Influencers Are Out Of Control & Scamming Millions
In response to a surge in online scams orchestrated by influencers, France has taken decisive action.
These influencers have exploited their followers, convincing them to part with their hard-earned savings for miracle cancer cures and other fraudulent products.
To combat this growing problem, the country has implemented a new law that poses severe consequences for online content creators who promote dangerous services or engage in misleading commercial practices. Violators can face hefty fines and up to two years of imprisonment.
However, it is not solely the government taking action. Audrey, a concerned mother of two children, was deeply disturbed by the manipulative tactics employed by these influencers, some of whom gained popularity through reality TV shows. Determined to confront this issue, she took matters into her own hands and established her own Instagram account. Through her platform, Audrey aims to expose and hold these influencers accountable for their deceptive practices.
This combined effort by the state and individuals like Audrey highlights the significance of addressing the detrimental impact of influencers involved in scams. The law serves as a deterrent, emphasizing the gravity of promoting dangerous and misleading services to vulnerable audiences. It also acts as a protective measure, safeguarding consumers from falling victim to fraudulent schemes.
Audrey’s initiative demonstrates the power of grassroots activism in combating online scams. By creating an Instagram account solely dedicated to shedding light on these unscrupulous influencers, she has emerged as a voice for transparency and consumer protection. Her actions inspire others to take a stand against deceptive practices and encourage critical thinking among social media users.
The French government’s intervention, along with Audrey’s vigilance, signifies a collective determination to combat online scams and ensure the well-being of the public. Through legislation and grassroots activism, France is sending a strong message that the manipulation of followers for personal gain will not be tolerated. By holding influencers accountable, both legally and through public exposure, the country aims to restore trust, integrity, and transparency to the realm of online content creation.
In the face of these challenges, it is crucial for individuals to remain vigilant and exercise caution when engaging with online influencers. Skepticism and critical evaluation of products and services promoted by influencers can help prevent falling victim to scams. By fostering a culture of accountability, consumer awareness, and responsible digital citizenship, we can collectively combat online fraud and protect the interests of those who may be susceptible to manipulation.
According to the BBC:
Audrey said: “I told myself this is totally wrong. You can’t do that to a community of people who probably worship you and make them take risks by making them buy from unreliable websites.”
She raised the alarm when she saw a former reality TV star promoting dietary supplements that claimed to kill cancer cells.
Her social media page, Your Stars in Reality, aims to expose misleading and illegal practices and provides tools to help prevent people falling for scams.
Some victims of influencers’ scams have been so deeply affected they have attempted to take their own lives, according to an association set up to help the victims of influencers.
“People got divorced, lost their housing, their job, fell into depression,” a spokesperson for the AVI Collective told the BBC.
Many of the scams offer false trading advice that has cost victims more than €50,000 (£43,000), says French MP Arthur Delaporte, who cites AVI figures that suggest people have lost an average of €1,500.
“This bill is dedicated to the victims of scams, to the citizens’ watchdogs who have worked to alert the public authorities,” he told the upper house of France’s parliament as it prepared to ban the practice.
“It’s a public health issue,” Audrey told the BBC.
“When you’re ill, you want to believe that something exists that can save you from heavy treatment – or death. When people stop their cancer treatment thinking that a food supplement can cure them, it could be too late.”
But calling out influencers isn’t easy.
Last year, a YouTuber using the name Crypto Gouv scammed nearly 300 people and embezzled more than €4m, lawmaker Aurélien Taché told the National Assembly when the bill was being examined.
Crypto Gouv gave false instructions on investing in cryptocurrency and asked followers to entrust him with their funds.
Another popular scam targeted the French personal training and education scheme known as CPF – a system that grants funds of up to €500 to people of working age looking to access professional training.
Influencers were paid to advertise fake courses, contributing to some €43m of suspected CPF fraud in 2021, according to the economy ministry.
Products have been sold that never arrived, holidays have never materialised, and shampoos have been advertised containing banned substances that lead to hair loss.
In a study of 60 influencers and influencer agencies from January 2023, the French General Directorate of Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) showed that 60% did not respect the regulations on advertising and consumer rights.
“To me, it’s a bit like a mafia,” said Sam Zirah, an online content creator who founded the YouTube and Twitch show AJA, commenting on pop culture, social media and reality TV.
His show has been raising awareness on misleading product advertising for almost two years, often angering influencers, their agents and TV production companies, he told the BBC.
He has interviewed influencers for years and says he was sometimes warned to steer clear of some questions – or risk losing his celebrity access.
Read more on the BBC website
Online Influencers Have Become Too Powerful!
Online influencers have become powerful figures in the digital age, capable of shaping opinions, influencing behaviors, and promoting products or services to millions of followers. While many influencers use their platforms responsibly and ethically, there is a concerning subset that engages in scams, putting their followers at risk.
The dangers associated with online influencers involved in scams are multifaceted and include the following:
- Financial Exploitation: Influencers involved in scams often prey on the trust and loyalty of their followers. They use their persuasive abilities to convince unsuspecting individuals to invest in fraudulent schemes, purchase counterfeit products, or donate to fake charities. This financial exploitation can result in significant financial loss for victims who may invest their savings or fall victim to deceptive marketing tactics.
- Health and Safety Risks: Scamming influencers frequently promote dubious health and wellness products or offer false medical advice. This can lead followers to rely on ineffective or potentially harmful remedies, endangering their health and well-being. Misleading recommendations for diets, supplements, or alternative therapies can have serious consequences, especially when individuals forego proper medical care in favor of these scams.
- Emotional Manipulation: Scamming influencers often exploit the emotions of their followers, leveraging their vulnerabilities for personal gain. They may fabricate stories of personal struggle or claim to have found miraculous solutions to common problems. By preying on the emotional vulnerabilities of their audience, they manipulate individuals into believing their claims and engaging in harmful behaviors or financial transactions.
- Trust Erosion: When influential figures engage in scams, it erodes trust not only in them but in the broader influencer industry. Followers who fall victim to scams may become disillusioned and lose faith in the authenticity and credibility of online influencers as a whole. This distrust can have a long-lasting impact on the relationship between influencers and their audience, affecting the legitimate efforts of other influencers to make a positive impact.
- Normalization of Deceptive Practices: Scamming influencers contribute to the normalization of deceptive practices within the online space. When individuals with substantial followings engage in fraudulent activities without facing consequences, it sends a message that such behavior is acceptable or even lucrative. This normalization perpetuates a culture of dishonesty and undermines the integrity of online communities.
- Impact on Vulnerable Populations: Scamming influencers often target vulnerable populations, including individuals seeking financial stability, those searching for health solutions, or those easily influenced by charismatic personalities. Exploiting the vulnerability of these individuals can have severe consequences, exacerbating financial struggles, compromising health outcomes, and undermining personal well-being.
To mitigate the dangers posed by scamming influencers, it is crucial for individuals to exercise caution and critical thinking when engaging with online content. Verifying claims, researching products or services independently, and seeking advice from reliable sources can help individuals identify scams and protect themselves from exploitation. Additionally, holding influencers accountable through reporting fraudulent activities to relevant authorities or platforms can help curb the spread of scams and protect potential victims.
Regulatory bodies and social media platforms also play a vital role in combatting influencer scams. Implementing stricter guidelines, enforcing transparency, and providing clearer regulations for influencer marketing can help deter fraudulent practices and foster a safer online environment.
Ultimately, raising awareness about the dangers of online influencers engaged in scams is essential. Empowering individuals to make informed decisions, promoting digital literacy, and encouraging skepticism can help individuals navigate the online landscape with greater resilience and protect themselves from the potential harms associated with scamming influencers.