How Reality TV Candidates Play With Their Subscribers' Money

How Reality TV Candidates Play With Their Subscribers’ Money

#Reality #Candidates #Play #Subscribers #Money

Hello my little investors. Accustomed to all kinds of promotions, reality TV candidate Julien Bert has found his new activity: trading. In his videos, the network star promises his Internet users to earn money easily “with passive investments.” The idea? He uses what is called a “trading robot”, an automated tool that requires no human intervention. So far everything is going well. But the story turns out to be a bit more complex later on.

It all started with a promotional video, posted on Instagram on March 12. In the images, the man with 2 million followers appears behind the wheel of a beautiful car or inside his villa with a well-stocked dressing room. All this to announce a few days later the launch of his new jewel, Wolf’s investment. Julien Bert tempts his listener in the following way: “it is not the money that you are going to earn or that you could earn, but the money that you are losing by watching this video. You will continue to lose if you don’t join Wolf’s investment.”

A young and uninformed public

In this new video, shot in the middle of a forest and punctuated by low-end special effects, Julien Bert continues: “You have a 100% chance of making money with me. I know times are tough for everyone right now, so I won’t mess with your money. Money, believe me, it’s everywhere and it’s real, you just have to trust me.” At first glance, the speech is tempting. But is it only legal when it’s aimed at an uninformed audience that got to know it through reality TV?

Julien Bert's Instagram account
Julien Bert’s Instagram account – 20 minutes

In fact, this practice is highly regulated by the Sapin II law which “introduced in France a national system for the prohibition of online advertising on certain financial products considered particularly risky”, explains the Financial Markets Authority (AMF). In recent months, the AMF has also repeatedly called for vigilance over the call for investments on social networks. “We should question the financial skills of these people who present themselves as experts, the sincerity and disinterest of these recipes, whose paid nature is not always clearly indicated,” he tells us. .

This particularly affects non-professional audiences, which are targeted by influencers: “if an influencer acts at the request of a financial instrument trading platform, the latter must ensure that any advertising information is identifiable as such, correct, clear and not misleading. »

‘A disturbing rise’

contacted by 20 minutes, the General Directorate of Competition, Consumption and Fraud Prevention (DGCCRF) confirms for its part a “worrying increase” in deceptive commercial practices online in the field of financial services, “particularly by influencers”. During the summer, the General Directorate of Competition had also forced the influencer Nabilla Benattia-Vergara to pay a fine of 20,000 euros “for deceptive business practices related to the promotion on the Snapchat social network of online business training.” The regulatory authority also claims to make unfair influencer marketing practices “one of its priority areas of enforcement by 2022.”

The FBI excuse

But on the side of Julien Bert, the case does not stop at the simple communication of a financial product at risk. Since the beginning of our investigation, communications from Julien Bert about his Wolf investment project have completely disappeared from his Instagram page. Although his new company appeared in his biography, nothing refers to it anymore, he is only “co-founder”. This disappearance, and that of the money invested by its subscribers, was particularly noted by the Instagram account “Your stars in reality” -which for more than two years has aimed to denounce the multiple scams of candidates for reality shows- . “Indeed, the communications have disappeared and his team only explains that they were hacked,” says the founder of the Instagram account.

In the account “Your stars in reality”, we find victims of the various schemes implemented by Julien Bert and other influencers. “I naively believed that his project was viable and that he was going to give me some money,” confesses Mélanie*. “Being suspicious, I even asked his partner “Jérémy” questions on Telegram and got very convincing answers.” At first, a cautious Mélanie injects 15 euros. Seeing a small win, she adds a new larger sum. “After a few days, the platform told us that hackers had taken control and the dedicated site could not be found. They told us that they had also lost the money at that time and that the FBI was doing what was necessary. Requested by 20 minutesJulien Bert’s team confirms “that an investigation was underway” and calls itself “the first victim of this hack”.

For this reason, we take the opportunity to ask you about the danger of promoting risky financial products on social networks. Internally, we make sure that we are aware that the practice is prohibited by law, while ensuring that we carry out an entirely different activity. “If you go to the Telegram channel, you can read: ‘What we offer on this channel is not financial investment advice, but only our personal investment ideas.’ You are free to follow them or not. Regarding the disappearance of communications about the project, Julien Bert’s team assures that “nothing was deleted” and that it was only “ephemeral stories”, which does not correspond to our observations, nor to those of the account “Your stars in reality.” .

