How to Keep Your Kids Safe from TikTok Scams
It’s a fact: kids love TikTok. The combination of social media platforms, fun short videos, and interactive elements have made this free app highly popular with both children and adults alike.
But if you let your kids use TikTok, you may be wondering how to protect them from TikTok scams. And the risks abound: from counterfeit profiles and dubious links to phishing attempts and romance scams, a plethora of scammers are drawn to TikTok, capitalizing on its popularity like everyone else.
- Who is Being Targeted by TikTok Scams?
- How Can You Tell If Someone is Real on TikTok?
- Most Common TikTok Scams
- What to Do If You or Your Child Has Been Scammed on TikTok?
- Tips to Keep Your Child Safe on TikTok
Who is Being Targeted by TikTok Scams?
In a word: all TikTok users. If you’re on the platform, then you could potentially be targeted by TikTok scams. This is why it’s so important for parents to take steps to keep their kids safe and give them the information they need to avoid getting caught up in one. Children are particularly vulnerable when it comes to getting scammed, and less likely to know the red flags to look out for.
How Can You Tell If Someone is Real on TikTok?
One of the key ways to avoid TikTok scammers is to be aware of fake profiles. Teach your kids that not everyone on the platform is real—i.e., someone may not be who they say they are, no matter how authentic their profile looks.
However, there are some easy steps you can take to help make sure that an account or page is real.
Look at the profile in question and some of the user’s previous posts. There are a few things to look out for here:
- Are they promoting products in their content or uploading poor-quality videos and images?
- Presenting a ‘too perfect’ life in their posts can also be a warning sign, as is having very similar comments beneath their posts.
- Posting revealing content and using external links in their bios are also common hallmarks of TikTok scammers and should be viewed as warning signs.
If the account purports to be that of a celebrity or well-known influencer, check the spelling of the account username: some scammers create real-looking profiles in which they masquerade as a star. Everything may seem legitimate at first glance but look closer, and you’ll notice that the username has a $ where an S should be, for example. The follower numbers and type of viewer engagement on these accounts may also give you a clue that all is not as it seems. If they seem low for such a well-known celeb, something’s amiss.
Most Common TikTok Scams
Duplicated TikTok Account
As we touched on above, not everyone is who they say they are on TikTok. One of the most common scams is the use of a fake celebrity profile. It’s easy to get fooled by this one: the account looks like it authentically belongs to a celeb, but in reality, it’s a scammer.
Be wary of this scam, as it’s especially easy for kids to get fooled and believe they are truly following—and maybe even interacting with—their favorite star.
The Romance Scam
Many people have been caught out by a romance scam, either on TikTok or other social media platforms. With this con, scammers seek to slowly lure in the victim by pretending they’re romantically interested in them. After some time spent showering the individual with compliments and messages declaring their love, they’ll ask for money—this could be in the form of a cash gift, a loan to help them out of an emergency, a plane ticket, etc.
This scam involves users being encouraged to click on a link either via another user’s content, a fake ad, or an email received. The link will typically take the victim to another page that looks authentic, such as that of a well-known app or platform, where they’ll be asked to enter personal or account details. Scams like this work by then harvesting this personal information, allowing the fraudsters to gain access to the victim’s bank account or clone their details.
A malicious link may also, once opened, download a virus onto the victim’s device, or tracking software, enabling the scammers to, again, collect personal information.
These scams typically involve receiving unsolicited text messages that claim you’ve won a prize, need to verify your account or request personal information. They may include links that lead to phishing websites designed to steal your sensitive data. These text scams can result in financial loss, identity theft, or even compromise your online security. To protect yourself, be cautious of any unsolicited texts, avoid clicking on suspicious links, and never share personal or financial information with unknown sources.
Fake giveaway scams are rife on TikTok, with many people falling victim to fraudsters, including kids. This sort of con could involve a user promising a big cash giveaway or other freebies if the intended victim does what they’re asked to. Not only is this a case of ‘if something seems too good to be true, it usually is,’ it’s worth noting that such conduct goes against the terms and conditions of use of most social media platforms.
The TikTok marketplace may have provided users with the chance to get a bargain, but it’s also provided scammers the opportunity to trick unsuspecting victims into purchasing bogus products or fake items purporting to be from a high-end brand. Once the scammer has got the money, they tend to disappear, leaving the buyer out of pocket.
To help avoid this, look for buyers that have a blue checkmark by their account name—this means that TikTok has verified them as legitimate businesses.
