Skip to content

8 of the Biggest TikTok Scams To Watch Out For

TikTok has exploded into one of the most popular social media platforms, amassing over 1 billion monthly active users. However, with great popularity comes attractive opportunities for scammers. TikTok scams are on the rise, infiltrating feeds and inboxes to take advantage of unsuspecting users.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explore the most common TikTok scams reported in 2022 and provide expert strategies to keep your account secure. I‘ll walk through real-world examples of each fraud type, statistics on their prevalence, and tips to avoid becoming the next victim.

Here are the top TikTok scams savvy users need to watch for in their feeds:

  • Fake money-making offers and prize giveaways
  • Imposter accounts mimicking celebrities and influencers
  • Romance scams playing with feelings
  • Sophisticated chatbots phishing for data
  • Alarming phishing attempts to steal credentials
  • Adult content scams demanding payment
  • Bogus products and services for sale
  • Malicious third-party apps

Let‘s explore each of these popular scams in more detail so you know the red flags to watch for while scrolling.

Fake Money-Making Offers and Prize Giveaways

One of the most common scams on TikTok revolves around dubious money-making opportunities. Fraudsters may promise massive cash rewards or lucrative brand deals in exchange for a small upfront "registration" payment.

For example, an account called @income_secrets_01 advertises:

"Want to earn $5,000/week as a TikTok ambassador? Click the link in our bio to register with our agency! Just pay the $99 sign-up fee and we‘ll get you huge brand deals in no time. Limited spots available, act now!"

However, after users pay the fee, they never receive the promised payouts or brand sponsorships. The scammers pocket the money and disappear. They may even block users who attempt to follow-up on the offer.

Similar tactics are used for fake TikTok prize giveaways. An account impersonating a well-known brand may announce a $20,000 cash drawing for users who like, share, and follow within 24 hours. But the prize is never awarded, and the account vanishes after amassing a large enough following to turn a profit. According to TikTok, legitimate brands will never organize illegal lotteries requiring an upfront fee or purchase to enter.

Here are red flags signaling a fake money-making or prizes scam:

  • Requires payment of a fee before receiving the "prize" or payout
  • Asks for personal banking details to deposit funds
  • Pressures you to act fast before the "offer" expires
  • Payment methods like prepaid cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency
  • Account has no previous posts or engagement history

Minsky Management cybersecurity expert Jade Randolph cautions: "When an offer seems too good to be true, it almost always is. No legitimate companies will hand over massive sums just for liking posts or following accounts. If pressured for payment or personal details, block the account and report it to TikTok immediately."

Imposter Accounts Mimicking Celebrities and Influencers

Scammers are also eager to leverage the huge fanbases of celebrities and influencers. They create convincing imitation accounts hoping to eventually profit from the famous persona.

With a few stolen images and short video clips, these accounts try to lure in unsuspecting fans. Once appearing legitimate, the fraudsters may promote sketchy products, solicit donations for fake charities, or even directly ask for money.

For example, a TikTok account @m1lstewartpopstar (with a small spelling error) amasses 120k followers impersonating pop star Miley Stewart. The account then promotes a cryptocurrency giveaway asking fans to first send $50 in Bitcoin to an anonymous wallet.

However, savvy social media users can spot a few red flags:

  • Username/handle slightly different than the official account
  • Far fewer posts and followers than the real celebrity
  • Poor grammar, spelling, and sentence structure
  • Aggressive requests for money or personal data
  • Promotions for suspicious investments or products

Always check for that blue verification check mark to confirm an account‘s authenticity before interacting. As online privacy expert Cindy Welles advises, "When in doubt, go directly to the influencer‘s official website or contact their management company to verify legitimacy before providing any sensitive information or payments."

According to TikTok‘s latest transparency report, impersonating accounts make up about 9% of profiles removed. FTC data also shows social media impersonation scams rose sharply by 87% in 2021 alone.

Romance Scams

Lonely TikTok users seeking love may unfortunately encounter romance scammers ready to break hearts and bank accounts.

Operating under fake identities, these fraudsters initially shower victims with flattering attention, love poems, and daily check-in messages. Once an emotional attachment forms, sly requests for money start under the guise of covering an "emergency." Scammers may claim a relative needs surgery, their car broke down traveling to meet you, they‘re behind on rent, or a family member passed away. The sob stories are endless.

