Due to a large amount of screenshots with text, this blog is best read on a desktop as opposed to a phone. This post is also rather long so you may want to get settled in.
Many of you know that I use Brave as my daily browser. One of the features I love is that I can elect to see pop up ads (infrequently) in exchange for BAT– a utility token with some value similar to cryptocurrency yet distinct. Recently I was served up an ad for a site called VidLeap with some pretty outrageous claims. It’s a teaching course led by a man named Vincent Briatore that claims he can walk you through setting up a Youtube channel and brand that may earn you up to 1 million followers, 100 million views, and $100k a month in revenue in only 4 weeks.
The current running ads on Brave by VidLeap
Naturally my interest was piqued. Not because I’m a sucker, though I am susceptible to a good ad (I guess that might make me a sucker), but because I know there are systematic ways to get a good return on content on the internet. Although, these claims were much higher than what I think you’d typically see from a reputable site teaching people this. So, I clicked.
WHAT IS VIDLEAP?
A random survey of VidLeap at first glance seems like most general sites trying to make a quick sell. Though there’s some variation, they all have a similar feel to them. An easy place to enter your information and buy, a lot of lofty endorsements, and a straightforward layout telling you every reason you need this service or product.
This site doesn’t actually say why these logos are there, but right up front there is a banner of logos with popular brands like: Inc. 500, Entrepreneur, and Forbes. Now this may come as a shocker, but a thorough search of all of those organizations and “VidLeap” doesn’t return any results. Here’s our first red flag. Well there’s probably been many up through this point, but I’m gonna call it the first. In addition, there’s an endorsement from popular youtuber “Mr.Beast”. This specific endorsement would be pretty high praise if it’s indeed real.
The VidLeap domain itself is actually pretty old but historical
whois records show that it’s changed hands a few times and appears to have only come into it’s current owners possession as of March and then put behind Cloudflare. The organization also appears to have a Youtube Channel with 3 videos and a creation date of April 17th 2020. They also have a Facebook page that touts 14,000+ likes and 15,000+ more followers. But more to follow on that later. Lastly, they also have a Twitter account with over 4,000 followers that was created all the way back in April of 2017.
So what is the cost, you may ask, of such great and life changing content? Well the course will set you back a whopping $999. However, the gracious goodness of Vincent has given us a code for 60% off meaning we are only out of $399 to learn this dark internet magic that will make us rich. Thanks Vincent! But what does the $399 actually get us on VidLeap? Don’t fret, because for the sake of adventure I charged it to my credit card. So you’ll hear all about it shortly. What’s 400 bucks compared to the joy of what is to follow?
WHO IS VINCENT BRIATORE?
Vincent appears to have arrived on the cryptocurrency scene. Due to developments I’ll explain later in this post, it’s hard to tell which information is reliable and what isn’t but the general story seems to be that he’s an Italian immigrant who moved here with his family when he was 17 years old. He bought into cryptocurrency when it was cheap and made bank when it exploded. I’m 50/50 on how much money he actually has in cryptocurrency but I am not too concerned as it’s not unbelievable to think anybody could have made it big if they bought in on any number of coins early on.
Vincent seems to have a semi-successful Youtube channel. He maintains 38,000+ subscribers and a cumulative half a million views on this channel alone, though he has many other platforms and youtube channels where he is also generating views. The channel itself has been around since December 2015 and in the description claims he’s made over 12 Million dollars by investing and trading cryptocurrency. It also lists a personal website of vincentbriatore.net however…
It appears that whatever he was doing on his site got him suspended. Now it’s important to note here that hosts don’t just suspend their users. This isn’t something like he took the site down or moved it or anything else. This was a punitive action taken against him for some reason. Red flag indeed! Why Vinny? What did you do?!
If you do a search for his name which is pretty unique, you get mostly results of him. He has a Twitter account with 18,000+ followers created in 2012, a Facebook page with over 205,000+ likes, a personal Facebook account, and an Instagram account with 7,000+ followers.
In addition, he also has an IMDB actor page I guess. This guy is a real star. Buried on page two of Google, there’s even a Medium article that profiles him having a $15M net worth written by Adam West. Not that Adam West. But don’t forget this guy. Actually, let’s just check him out now.
