Scammed influencers: “Threats, abuse and psychological harassment. There is a dark side. Money? Never seen”, the complaint of Sespo, Beatrice Cossu and Virginia Montemaggi

Unpaid work, pressure and scams. Here’s what lies behind the starry world of creator (tiktokers, youtubers, streamers). Or at least that’s what some of them have denounced in recent days. The first to open Pandora’s box was Edward Esposito – in art Sespo – who can count on 2.12 million subscribers on YouTube, 1.6 million followers on Instagram and almost 3 million on TikTok. In a video posted on YouTube in early January 2023, Sespo revealed: “2022 has been the hardest year of my life. I’ve been through so many problems that I don’t even know where to start. On the web we know everything, or almost. There are so many things that are not said or remain in the dark”. Then the 23-year-old went into detail: “I have experienced a serious economic problem: for months I have not received any money. I’ve done so many jobs without making a single cent. Wasted time, money and creativity on unpaid work. Or better, the brand paid but I didn’t receive anything. I didn’t even go on vacation this summer because I had to work, I’ve never seen this money and maybe I never will.” “Unfortunately, we know, we influencers are not protected at all – continued to denounce Sespo -, there have been many monetary scams and will continue to exist but unfortunately this discussion never comes out because we are afraid. By putting our face on it, we are afraid of losing everything we have built up over the years. So we prefer to keep quiet, maybe go legal but most of the time we keep everything inside. This creates stress and anxiety, which has led me to have health problems that have increased this year. Eating was complicated, I have very serious problems with nutrition. Yesterday I wrote to a nutritionist to embark on a serious path in this 2023. Sometimes I forget to eat or prefer not to. Other times I dwell on food until I retch, it’s a very bad feeling. I’m talking to you now that I haven’t eaten for three days, that is, I simply had dinner at unusual times and with random things, like yesterday with taralli. I can’t eat, he’s stronger than me“. Then Sespo also spoke of insomnia: “It’s not that I don’t sleep because I go out to party; I’m just alone, in bed, maybe physically tired but I can’t fall asleep. I’m constantly tired but I can’t sleep a wink. I hardly leave the house except for work. I feel calm only when I’m inside the house, alone”. Probably behind such delicate problems there cannot be only the reason related to work, but certainly that too will have contributed. And Sespo is not the only one, on the contrary. Taking up his own video, other creators also witnessed the same situation. There is Francesco Vigliotti – known as il.viglio – who told his 2.3 million followers on TikTok: “Some of the jobs I did weren’t paid too, or half of what I was entitled to. Please don’t comment saying ‘oh oh well it’s online work’ because it is actually very complicated. It takes perseverance, time and above all creating a community is difficult. Behind the online numbers there are people, I would even say that’s enough!“.

VIRGINIA MONTEMAGGI, PIERANGELO GRECO, LUCA LATTANZIO AND SASY CACCIATORE BREAK THE SILENCE: “ZERO PROTECTION. MONTHS SPENT TO CRY”

Interviewed by openalso Beatrice Cossu (more than 1.2 million followers between Instagram and TikTok) denounced a story very similar to that of his colleagues: “When you start working in this sector from a very small you see the people who manage your exposure as very powerful and in our world they really are. You wonder what a sixteen year old could do against an adult with a thousand contacts and you are afraid that one word too many could compromise what you have built up to that moment”. On TikTok, the former protagonist of The college he recounted: “I too have been scammed and robbed. I don’t want to remain silent. I admit that until then I didn’t speak out of fear, we influencers are not protected in the slightest. In 2022 I did a lot of jobs, signed contracts and they didn’t get paid. Or rather, the brand paid but whoever was supposed to pay the invoices that I made and presented to my accountant didn’t pay anything at all. Due to these payments not made, my university career was about to be suspended, as I did not have the money to pay the installments”. And again Beatrice added: “I had to ask my retired grandfather and my parents. Although I worked and invoiced in 2022. When I called in tears asking for my money, they simply told me to call back the next day. When they saw my number, they didn’t answer anymore, so I started contacting them from other numbers and they answered. I tried to send emails but obviously they weren’t calculated. At the umpteenth formal request, they invented yet another excuse, like that they all had Covid and then the following day I would see them at events. I went through legal action. Even those, at some point, have a cost. How can I afford a lawyer if I don’t get paid?”. Finally he concluded: “I’ve always had my life as an independent and professional content creator. When I saw that all this money was not being given to me, I balked and said: ‘Enough, I won’t post anything anymore’. I explicitly said, ‘Until I get paid, I don’t publish. It’s not right’. They threatened me that they would tell the client that I no longer wanted to work with them. When in reality the problem wasn’t me. If you’re a creator too and you’ve been the victim of a scam, don’t be afraid and have your say. This story doesn’t end here, it’s just the tip of the iceberg of many other 1000 crap including abuse and psychological harassment that I’ve suffered over the years”. Numerous comments from other tiktokers who seem to have lived the exact same story: “I’m with you! And I’ll be speaking shortly. The tears I have made in recent months for all of this,” he wrote Sasy Hunter (443 thousand followers). It’s still Pierangelo Greco (688.7 thousand): “There is a skincare make-up brand that hasn’t paid me for over a year even after issuing an invoice”. Same situation for Luca and Valentina Lactantius (219.8 thousand and 519.6 thousand), who in a video posted on TikTok last January 8 stated: “We too have been scammed. Never received any money for the work done. We are all part of the same agency, this thing has cost us money and health. We started suffering from anxiety and lost a lot of weight, it drove us crazy”, they told them, later explaining that they had also taken out a loan to be able to pay the expenses. “We felt like failures and we are not the only ones. There are many other guys who are in the same situation as us. We put our face to it but they (the agents, ed)? They don’t, however, they spend our money on their things: weddings, cars and trips that last I don’t know how long,” they added. All of them are also echoed by another tiktoker much loved by the very young: let’s talk about Virginia Montemaggi (5.2 million followers on TikTok), who commented: “Unfortunately it happened to me too and since 2021 I have seen practically nothing, really zero protection“.

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