For example, a catfishing account @treeguy2323 professing to be a 30-year-old man provided daily morning messages to a woman he met in the app over 2 months. He then claimed his mom was diagnosed with cancer and he could no longer afford her treatments. Desperate, he asked for $800 via wire transfer for lifesaving chemotherapy. While it seemed like a legitimate emergency, the story was completely fabricated to manipulate funds from the victim.

Here are warning signs of a TikTok romance scam:

  • Love professed extremely quickly without meeting in person
  • Vague answers to basic questions about their life
  • Attempts to move communication off TikTok to texting or messaging
  • Claims of financial hardships and requests for money
  • Requests for bank account access or gift card numbers
  • Inconsistent photos seeming taken from the internet

Minsky Management‘s Jade Randolph warns, "Romance scammers are experts at psychological manipulation – don‘t let yourself get emotionally invested with someone you‘ve never met in person, no matter how convincing they may seem."

According to FBI data, romance scams cost victims $956 million in 2021 alone. A shocking rise of nearly 80% year over year as more scammers leverage social media. Stay vigilant and never send money to someone you only know online, despite how persuasive they may seem.

Sophisticated Chatbots

Have you ever had a friendly conversation on TikTok, only to slowly realize you were actually speaking to a bot? Advanced chatbots are infiltrating platforms like TikTok to collect personal information from unsuspecting users.

These automated scripts convincingly pose as real people. They may compliment your dancing videos, ask about hobbies, and seem interested in making a real connection. However, once the bot has your trust, the conversation often shifts toward phishing for data or spreading malware.

For example, a chatbot account called @funnydancevideos345 struck up a chat with a 24-year old TikToker named Jamie who frequently posted clips of her dancing. After complimenting several videos, the bot asked Jamie about her interests and future dance plans. When Jamie shared she teaches children‘s hip hop lessons, the bot sent an unsolicited link claiming to sell discounted dancewear. However the link actually contained malware designed to steal personal data.

Here‘s how to detect automated bot accounts on TikTok:

  • Very limited profile information and posts
  • Generic comments that seem copied and pasted
  • Repetition of similar phrases in conversation
  • Persistence in directing the chat off-platform
  • Spelling/grammar inconsistencies
  • Links to sketchy sites or content

Online privacy expert Cindy Welles cautions, "Never download files, click links, or share private info with accounts that set off red flags. End the chat and block unfamiliar users exhibiting bot-like behavior."

In 2021, TikTok revealed about 8.5% of removed accounts were bots. As detection improves, cybersecurity experts believe the percentage is likely higher.

Alarming Phishing Attempts

Watch out for phishing scams targeting TikTok users as well. Fraudsters may send convincing DMs, emails or texts masquerading as official TikTok communications. Their aim is tricking you into clicking malicious links or inputting login credentials on fake pages.

Once phishers gain access to accounts, they can livestream offensive pranks while posing as the victim, harass followers, or delete all content. Hackers can even potentially access connected sites if password reuse was involved.

For example, a TikTok user named Cassie received a text claiming her linked Facebook account was making "abusive posts" that violate community guidelines. The message urgently provides a link to rectify this issue before her account gets banned. However, the link actually takes Cassie to a fake Facebook login page designed to steal her credentials. Without realizing, she entered her username and password into the phishing site.

Phishing scams often contain these red flags:

  • Messages/emails from non-official domains
  • Links redirecting to sketchy URLs, not TikTok‘s domain
  • Threats of account suspension if action isn‘t taken
  • Demands to verify or reactivate your account
  • Requests for passwords or sensitive personal data
  • Typos, grammatical errors, and shoddy graphics

Online privacy expert Cindy Welles emphasizes, "TikTok will never handle account issues over third-party messaging apps. If contacted through unsolicited texts, emails or DMs, ignore the message and contact TikTok customer service directly to verify legitimacy."

According to TikTok‘s own reporting, around 3% of removed accounts in 2021 were dedicated to phishing scams and hacking — translating to millions of dangerous accounts that slipped through the cracks.

Adult Content Scams

Scammers are also leveraging adult content to extort TikTok users. Accounts may advertise porn videos or nude photos in exchange for an exorbitant fee. In reality, the content is usually fake or stolen from other websites.

Once payments are sent by gift card, Venmo, PayPal, etc., victims never receive the promised explicit content. Their money has slipped away into the scammer‘s crypto wallet untraceably.

