Reports from the cybersecurity company Tenable on Thursday says that internet fraudsters are buying ads on TikTok in order to promote fake mobile applications, diet pills and other products and services.
This new finding showed the challenges facing the short video sharing social network service which has earned the label “threat to national security” from the US President, Donald Trump. Despite companies such as Walmart, Microsoft, Oracle considering to purchase the company said to be worth US$30 billion, the new security discovery will definitely be a thing to consider before moving forward with any deal and not to mention the fact that the Chinese government secretly place the “For you” page algorithm under the tech services that can’t be exported to overseas companies.
Donald Trump recently issued an executive order requesting ByteDance, TikTok parent company sell the company between now and November stating that the application is used by the Chinese government to spy on US exactly the same rhetoric with Huawei back in 2019.
Even though TikTok did filed a lawsuit challenging the administration’s upcoming ban on the service stating that it wouldn’t send US user data to the Chinese government even it were asked to do so as well as the company clearly stating in the past that it did moved its US user database out of China.
“TikTok truly is the Wild West of social media,” wrote Tenable research engineer Satnam Narang in the nearly 50-page report on TikTok scams. “The platform raises myriad concerns for a prospective US owner.”
TikTok said it removed the ads identified in the report after Tenable shared their findings.
“TikTok has strict policies to protect users from fake, fraudulent, or misleading content, including ads. Advertiser accounts and ad content are held to these policies and must follow our Community Guidelines, Advertising Guidelines, and Terms of Service,” a spokeswoman for TikTok said in a statement. The spokeswoman didn’t say how many people viewed these ads, but she said the company has “measures in place to detect and remove fraudulent ads.”
Further outlines of different types of TikTok scams which appeared in ads that were featured on the front page which is called “For you” was revealed by Narang. The page is the most important part of the service where user is bombarded with endless list of videos from different users.
There is even an advertisement which claimed that users can earn a sum of US$433 per day by just playing games but then when the ad is clicked, user are being take to the Apple App store where they are required to download an application which is just a mask of another dubious application.
There is an instance of an application called Super Expense which is also called iMoney according to the report. There are other applications being used to conceal the iMoney app among which is DayTaker, CanEnrich, OIMoneing and Minemalist part-time.
In order to make money, users are required to first download an application(s) and then leave those apps open for up to three minutes or at least complete other tasks which includes leaving a positive review on an Amazon product.
Some users have complained they haven’t received any money for completing the tasks. Users were also asked to provide personal information such as a photo of their driver’s license on the iMoney app.
“We speculate that when users perform one of these tasks, they are lining the pockets of the iMoney developers, who are using what’s called an offerwall to promote various apps and are paid an undisclosed sum of money in exchange for getting users to install these apps,” according to the report.
There are other TikTok scam ads whereby the scammer used fake news articles that claimed to being either CNN or Fox News to make it seem as though celebrities are promoting certain diet pills. In this case, users are required to provide their addresses as well as payment information in order to receive “free” bottle of diet pills.
But as you know once you hand over these information, you’re enrolled on a trial program which costs about US$90 if you don’t cancel within the 14 days trial. These scammers also earn money every time a user takes an action from their dubious marketing schemes.
This had continued as scammers continued to dupe people of their hard-earned money into buying fake products or signing up for questionable credit repair and tuition assistance services according to the report. There have been scenarios where users did complained online that they got incorrect item after ordering a product which they had seen advertised on TikTok.
But this won’t be the first time that the Cybersecurity company Tenable will spot scams on the short video sharing platform. There have been such case like this last year when researchers found scams on the service that involved directing users to adult dating sites or impersonating a popular user and boosting likes and followers.
A TikTok spokeswoman at the time said they pulled down the accounts referenced in the report.
“TikTok users would do well to be skeptical of many of the advertisements on the platform, because at the end of the day, they’re not always what they appear to be,” Narang wrote in the latest report.
But scammers are everywhere as they’ve also used services such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to scam people into dubious activities. Meanwhile TikTok’s userbase continues to rise with an estimated 689 million monthly active users throughout the world.