“Men lie, numbers don’t”

Further afield, in Dubai Bay, influencers are also very fond of the various and varied social media promotions. Among them we find the Blata couple who recently launched their trading platform through Telegram. They use what is called “copy trading” which allows positions taken by a more experienced trader to be replicated identically. In his videos, shot most of the time at the edge of a swimming pool, Marc Blata sums it up as easily as in this triptych: “Copy, paste, inject”. Except the practice is much riskier than the influencer suggests.

In 2019, the Autorité des marchés financiers, for example, decided to introduce several tools on these platforms to warn of risks, for example, indicating the percentage of customer loss in this type of product. A figure that can vary between 70 and 80%, stressed the director of Investor Relations of the AMF Claire Castanet, with Boursorama. “Therefore, the vast majority of investors lose money by investing in these products,” added the expert.

So to convince his listeners, Marc Blata uses effective and slightly manipulative expressions: “you’re not dumber than anyone”, “you don’t depend on anyone” or even “men lie, not numbers”. A well-considered ingredient is added to this recipe: the simple and affordable use of the trading platform through Telegram. To register, the only condition is to have access to this encrypted instant messaging.

A very high minimum deposit

In total, there are about 22,560 visitors on this Telegram account. In addition to weekly reviews of Marc Blata’s financial products and videos, the account invites its users to register on the platform through another profile of a woman named “Léa”, who is none other than her partner, Nadé. Blata.

One click is enough. With this account, the prospective apprentice trader can now ask all of these questions before proceeding with registration. “It’s very simple, it’s like when you deposit your money in the bank. They trade with them, explains our interlocutor. There, in this case, you will invest 500 euros, it is the minimum to earn money. The more you invest, the more money you will earn. It’s pure copy/paste, you don’t even have to understand”.

But going back to “Léa’s” explanations, one element remains particularly disturbing: the bail is 500 euros; an astronomical sum for the young audience targeted by reality TV candidates who are not sufficiently informed of the risk of loss. Posing as students, we questioned the account about the possibility of investing less. “It is the minimum capital to be able to make interesting profits,” replies Nadé Blata, who does not stop making those who find the sum too high feel guilty. This is the type of messages received by some victims that we were able to consult: “if you want to make the transaction with 200 euros, do it with other merchants. I put my hand to cut that you will lose them”.

“Drifts That Have Been Around Too Long”

Alerted by several people in distress, a support group for the victims of the Blata couple has been gathering for almost ten days, mostly on Twitter. The testimonies are counted by dozens. According to them, the influencer would not be in her first imposture. In 2019, for example, she would have already set up a raffle to win an apartment in Dubai, before canceling it and this when transactions had already been made. “We told ourselves that this type of abuse had existed for too long, that an entity was needed to do justice to the victims who did not necessarily have the courage to denounce these actions,” explains one of its co-founders.

Because on social networks, the couple of reality TV candidates highlights the profits made, without actually participating in the subsequent trade. “They get paid on every payment. Once you have made your deposit, they will no longer be interested in whether you win or lose. It remains a pretext for a simple platform”, believes the collective. In total, they would receive a minimum of $600 for each purchase, or even more depending on the number of tickets.

On their Instagram page, this misleading marketing is clearly visible. Through their luxurious daily life, the couple makes their fans believe that it is trade that has allowed them this comfort of life… Enough that they want to get rich with them. “They are gambling while targeting people who have no skills, no knowledge in this area,” says the victims’ support group.

Requested by 20 minutes, Marc and Nadé Blata did not respond to our requests. The couple continues to take advantage of the legal vacuum of the Instagram social network, unlike Snapchat -dedicated to an even younger audience- which has tightened its policy on financial products. “Advertisements in certain complex financial products, which may include cryptocurrency wallets and trading platforms, require Snap’s prior approval,” explains the social network’s internal rules, which add that “promises of guaranteed financial returns on speculative investments” are strictly prohibited. Nothing like it on Instagram so far.

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