Connor Walsh claims to have it all. A Lamborghini, the freedom of a £3 million mansion and a jet-setting job — all by the age of 25.
Standing in front of his indoor swimming pool, he starts to tell his 138,000 Instagram followers how he did it.
He struts over to his home bar and explains how you, too, can live like a king by trading foreign currency.
'This is what forex has been able to bring for me,' he boasts.
His 'lockdown challenge' — turning an 'investment' of just £250 into £5,000 — is an opportunity to see 'how much money you can make during a very short period of time'.
'Get involved!' says Walsh, as he pours himself a drink.
But those seduced by the luxury lifestyle of Walsh and other high-rolling 'bedroom traders' could lose thousands of pounds on risky bets.
A Money Mail investigation reveals how high-profile social media stars are making money from naive investors by persuading them to join supposedly legal but unregulated trading groups.
The promise of a lavish lifestyle
The set-up is simple. Influencers post pictures of sports cars, exotic holidays and luxury homes, which they claim to have bought with cash earned from trading foreign currency.
Their followers are urged to sign up to expensive courses, which promise to teach aspiring traders how to make their own fortunes.
Hopeful investors are then told how the trader is supposedly betting on foreign exchange fluctuations, known as forex. These trading templates are known as 'signals'.
But Money Mail has spoken to would-be investors who have lost thousands of pounds to forex trading.
They say traders claim to be making the same trades as their students, but there is no proof of this. Campaigners also say betting on the foreign currency market is so unpredictable it should be classed as gambling.
There are also fears some traders could be acting illegally by providing investment advice without authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
But influencers argue that their signals stop short of providing financial advice and do not break the law.
Earning thousands in commission fees
Insiders say some trading social media stars make most of their money in commission — rather than on the currency exchange itself.
The bedroom traders can be paid between £40 and £80 every time they convince a follower to deposit £250 with a third-party broking platform.
Kieren Hamilton, 23, from Hattersley, Greater Manchester, parades his wealth to 6,000 Instagram followers and boasts of making up to £10,000 a day.
Yet Money Mail has seen a video in which Hamilton admits that 99 per cent of his income comes from commission.
He claimed he would be made homeless unless his broker paid his commission in the video that was posted to his account last year. Hamilton did not respond to Money Mail's request for comment.
So risky it's like gambling
Connor Walsh's recent posts document holidays to Dubai, Texas, Mexico and Switzerland as well as £45,000 shopping trips at Selfridges.
He boasts that forex trading is 'tax-free' and claims Direct Forex Signals is the UK's largest forex trading group. A video uploaded to his YouTube channel on May 31 gives a tour of 'my brand-new house', in Prestbury, Cheshire, which he says is worth £3 million.
But the estate agent told Money Mail that the property is still for sale and Walsh had merely rented it for four months. Walsh says he never claimed to have bought the property.
Walsh, from Stockport, Manchester, is also one of many influencers promoting the coronavirus pandemic as 'a massive opportunity' for those stuck at home to cash in on market volatility.
Laura Suter, personal finance analyst at AJ Bell, says the crisis presents 'a paradise for people trying to flog their forex trading plans' and has 'created many more vulnerable individuals who are likely to fall victim to these schemes'.
She adds that claims made by some influencers of making large sums in a short period of time are 'highly ambitious at best, and plain lies at worst', while the risks involved in trading forex during market volatility are 'much higher'.
The risks of forex trading are so great, even in normal circumstances, that campaigners want it to be classed as gambling.
Forex traders typically deal using contract for differences (CFDs) that allow investors to profit from price fluctuations, without ever owning the asset.
Regulated CFD firms often report that 75 per cent to 80 per cent of their accounts lose money. Investors lost more than £1 billion trading CFDs in 2018, according to the FCA.
Yet Connor Walsh's website claims that 89 per cent of his signals are successful, while his analysts 'ensure that every trade will go the way we predict'.
Matt Zarb-Cousin, of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, says these 'bets' should be regulated by the Gambling Commission - meaning influencers such as Walsh would no longer be able to advertise it as a way of making money.
He says they 'know that they are sucking customers into an addictive gambling product under the pretence of investment'.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport says it will not be reviewing forex trading. But Mr Zarb-Cousin says ministers must take action.
'This has fallen through the cracks between the FCA and the Gambling Commission,' he adds.
Although forex trading is not regulated as gambling, it is taxed as such. It is VAT-free because HMRC believes it falls under the betting exemption.
Millions lost to trading 'scams'
The FCA says firms must be authorised to offer trading signals and financial advice on regulated products.
It says that some trading firms act without authorisation, while others 'knowingly run investment scams'.
More than £27 million was lost to bogus online trading platforms in the year 2018/19, according to Action Fraud.
The number of reports tripled last year to 1,800, with the average customer losing £14,600. The FCA has added dozens of these so-called bedroom traders to its warning list.
Walsh and his company, Direct Forex Signals, had been on the FCA's warning list since December 2018.
The page said: 'This is a firm that we have been told is either operating regulated activities without the correct authorisation, or is running a scam. We strongly advise you avoid dealing with unauthorised firms like this.'
It was removed last month, but the FCA has not said why.
Parent company James Mills Ltd is registered with the FCA, but does not have permission to carry out investment activity.
Walsh says his signals stop short of providing financial advice and are not illegal. He adds that he makes it clear to customers that his signals are not investment advice 'but an insight into a live trading environment'.
Mail dossier to be investigated
Money Mail has handed a dossier of 32 traders to the FCA, which says it is investigating.
The regulator has now added Kieren Hamilton and two of his Instagram pages to its warning list.
A spokesman adds: 'We are aware that scammers are posing as forex, CFD or cryptoasset traders on social media, such as Instagram, enticing consumers with the promise of substantial profits with little if no risk.
'It is important customers know that firms have to be authorised by the FCA to offer trading signals, copy trading services and financial advice on regulated products.
'To do so without authorisation is a criminal offence and unauthorised traders should not be offering these services.'
Instagram says it does not allow 'fraudulent or inauthentic behaviour' on its platform.
A spokesman adds: 'We have reviewed the accounts brought to our attention and have removed all that violated our policies.'