Some of my blog posts are about specific games. And it happens that I recommend a game I liked to you. Thus it is at least theoretically possible that you buy a game based on my recommendation, because you have some trust in my judgement. And of course that could go wrong, and you end up hating the game I recommended to you. The good news is that the damage is somewhat limited: I mostly talk about computer games, where even a triple A title costs something like $60 to $70. And the most expensive board game I recommended this year was Return to the Dark Tower, with a $150 crowdfunding pledge.
Studies have shown that people trust influencers they follow nearly as much as they trust their friends, and much more than they trust brands or celebrities. That trust isn't always well placed. Yes, there are people like me who just produce content for the fun of it, and just say honestly what they think. But that is small scale, my blog only gets around a thousand visitors per month. Google Analytics helpfully converts viewer numbers into potential revenue value and tells me that my main page is worth $0.00. But modern influencers on YouTube or other social media channels can have hundreds of thousands of followers, and that can be worth a lot more money. So instead of promoting what they like themselves, they promote what they get paid for, with that hopefully having some overlap. Fortunately again, the potential damage of an influencer recommending an eyeliner to you is limited.
And then influencers discovered that you can make a lot more money by recommending financial products than by recommending eyeliners or video games. Even just running regular ads about financial products pays a lot better than any other kind of advertising on YouTube. And really popular influencers can make a fortune with sponsorships and "recommending" financial products to their audience for money.
For regular financial products, there is at least some legislation that will protect the audience. The "pump & dump" scheme for a share, where the scammer first buys something of low value, then talks the share up to get lots of other people to buy it, and then dumps the share before everybody realizes how worthless it really is, is illegal. You can see how perfectly this would work on YouTube, but the financial influencer ("finfluencer") doing that might easily get into all sorts of trouble with the financial authorities.
But then we have the world of virtual finance, cryptocurrencies and NFTs. These financial products claim not to be regulated financial products, and actually tout that as an advantage. But their functionality is that of any other financial investment product: You put money in for the sole purpose of hopefully getting more money out at the end. And because financial regulation of these products is still not established, there is nothing to prevent finfluencers from participating in pump & dump schemes, or Ponzi schemes, or all other sorts of financial scams. And now that the crypto / NFT bubble popped, a lot of regular people have been losing their shirts. And typically those were people who weren't highly educated in finance, but trusted some finfluencer. Crypto scammers made millions, the finfluencers were paid serious money for their services, and the audience was left holding the bag when the cryptocurrency or NFT dropped in value, some to being completely worthless.
So, the next time somebody (including me) on the internet recommends a specific product to you, be sceptical. Consider the size of the risk, how much you would lose if it turns out that your trust was misplaced. You can probably afford getting it wrong with that recommendation of the eyeliner or video game, but certainly shouldn't trust anybody on the internet with your life savings.