TikTok Ads Drove Scams On Apps, Diet Pills And Other Products, Report Says

TikTok has over 689 million monthly active users worldwide.

Graphic by Pixabay / Illustration by CNET

Scammers are buying ads on TikTok, the popular short video app, to promote bogus mobile apps, diet pills and other bogus products and services, according to a report released Thursday by cybersecurity firm Tenable.

The results highlight the challenges TikTok faces as companies such as Microsoft, Walmart and Oracle consider buying a stake in the app, which could be banned in the United States this month if its Chinese parent company ByteDance did not sell its business in the United States. The Trump administration recently issued two executive orders targeting TikTok, citing concerns that the app could be used by the Chinese government to spy on U.S. government employees. TikTok has filed a lawsuit against the administration’s upcoming ban and said it will not send US user data to the Chinese government even if asked to do so.

“TikTok is truly the Wild West of social media,” wrote research engineer Tenable Satnam Narang in the almost 50 page report about TikTok scams. “The platform raises a myriad of concerns for a potential US owner.”

TikTok said it removed the ads identified in the report after Tenable shared its findings.

“TikTok has strict policies to protect users from false, fraudulent, or deceptive content, including advertisements. Advertiser accounts and ad content are subject to these policies and must follow our community guidelines, advertising guidelines, and our guidelines. terms of use, “said a spokesperson for TikTok. said in a statement. The spokeswoman did not say how many people saw the ads, but said the company had “measures in place to detect and remove fraudulent ads.”

Narang described several types of TikTok scams that appeared in advertisements that appeared on the app’s home page, called “For You”. The page features videos based on a user’s interests and activity on the app.

In an ad, the crooks claim that users can earn “$ 433 per day playing games.” When users click on this ad, they are taken to the Apple App Store where they are prompted to download an app that is actually masquerading as another app. For example, an app called Super Expense is an app called iMoney, the report says. Other apps used to hide iMoney include DaysTaker, CanEnrich, OlMoneing, and part-time Minemalist. To earn money, users are advised to download apps and leave them open for three minutes or perform other tasks such as leaving positive reviews on Amazon products. Some users complained that they did not receive money to complete the tasks. Users were also asked to provide personal information such as a photo of their driver’s license on the iMoney app.

“We assume that when users perform any of these tasks, they line the pockets of iMoney developers, who use what is called an offer wall to promote various apps and are paid an undisclosed amount of money in. exchange to get users to install these apps, “according to the report.

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In other TikTok ads, crooks have used fake news articles that falsely claimed to be from CNN and Fox News to make it look like celebrities are promoting certain diet pills. Users are asked to provide their address and payment information to receive a “free” bottle of diet pills. Once they hand over that information, they’re signed up for a trial program that costs $ 90 if they don’t cancel within 14 days. Scammers also earn money every time a user takes an action as a result of their marketing.

Scammers have also used TikTok ads to trick people into buying counterfeit or overpriced products or signing up for questionable credit repair and tuition assistance services, according to the report. In some cases, users have complained online that they received the wrong item after ordering a product that they saw appear in a TikTok ad.

It is not the first time Defensible spotted scams on TikTok. Last year, the same researcher uncovered shorthand video app scams that involved directing users to adult dating sites, impersonating popular users, and increasing likes and dislikes. subscribers. A spokeswoman for TikTok at the time said they removed the accounts referenced in the report.

“TikTok users would do well to be skeptical of many of the ads on the platform, because at the end of the day, they aren’t always what they appear to be,” Narang wrote in the latest report. . The crooks also used other social networks, including Facebook and its photo service Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to trick users.

As of July, TikTok had more than 689 million monthly active users worldwide.

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