WHO IS ADAM WEST?
Now most of you probably think of Batman when you think of Adam West but I feel obligated to mention that all I can hear when I hear that name now is the voice of Mayor Adam West from Family Guy. I digress. So who is he? Well Adam West seems to be a blogger who has written a total of six articles on Medium. Three of them are about cryptocurrency, two are about Vincent, and one is about Tony Robbins. What a cornucopia of topical goodness. Adam also has a Facebook profile. How can we be sure this is the same guy? Well there are other reasons I’ll address later but most notably his previous profile picture is the same cartoon image used on his Medium profile. We’ll press pause here for Adam but his story isn’t over.
TrustPilot is a review site where people can, you guessed it, review services. It also happens that VidLeap even though it’s only been born a month ago has some stellar reviews. In addition, note that this page is actually claimed so VidLeap is not only aware of it but can manage it and respond to reviews though they have no direct control over them. They cannot remove negative reviews. It would appear then that they have already had five satisfied customers.
One of the ways scams can garner quick reputability is to amass positive reviews on their pages and other sites like TrustPilot. Because they know that, it’s important that they encourage people to leave reviews. Especially when we’re talking about a $400 buy in. Or perhaps, they can get reviews through other means.
We see here a few of the reviews. Note that they all occur in a close time frame and are also very close to the original creation of this venture. Two of them also say the same exact thing and to remove any doubt that they’re fake, we can reference they use the same nonstandard capitalization in the wording. It doesn’t take long to notice something isn’t quite right here already given those signs. However, let’s give the benefit of the doubt and check one layer deeper. All of the accounts leave seemingly random reviews, in a short and recent timeframe, some on the same products though with different wording. Lastly, a quick reverse image search will tip the hat and illuminate that these definitely are not real people:
THE FACEBOOK PAGE AND REVIEWS
Now VidLeap’s Facebook page gets us a little bit farther down the rabbit hole of “what is going on here?” A new course that’s only been around since April has over 14,000 likes on Facebook. That’s certainly impressive. One would argue it even reinforces the very claims of the course itself. Except not everything is as it seems here.
Facebook has this wonderful tool for pages called the “Transparency Tool” that gives you insight to the changes a page makes over time. We see here that this page is actually 9 years old and has had a few name changes. The Allegiant appears to have been some kind of progressive news site or something like that. It’s only been changed to VidLeap as of April. This is the true explanation of why the page seems so popular, it’s been gathering an audience for 9 years under a different use. Now without the transparency tool, this wouldn’t have been hard to discover as all of the Allegiant’s old posts dating back to 2011 still exist and there are many 5 star page reviews dating in 2013. It certainly helps get a clearer picture however.
If we head over to the reviews and sort by “recent” we can see that some new reviews directly related to VidLeap have already made their way onto the page.
Wait a second. This review seems awfully familiar. That’s right! If we look above to TrustPilot, we can find this same review. Except… it seems that “Alexandra Inha” appears to have transformed into her alter-ego “Sumiya Anika” with a different name and photo. Now that’s a disguise. Maybe Adam West and Batman were truly appropriate for this investigation. But wait a second… holy coincidences Batman!
If it isn’t Adam West in the flesh right here reviewing VidLeap. And according to the date of the review, he’s somehow managed to consume the entire four week course and begun generating $3,000 a month in revenue in just days from when it showed up. He’s clearly a student because the page responded mentioning they’ve scheduled his 1 on 1 with Vincent which is part of the perks of the prestigious fee us elites paid.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE
The above gif is a hint at what’s about to be uncovered but if you aren’t there yet, buckle your seatbelt. Back to Medium! I had mentioned that Adam had written six posts but I told you his story wasn’t over and here we find ourselves prepared to see what’s next. Upon further investigation, all six posts are actually about Vincent or reference Vincent. We got a fan here y’all. If any of the posts don’t mention him directly, they at least include one of his youtube videos from his main channel. He even wrote this vague article that profiles Vincent and gives random information like his age and height. All of the articles speak about Vincent in the third person as if they are an interviewer. Except two. In two of them, the tone of Mr. West’s writing changes to the first person:
You’ll never guess who’s Youtube channel that is. That’s right, none other than Vincent Briatore himself. This seems like a foolish oversight considering in other articles like the one discussing Vincent’s wealth he says things like “When I first started following Vincent he would post pictures daily of his ‘day trading’ portfolio on his social media.”
