O ne night in early 2019 a young student from eastern Europe was browsing YouTube in his bedroom just outside London, when he stumbled across a video that promised to change his life. It was presented by a baby-faced British man called Samuel Leeds, who explained that freedom from financial worries was within anyone’s reach. They just had to play the property market.
Simon, the student, a quiet 20-year-old with glasses and reddish-brown hair, didn’t feel like a property mogul in the making – he was temporarily living in a friend’s spare room. But he found himself clicking on more videos. “How to buy UK property with NO MONEY”. “How to start in property as a STUDENT”. “From NOTHING to financial freedom in 2 MONTHS”. Simon watched, intrigued, as Leeds outlined various ways of “tapping into money” such as bridging loans, joint ventures and credit cards.
Some of Leeds’s videos, which combined low production values with zany antics, were quite funny. Simon (who asked that his surname be withheld) had only recently moved to Britain, and was working in a warehouse to make ends meet while he studied for a computer-science degree. He didn’t have much of a social life, and it wasn’t long before the influencer’s YouTube channel became his main hobby.