TikTok continues to shock us all by breaking records and widening its audience, yet unfortunately, with such a broad reach, scammers inevitably remain not too far behind. In only six years, it has become the dominant social media platform for sharing and viewing short videos and now boasts that viewers in the UK and the US are spending more time on TikTok than on YouTube.
Cybercriminals are very creative and follow trends closely, even predicting change before the masses to maximise the outcome of their techniques. TikTok has over 1.2 billion daily users, so the numbers are for the taking - plus, you only have to be thirteen years old to create an account on the app. And, while people are scrolling for minutes or hours in an app, scams can easily catch people off guard...
TikTok scams to make yourself and your children aware of
Get-rich-quick and crypto scams
Con artists love to lure people in with claims of huge rewards for little effort. Cryptocurrencies have recently boomed (and plummeted) tend to generate a lot of noise online, and TikTok remains a favourite when attempting to part people from their cash. These offers always sound too good to be true –because they are.
TikTok phishing messages
A TikTok scam email or text is a message that goes out at random like a typical phishing message, but in the hope that they land in a TikToker’s inbox. They might try to offer a verified badge, more followers, or even a sponsorship. Once the target clicks on the link in the message, the victim will be redirected to a site requesting TikTok login credentials. If it does not have two-factor authentication (2FA) enabled (which TikTok accounts do not, by default), once these details have been handed over, the hackers will have control of the history and could even lock the genuine user out.
TikTok is still full of bot accounts that cleverly interact with users in a way that makes the targeted users think they are chatting with a real person - children are especially vulnerable to this. These bots may ultimately ask victims for sensitive information or even suggest the victims be redirected to a site that is a scam site attempting to phish information from them or install malware on their phones.
TikTok scam apps
Fake accounts on TikTok sometimes promote apps that are available to download, and the problem is that these apps are also, in fact, fake. Some accounts will claim that specific paid-for apps can be downloaded free from certain third-party app stores. However, in an attempt to steal your information, these apps will install malware or adware on your device.
Some accounts may attempt to impersonate real celebrities. This is usually completed by simply duplicating the content of a celebrity’s account. This is an attempt to get as many followers as possible, and before they are found out and reported, they may use the platform to promote other scams, such as cryptocurrency investment scams. This is a common scam children fall for.
Keeping your children safe on TikTok
While hacking into someone’s TikTok remains tricky without being near the target’s phone and carrying out a spot of shoulder surfing, it is an excellent reminder to ensure your child has 2FA turned on. This helps keep cybercriminals at bay should they ever be able to see the reset code sent to your mobile because it will also require the code sent to your email address.
Like other platforms, TikTok will never contact you asking for your account details, password, one-time passcode, or other verification methods. Due to the scale of the problem, you must keep an eye out for scammers who will probably try to trick you into sharing your personal information, usually by email or an in-app message.
Finally, if you ever see videos on TikTok that you think could be spam or attempting to phish people for information, report them to TikTok immediately and steer clear of any associated links.
Stay vigilant! With new security threats emerging as cybercriminals become increasingly sophisticated, a proactive approach is critical. To better educate yourself and your children, visit Digital Matters - a free online learning platform developed with insights from teachers and parents to transform online safety education.