Perhaps it’s a fluke. Plenty of red flags so far have really jettisoned all trust into the ground but hey, maybe he just got Vincent to write 2 posts on his blog and forgot to explicitly state that he invited him on.
THE ELECTRIC CITY
Now if this is just a fluke, surely there would be no other signs that may indicate that Adam West is in fact the alter ego of the elusive Vincent Briatore. However, a couple more details make the possibility of a fluke a bit less likely. Let’s jet back over to Adam’s Facebook. What else is there to note? Well Adam’s profile is pretty bare. He has five “likes”. Of them three (60% for you math nerds) belong to Vincent. One is VidLeap, one is Vincent’s like page, and the other is Ethereum Evengelist, his Facebook page for his Youtube channel.
We also discover that Adam lives in the great home of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company: Scranton, Pennsylvania. A town with a population of about 77,000 people. Not small but not particularly large either.
Oh Vinny no, what is you doin’? Now I’m no rocket surgeon, but this is highly suspicious. I think Adam just might be Vincent. If so, the most shocking part of this is the Facebook review above where he’s just talking to himself. Why you gotta be weird, man? We’ve been bamboozled! Well not we, mostly just me, cuz I gave this guy $400 but you’re still wondering about that huh?
THE $400 DARK MAGIC
Well you did it, you stayed through all of this so I suppose I owe you an explanation of what Adam, er, I mean Vincent gave me for my money. Well I’m sure you’ll be surprised to hear “not much”. It signed me up for a Teachable course with his curriculum. What I received was a 2 part “Week 1” lesson. The first portion is supposed to be some kind of static handout that I was supposed to review. It wasn’t there, so I aced that part of Week 1(look mom!). The next part is a 10 minute intro video and a five question quiz that I failed because he lied to me. I really am a sucker.
That was all there was of my 4 week course. If you want to know what the video was like, I have you covered. I TOOK IT straight off the site because I paid $400 so I deserved it. I guess I just wanted the feeling of getting robbed by the local movie theater again since we can’t go see movies now. Then I lashed out and pirated the movie anyway because I hated it so much and wanted revenge. You can view it here, though you won’t be any richer for it. Now I don’t know how Teachable works but I suppose that it could be timelocked and new content would be delivered to me each day but I don’t believe the content exists. The only reason that theory is in my head is because that’s what he told me. That’s right, I talked to him on Twitter too.
CONVERSING WITH VIN
After $400 and all this writing, surely we couldn’t end this without hearing from the mastermind himself. I gently questioned him and gave him the opportunity to explain himself, here are some excerpts:
When asked about the suspended domain.
When asked about the Facebook page changes.
When asked about his wealth from the Adam West article.
When pressed on Adam West.
When asked about the Mr. Beast endorsement.
When pushed further about Mr. West and the curriculum.
So now I’m $400 richer. Or I guess I’ve broke even because he gave my money back. Because of that refund, I actually no longer have access to the course so we may never know if the rest of the content existed or if Mr.Beast skyped in to tell us about the wonders of Youtube. While he hasn’t blocked me, he has stopped responding to me.
Don’t give people on the internet large amounts of money with the promises of riches. I charged the fee for this investigation knowing I was going to dispute it later anyway for services not rendered if he didn’t give it back. Others may not be so lucky and you may get robbed blind with the promises of immeasurable wealth.
For anyone reading this, please don’t do this. Not the scamming part, that should be self evident, but the slimy self promotion through fake identities and reviews. We all have something to share that can be valuable to others. Let your content speak for itself.
Further investigation shows that there are many in the cryptocurrency community who also don’t think too highly of Mr. Briatore. I’ve listed them below. Be safe out there!