Most common TikTok scams and how to spot them: Internet Scambusters #994
With a claimed active user base of one billion, social media site TikTok is a big hit with the younger generations.
But they're also one of the age groups most likely to fall for con tricks, which keeps TikTok scammers busy.
In this week's issue, we highlight some of the most common TikTok scams and offer 7 tips for you and/or your teens to stay safe.
Let's get started…
TikTok Scams Put Youngsters At Risk
How would you like to be paid $10 just for downloading an app via social media site TikTok?
Well, who wouldn't? But then why would anyone want to pay you?
Of course, they wouldn't. It's a scam. The crooks just want to trick you into either giving away confidential information or downloading malware. You'll be lucky if you even get a cent.
But that hasn't stopped thousands of young people from signing up. And it's just one of many scams you could encounter on TikTok, which claims to have more than a billion users. That's one-eighth of the entire world population!
Furthermore, the site is most popular with children and younger teens, who may be the most vulnerable age group for the scammers' come-ons. One-third of TikTokkers are said to be under 14.
Its user base is likely to grow further in the coming year as more adults join the clamor it has generated, in the same way that Facebook has broadened its age appeal.
So, if you're an established, new, or intending user, or the parent of one, here are some of the big tricks to be on the lookout for.
Stealing personal information for identity theft or to hijack user accounts is widespread on social media.
Victims are targeted using emails pretending to be from TikTok saying there's an account problem or they've broken site rules and directing them to a fake sign-on page.
Or they may be directed to a messaging app where they're tricked into thinking they're talking to a TikTok rep, who asks them to verify their account.
Imposters and Influencers
Scammers pose as celebrities or influencers to promote products that may or may not exist.
TikTok recently banned anyone, legit or otherwise, from pushing investments and other financial services because of the soaring incidence of fraudulent money and pyramid schemes.
Most real influencers have a "verification badge" to show their pages and profile are genuine. But there have been reported incidents of even these being fake.
Some scammers offer to sell verification badges at $200 a pop, but anyone who tries to buy can wave goodbye to their cash without getting a badge.
Stolen Videos: Crooks steal glamour or explicit videos from right across the Internet, which they then post to try to lure viewers into clicking links that eventually lead to costly and dangerous "adult" sites.
Scammers earn a commission for each user they send to these sites.
Mischief-makers also steal video clips from TikTok and elsewhere that they may use for extortion or just to cause trouble.
Many young people post videos and photos that they think will only be seen by their peers. The criminals may then use them for blackmail.
Or, in a tactic known as "video shaming," they track down the poster's family and send them the clip with questions like, "Is this your daughter?"
Buying 'Likes': As with other social media sites, users rank their popularity by the number of people who "like" them and their posts. This can help generate more views and even money.
Scammers offer to sell likes generated by "bots" (automated software), but they simply don't deliver.
Other times, they offer to sell ready-made accounts with thousands of fans but, again, victims who pay get nothing in return.
Fake Comments: Bots are also used to post comments on videos that contain links to dubious sites. This trick is also widely used on YouTube. Many of them use the same wording.
Downloads: This includes the $10-per-download scam we mentioned above. Others promote apps that cost a lot but do little or that install malware and adware. Sometimes, they enroll users into a difficult-to-end recurring monthly charge.
How to Protect Yourself
TikTok has been tough with scammers, throwing them off and removing videos on a huge scale. But still they come.
The company, whose ultimate owner is based in China, also offers help via its community pages and through a scam reporting system.
A spokesperson recently told website Digital Trends: "TikTok has strict policies to protect users from fake, fraudulent, or misleading content, including ads. We also have measures in place to detect and remove fraudulent ads, and advertising content passes through multiple levels of verification before receiving approval as well as once ads are running to help ensure authenticity, quality, and safety."
Even so, the site's growing popularity and age profile are too mouthwatering for the crooks to ignore.
But a few commonsense tips can help avoid many of the tricks:
- Never pay for "likes."
- Don't click on links or download apps without first researching the supposed offers.
- Don't post stuff you wouldn't want the whole world to see.
- Be suspicious of any TikTok message that doesn't come from or take you to tiktok.com. Check the address bar carefully.
- Don't go offsite to a linked messaging app unless you're 100 percent sure of who you're dealing with.
- Check language and structure of comments. Most automated scam bots use more or less the same wording and, often, poor grammar and spelling.
- Follow the site's safety guidelines.
This Week's Scam Alerts
The Sound of Music: Police are warning of a nationwide scam in which fake musicians mime playing an instrument to a recorded track, to try to raise money. They've been turning up at shopping malls and other public places. Often, they "play" violins and have signs claiming to be homeless or raising money for charity.
Don't Pay By Gift Card: We've said it many times before. Now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has reported 40,000 victims losing $148 million during the first nine months of 2021. That's higher than the total for the whole of the previous year. Most of the money went to imposters pretending to be from government agencies. Cards from retailer Target are the crooks' most popular payment choice.
Six Cyber Security Trends: Internet safety specialist Norton predicts that the biggest growth areas in cyber security in 2022 will be: cyber currency fraud as more people jump on the bandwagon without knowing enough about what they're doing; more tracking of personal movement and behaviors; growth in digital ID - with more details than ever about us being stored online; more cyber terrorism using tactics like ransomware; disaster-related money scams; and, as we previously predicted, more criminal use of artificial intelligence.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.