the puzzle.”

MyTechBestFriend’s response

KXAN contacted MTBF’s CEO, who said most, if not all, allegations are wrong.

“MTBF is working with the BBB to resolve all consumer complaints as well as the TWC to get in compliance with the Texas Education Code and any other relevant laws. As far as refunds, refunds have been processed for most complaints and we are working to have that reflected on our BBB profile,” the statement said.

The CEO refused an on-camera interview but said her company never promises students a job placement, but simply lists companies on her website as examples of where her graduates have gone on to work. She also said she does not promote any partnership with those companies.

MTBF’s Twitter account indicates the company is “rebranding” in 2023.

The CEO said while they have been in touch with the TWC, they have decided to stop operating in Texas “until we decide which direction that we want to go.”

Questionable tech training programs: How you can avoid falling victim to a growing problem

The BBB said it has seen an increase in virtual tech training boot camps since the pandemic and a corresponding increase in complaints.

The agency said people should carefully read the fine print of their course contracts, which can include clauses that hamper students’ ability to get refunds.

They also suggest fully vetting the company before submitting any payment.

“We’re talking references, licenses, anything that they’re advertising their services, look for who’s who’s providing that information, the resources, the bookwork the coursework,” Meza said.

One resource is public colleges.

Gretchen Riehl, associate vice chancellor of Workforce Education at Austin Community College, said the first thing students should look for is the company’s certification or accreditation.

“Who is giving you authority to offer the training and how do you ensure quality?” she said.

Riehl explained ACC has two oversight organizations: the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which have strict and detailed standards.

She also pointed out their tuition for short courses, like boot camps, are usually more affordable, too.

“Look around. Who else is offering it? What is their track record? Can they tell you about placement rates?” Riehl said.

She said ACC has a lot of partnerships with specific companies and can help obtain valuable internships that often lead to jobs.

Saintelus and Howell said they’re still waiting on their refunds from their unlicensed education and have learned one thing.

“Do your due diligence, do your research; if you look up a company and you cannot find any negative reviews, or you can’t find out any reviews on the company, then your best bet is to not go forward with the company,” Saintelus said.

Howell agreed.

“I have taken an apprenticeship before where the apprenticeship actually paid me to learn. So for me to not do my due diligence, looking for all resources across the board. definitely made me feel a bit dumb,” Howell said.