For example, a TikTok account @hotgirlsdaily365 lures in a 19-year old male follower named Zach using racy photos. The account owner then requests $200 for access to a Google Drive folder of explicit videos. While Zach complies and sends the funds, the content folder is actually empty because the videos never existed in the first place.

Here are signs of an adult content scam on TikTok:

  • Sexually explicit videos/images used as clickbait
  • Demand for payment through untraceable methods
  • Threats if the requested payment isn‘t sent
  • Refusal to provide uncensored previews
  • Claims content is "premium" or "locked"
  • Limited profile engagement and followers

Per cybersecurity expert Jade Randolph, "No legitimate business will demand large payments upfront for adult content, let alone threaten blackmail if demands aren‘t met. Report these accounts immediately to protect yourself and others."

While hard numbers on this scam are scarce, child safety advocates have noted a concerning uptick in adult content scams on TikTok over the past 2 years.

Bogus Products and Services

As TikTok‘s ecommerce capabilities grow, users need to watch for shady sellers pushing bogus products and services.

From supposed luxury goods to phony investment opportunities, scammers leverage TikTok‘s huge reach and video format to peddle worthless wares. Prices for products may be suspiciously low to attract impulse shoppers seeking a bargain.

For example, a TikTok account called @californiavineyard offers premium wines at steep discounts compared to retail prices. However, customers who order receive low-quality knockoffs shipped from overseas. By the time they realize the scam, @californiavineyard has deleted their profile and issued no refunds.

Here are signs of a fake seller or product on TikTok:

  • Prices considerably lower than fair market value
  • Limited seller reviews and account details
  • Comments disabled on the product videos
  • Branding seeming unofficial or low-quality
  • Payment requests through crypto or gift cards

Minsky Management‘s Jade Randolph strongly advises, "Do your research before buying anything marketed in TikTok videos. Search for solid reviews of the shop and product outside the platform to gauge legitimacy."

While hard statistics are sparse, the Better Business Bureau reported a shocking 506% increase in online retail scams from 2015 to 2020 as social platforms gained selling capabilities.

Malicious Third-Party Apps

Lastly, TikTok users need to exercise caution around third-party apps promoted across the platform. Scammers operate accounts that market external apps promising exciting features but actually hiding ulterior motives.

For example, an app called "TikFamous" claims to get users thousands of real followers and views for free. However, users who install later find it‘s riddled with intrusive ads, tracks location/messages, and sells data to shady third parties. The hyped reviews under the videos promoting it are almost entirely fake.

Here are signs an advertised TikTok app may be malicious:

  • Too-good-to-be-true features like unlimited followers
  • No ability to view app‘s privacy policy or terms
  • Vague descriptions providing little detail on functionality
  • Requests for sensitive permissions like contacts access
  • No indication of developer or company behind it

Online privacy expert Cindy Welles strongly advises, "Stick to official app stores like Google Play and Apple App Store where possible. Rigorously vet any third-party apps advertised on social against trustworthy reviews."

While TikTok works to ban accounts promoting dangerous apps, new ones emerge constantly. One analysis of risky apps on Google Play found over 300,000 reviews were left by fraudulent or hacked accounts.

Protect Yourself from TikTok Scams

Now that you know the warning signs, here are proactive ways to keep your TikTok account secure:

  • Turn on two-factor authentication for an extra account security layer.
  • Adjust your settings to limit who can directly message you.
  • Be extra cautious interacting with accounts you don‘t know.
  • Never share financial account details or passwords.
  • Create strong unique passwords and avoid reuse across sites.
  • Inspect links and sender addresses closely before clicking.
  • Only install apps after thoroughly vetting security and reviews.
  • Report any suspicious accounts or content to TikTok for review.
  • Use a reputable antivirus app on your devices as an added scam shield.

As cybersecurity expert Jade Randolph advises, "Remaining vigilant against the latest scam tactics and exercising caution around who you engage with socially is crucial to protecting yourself in an increasingly risky digital landscape."

If you fall victim to a scam, immediately change passwords and notify your bank, TikTok, and local law enforcement. Acting quickly can help limit damages.

I know this overview seems scary, but please don‘t let scammers discourage you from the positive connections and entertainment TikTok can provide! Just stay informed so you can spot fraudsters from a mile away.

With knowledge of how these criminals operate and smart precautions, you can keep your experience on the platform fun and safe. For any other online privacy tips and app recommendations, visit my cybersecurity blog at


Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.