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Nealy 5 million Americans bought their first firearm during the first seven months of 2020, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. More than 40 percent of these new gun owners were women. Since then, gun sales have continued to spike and the number of new gun owners has continued to grow.

Many of these first-time gun buyers cited skyrocketing violent crime rates as a major factor in their decision to arm themselves. They wanted a firearm to defend themselves and their family from the increasing lawlessness that is plaguing nearly every major city, which historically have been controlled by Democrats.

Many of these new gun owners want to carry their new handguns defensively. Demand for EDC handguns and concealed-carry training has never been higher. Some instructors say their classes are booked months in advance.

Unfortunately, whenever a goods or services becomes scarce, the scammers and fraudsters swoop in to take advantage of the situation by ripping off good, hardworking people.

Red flags

“Have you heard of these guys – US Concealed Online?” a friend in the gun-rights community asked in an email. “They don’t seem legit.”

I had never heard of US Concealed Online. The process outlined on their website seemed simple enough: watch a video, download a certificate, complete the (CCW) application. “Legally carry in up to 84% of the US,” it claimed.

“At US Concealed Online we believe every eligible law abiding citizen of the United States should exercise their right to carry. At the core of responsible firearm ownership is commitment to safety. This is why we are proud to offer the 1st step in securing your permit, educational safety training,” the website claims. “Due to reciprocity agreements between states, your concealed carry permit may be recognized in up to 84% of the US. This means that if you travel to a state where you are not a resident, and that state holds a reciprocity agreement with your state-issued permit, you may legally carry in that state.”

I decided to give it a try.

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The training

US Concealed Online’s video training is taught by Randy Picou. There’s not much information available online about Mr. Picou. He’s got a Facebook page, but it’s pretty spartan. It describes Picou as an NRA Certified Instructor.

Picou’s name also is associated with similar online training groups, such as the Concealed Coalition, which uses the same Las Vegas address as US Concealed Online. This address – 848 North Rainbow Blvd, #508 Las Vegas, Nevada 89107 – is associated with a bunch of other online groups, including: Concealed Republic, Gavel and Gun, Primed Patriot, Freedom Force 21, College Learners and more.

Mr. Picou’s video instruction was very, very basic. I could only take about 10 minutes before I skipped ahead to the test, which the website allowed me to do.

The 10-question test was ridiculously easy, mostly true or false.

Question 2: Your Firearm should always be stored so it is not accessible by any unauthorized person.

Question 4: You should never handle a firearm while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

I scored a 10 out of 10, which qualified me for a 50% discount on my certificate, $88 instead of the usual price of $176, if I chose to purchase one – I didn’t.

Worthless certificate

Being intimately familiar with the process required to obtain a real Florida Concealed Weapon and Firearm License, I knew US Concealed Online’s certificate didn’t qualify me for anything. I had questions, so I gave them a call.

I spoke with Michaela, who did not provide her last name. I told her I worked for the Second Amendment Foundation, that I was writing a story about her employer, and that I suspected this entire process was nothing but a scam.

“It’s not a scam,” Michaela said. “We just provide certification training for your state.”

In order to get a Florida CWFL, she said, I would have to take additional training with an NRA-certified instructor in Florida, which includes live-fire at a range. Michaela offered to arrange an instructor for an addition $122 fee.

If that’s the case, I said, why should I pay $176 for US Concealed Online’s certificate instead of just taking a state-approved course through the NRA.

“We have to make sure you’re in the right mindset and headspace to qualify for a permit,” Michaela said.

Huh? Headspace?

Michaela quickly passed me to Jennifer, her supervisor, who passed me to someone named Cassie.

I asked the same question: Why bother with US Concealed Online, since Florida doesn’t recognize their certificate – why not just take a state-approved course?

“The state of Florida does require online training,” Cassie told me. “That is required by Florida.”

That, friends, is a boldfaced lie.

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BBB reports

US Concealed Online is a plague on the internet. The Better Business Bureau and ScamPulse have received hundreds of complaints from angry customers.

“I got scammed and they say there is not refund available when I contacted them and told them I don’t even own a gun. it listed Nevada as a contact address, but when you get done and pay the funds ($65) you get a packet to fill out and send to Virginia, and $100, right after you pay the $65 you get a certificate saying the “code of Virginia” and not a concealed handgun permit. the video was common sense, and kept telling you to refer to your owners manual, should have stopped there but didn’t, my error,” wrote Lois Rose.

Absolute rip off. Went to cancel since I found a cheaper class that I knew would include fingerprinting and filing paperwork with the state. Come to find out they have a no refund policy on in person classes that is no listed anywhere on their website. Will be disputing the charge with my credit card company since they won’t give me my money back,” wrote Jessica H.

“Should of read the reviews I thought it was a way of renewing online as I already have mine and found out it’s literally nothing .. just the basic questions and a ******** completion that has no authority. I want a full refund!!” wrote Lawrence R.

“They claim to offer a concealed carry permit for gun owners after you take an online test and pay them $65.00. Then you discover the permit is no such thing,” wrote Nona Dooley.

I asked Michaela’s supervisor about these complaints.

“I can’t answer a question about why people complain,” Jennifer said. “They’re mostly due to the fact we have a no-refund policy.”

Takeaways

Obviously, US Concealed Online is nothing more than a scam designed to fleece the uninformed of their hard-earned dollars. They’re taking advantage of the growing demand for concealed-carry instruction and permits, and they don’t care who they rip off.

In my humble opinion, before shelling out a single dollar for a certificate that can lead to a state concealed-carry permit, familiarize yourself with your state’s requirements, especially the type of training they will accept.

Florida, for example, recognizes state hunter education courses, NRA courses, law enforcement training, participation in organized shooting competitions or a DD-214.

I strongly recommend that new shooters seek professional training, even if they live in one of the 21 states that have passed constitutional carry, where permits are no longer required. We live in the Golden Age of firearm instruction. Never before have we had so many well-qualified trainers. Besides, training is fun. Take a class and you’ll soon learn this for yourself.

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