In early June, when Brayden LeBlanc saw four influencers from the popular esports team FaZe Clan promote a cryptocurrency project, he thought he was about to make a safe and worthwhile investment.
The project, a charity cryptocurrency token called Save the Kids, launched on June 5, and its creators promoted it as a way to make the world a better place. The members of FaZe Clan, who each have millions of social media followers, gave it the feeling of something new and exciting. LeBlanc, 21, from Saint John in New Brunswick, Canada, initially invested $94.
But hours after the cryptocurrency token’s launch, its value crashed. LeBlanc’s investment is now worth around $5.
“I feel like I’ve been played,” LeBlanc said. “These FaZe members are people that myself and millions of others look up to. We want to be like them.”
While the FaZe Clan members who promoted the token have since been removed or suspended by the team for their involvement, the episode has become one of the most high-profile examples of what industry watchers and an emerging group of online watchdogs say is a problematic dynamic in which influencers promote cryptocurrencies — with young people particularly susceptible to the hype.
The cryptocurrency boom of 2020 and early 2021 attracted a new wave of mainstream