TikTok is filled with adult-dating scams and fake accounts, report says

Scammers are directing people to Snapchat.

Queenie Wong Former Senior Writer
Queenie Wong was a senior writer for CNET News, focusing on social media companies including Facebook's parent company Meta, Twitter and TikTok. Before joining CNET, she worked for The Mercury News in San Jose and the Statesman Journal in Salem, Oregon. A native of Southern California, she took her first journalism class in middle school.
Expertise I've been writing about social media since 2015 but have previously covered politics, crime and education. I also have a degree in studio art. Credentials
  • 2022 Eddie award for consumer analysis
Queenie Wong
3 min read
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TikTok is the latest social network grappling with scammers. 

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TikTok is known for its 15-second quirky videos, but users should also be on the watch for scammers on the social network. 

Cybersecurity company Tenable released a 50-page report on Wednesday that outlined three types of scams it found on TikTok that involved directing users to adult dating sites, impersonating popular users and boosting likes and followers.

"Given TikTok's meteoric rise in popularity, it comes as no surprise that scammers would take notice," Tenable researcher Satnam Narang said in the report. "So far, these scams appear to be in their infancy."

In March, Narang started tracking scammers on TikTok, which surpassed 1 billion downloads this year. A TikTok spokeswoman said the ByteDance-owned company has pulled down all the accounts mentioned in the report and relies on a mix of technology and user reports to quickly identify accounts that violate its rules against defrauding or misleading users on the platform.

"TikTok has strict policies safeguarding users against fake, fraudulent or misleading content," a company spokeswoman said in a statement. "We flag and remove most spam accounts before they can reach users' feeds, and we continuously improve our protections, even as malicious actors work to evade our safeguards."

TikTok declined to say how many fake accounts are on the platform or how prevalent the scams outlined in the report are.

In one type of scam, users stole videos from Snapchat and Instagram of women in bikinis, dancing or working out. They then directed viewers to a Snapchat account that it said contained nude photos. Once users migrated over to Snapchat, they would see videos and photos that vanish in 24 hours of a woman displaying nudity or performing sexual acts on herself, according to the report. Eventually, scammers would lead users to links to adult dating sites. The scammers made money when users clicked on these sites or became a paid user. The scammers also asked users to pay money through PayPal to access "premium" Snapchat accounts that are against the social media company's terms of service. 

On average, these adult dating scam accounts would have 650 followers and receive more than 1,700 likes on their videos, according to the report. The most popular account the researcher discovered had more than 12,300 followers.

A spokesman for Snapchat said it shut down the accounts and pointed to the company's rules again pornography and illegal activities. 

In another scam, users would impersonate TikTok influencers such as Salice Rose and Baby Ariel and celebrities including Indian singer Neha Kakkar. Sometimes, scammers would claim to be a fan account or a backup account for a popular TikTok user.

Other accounts sold followers and likes for TikTok accounts and other social media sites including Facebook, Instagram and Google-owned YouTube. Narang said it makes sense that scammers would take advantage of TikTok because of its growing popularity.

"When the next hyper-growth platform appears, scammers won't be far behind," Narang said in the report. "The tactics might change to suit the platform, but at its core, the scams will be the same."