TikTok has exploded in popularity over the past few years, becoming one of the most widely used social media platforms globally. With over 1 billion active monthly users, TikTok offers entertainment, connections, and creativity. However, with such a massive userbase, TikTok has also become a prime target for scammers.
As a cybersecurity expert with over a decade of experience in cloud data security, I‘ve seen various online scams evolve as new platforms gain traction. TikTok is no exception. Staying vigilant and identifying potential scams is crucial to protecting yourself and your data.
In this post, I‘ll share eight of the most common TikTok scams to be aware of, along with tips to avoid falling victim. Forewarned is forearmed when navigating the fun world of TikTok.
1. Fake Giveaways
One of the most frequent scams on TikTok revolves around fake giveaways or contests. A scammer account will promise followers a chance to win money, gift cards, or other prizes if they like, share, or comment on certain videos.
Of course, the promised prizes never materialize. The main motives are to rapidly gain followers or steer users towards phishing links. No legitimate giveaway will ask for your personal information upfront. Always verify that a large brand name giveaway is sponsored before participating.
2. Phishing Schemes
Phishing scams aim to steal personal information through fraudulent communications. On TikTok, you may receive direct messages or comments containing enticing offers or links. They may claim you‘ve won a contest you never entered or have an urgent issue with your account.
If you click on the phishing link, you‘ll be taken to a website impersonating TikTok and asked to input your login credentials or financial information. In reality, any sensitive data will go straight to the scammers. Avoid unsolicited messages and verify any suspected emails or links before clicking.
3. Financial Scams
From fake cryptocurrency endorsements to bogus investment opportunities, financial scams are running rampant on TikTok. Scammers impersonate celebrities or influencers to promote get-rich schemes, including cryptocurrencies, forex trading platforms, and pyramid schemes.
The goal is to convince users to invest money that will inevitably be pocketed by the scammers. If an investment seems too good to be true, it always is. Be skeptical of celebrity endorsements, and don‘t rush into any financial decision based on a TikTok video.
4. Romance Scams
Lonely hearts beware – romance scammers are active on TikTok. It may start innocently with flattering comments and escalate to proclamations of love. Eventually, the scammer will begin asking for money to deal with supposed financial troubles or emergencies.
Once they get the funds, the scammer ghosts their victim. Be cautious when starting relationships online. Don‘t rush into cyber intimacy or provide money to someone you haven‘t met in person. A genuine romantic interest won‘t pressure you.
5. Fake Verification Badges
The coveted blue checkmark on TikTok means an account has been verified as authentic. Scammers have been known to send out emails offering users a verification badge in exchange for a fee.
These messages are always fraudulent. TikTok would never ask for money in exchange for account verification. The blue check is reserved for public figures, celebrities and brands. Don‘t pay for something that TikTok provides for free.
6. Fake Shopping Websites
As TikTok expands its ecommerce features, you may come across videos promoting discounted products or limited-time sales. While some deals are legitimate, others are a ruse to capture shoppers‘ financial information.
Scammers create convincing fake store websites with amazing prices on trendy items. But the products will never ship, and your credit card details may be compromised. Verify seller reputations and be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.
7. Mobile Malware
Beware direct messages or comments with links to download mobile apps or games. This mobile malware can infect devices with viruses, steal information, or lock you out until you pay a ransom.
Downloading apps should only be done through official app stores like Google Play or the App Store. Avoid sideloading apps from third-party sources. Review app ratings and research developers to confirm legitimacy before installing anything on your device.
8. Bogus Advertising Offers
Influencers with large followings may be targeted by scams promising lucrative brand partnership opportunities. Emails or DMs claim to be from advertisers asking influencers to promote a product for a fee.
In reality, it‘s a scam to pocket the upfront fee without providing services. Verify advertiser identities by contacting them directly through their official websites before paying or sharing personal information. Report suspicious solicitations to TikTok.
What To Do If You‘re Scammed on TikTok
If you fall victim to a scam, take action right away to minimize damages:
Report the offending account and content to TikTok through the reporting feature. Provide as many details as possible.
Contact your bank or financial institution if you lost money or shared financial information. Freeze accounts as needed to prevent further unauthorized charges.
Change your TikTok password and enable two-factor authentication for stronger security.
Scan all devices used to access TikTok for potential malware or viruses picked up through scam links or content.
File reports with the FTC and IC3 to aid law enforcement in combatting scams.
6 Tips to Avoid TikTok Scams
While TikTok scams are on the rise, there are steps you can take to avoid being the next victim:
Set your profile to private. This limits who can interact with your account. Never accept follow requests from accounts you don‘t know.
Ignore unsolicited DMs. Don‘t open any messages from unknown accounts. These often contain phishing links or financially motivated scams.
Avoid "too good to be true" offers. Legitimate giveaways, investment opportunities, or contests won‘t guarantee big rewards for little effort.
Verify identities. Impersonation runs rampant. Double check account names, profiles, and contact information before engaging.
Enable two-factor authentication. The extra login security helps prevent account hacks by scammers.
Use anti-malware software. Scan links and files before opening to detect potential malware or viruses.
The Bottom Line
TikTok can be an incredibly fun and engaging platform when used safely. But users should be vigilant against the growing prevalence of scams. Avoid offers that seem suspicious, set your account to private, and only interact with known users.
Seeking financial advice, making purchases, or downloading content based solely on TikTok videos poses substantial risk. Take preventative measures, and don‘t hesitate to report fraudulent activity. With increased awareness, TikTok lovers can help suppress scam rates and promote a trustworthy platform.