This scam can easily catch out kids—and adults! Your child may come across a TikTok platform appearing to offer cheap games—but the moment your child puts in banking or credit card details, they could be tricked into making regular and expensive in-app purchases.
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Watch out for emails arriving in your inbox that seem to be from TikTok, perhaps offering you a verified badge, helping you attract more followers, or even sponsoring you. There will usually be a link taking you through to the TikTok platform, where you’ll be asked to enter your login details. This may seem all legitimate—but the scammers now have complete access to your TikTok account. If you get a random email, it’s best not to open it—and definitely, a good idea to not click on any link it contains.
Scammers entice unsuspecting users with promises of effortless wealth and financial success. Beware of schemes that require upfront payments, investment schemes, or divulging sensitive personal information in exchange for supposed lucrative opportunities.
And the Rest
And the above aren’t the only ways to get scammed on TikTok. You also need to watch out for so-called bot accounts (whereby you’re not actually communicating with a real person at all), promoted app cons, and adult content scams. Worst of all, there are more scams hitting TikTok all the time, so as well as the scams we’ve listed above, it’s vital to stay up-to-date regarding newly emerging threats.
What to Do If You or Your Child Has Been Scammed on TikTok?
If you or your child falls victim to a TikTok scam, whether through a fake profile or a malicious link, there are some important steps to take.
- Firstly, report the incident to TikTok, and also change your password for the platform.
- If you’ve lost money or the scam has been particularly distressing, it may also be worth reporting it to the police.
- Finally, if you’ve given over any banking information, then let your bank or credit card provider know immediately.
Tips to Keep Your Child Safe on TikTok
When it comes to keeping your child safe on TikTok, there are several essential tips to keep in mind:
- Open Communication: foster an open and honest dialogue with your child about their TikTok usage. Encourage them to share their experiences, concerns, and any inappropriate content they come across.
- Privacy Settings: help your child set their account to private, limiting access to approved followers. This can help prevent unwanted interactions and protect their personal information.
- Screen Time Management: establish clear guidelines on screen time and encourage healthy digital habits. Set limits on the amount of time your child spends on TikTok and ensure they take regular breaks.
- Content Awareness: teach your child to be cautious about the content they engage with on TikTok. Encourage them to avoid inappropriate or potentially harmful videos and report any content that violates TikTok’s community guidelines.
- Stranger Danger: advise your child to avoid engaging with strangers on TikTok and discourage them from sharing personal information online.
- Cyberbullying Awareness: educate your child about the importance of treating others with respect online and the consequences of cyberbullying. Encourage them to report any instances of bullying they encounter.
- Parental Supervision: maintain a level of supervision by periodically checking your child’s TikTok activity and monitoring their followers and interactions.
To further keep your kids safe online, consider using a parental control app, such as Kids360. This tool enables you to keep an eye on what your children are doing online, set time limits on their usage, and even block certain apps entirely.
How do you tell if someone is scamming you on TikTok?
Use the tips above to help spot the signs of a fake account. Also, bear in mind the old adage: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
How do TikTok scams work?
There are many different TikTok scams. Some con users into believing they’re viewing a celeb’s authentic account, while others are focused on getting the personal or financial information of their victims. It’s important to remember that new TikTok scams are emerging all the time and to stay mindful of these threats.
Are there a lot of fake accounts on TikTok?
Yes, there are a lot of fake accounts to watch out for on TikTok. In a single quarter of 2022, the platform removed around thirty-three million fake profiles.
What does a fake TikTok link look like?
Recently, there was an epidemic of fake TikTok links circulating on WhatsApp and other social media platforms. Look out for subtle misspellings (such as TokTok rather than TikTok), or extra characters in the address.
Does TikTok advertise scams?
While the platform won’t knowingly advertise scams, scammers do use TikTok to promote or try to create a buzz around fake products, apps, and more.
The Takeaway: Keeping Your Kids Safe on TikTok
Many kids enjoy using TikTok, but as a parent, it’s vital to be aware of the platform’s inherent dangers. Scams are a widespread threat in which both adults—particularly children—can find themselves entangled.
Making sure your child knows the dangers and how to steer clear of scammers is crucial to help ensure they enjoy a safe and healthy online experience. It’s also important that kids know what to do, in the event that they are contacted by a scammer, get caught up in a con, or are tricked into providing personal details.
Share this article with other parents to help spread the word about some of the most common TikTok scams and how to help kids avoid them!
The picture on the front page: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock.com
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