Porn Grifters Are Chasing Teens On TikTok

Porn Grifters Are Chasing Teens On TikTok

Chesnot via Getty Images If you’re among the millions of people who use Instagram, you’re likely aware the platform is teeming with fake profiles posing as promiscuous women that will slide into your DMs with messages like: “Wanna chat? 😘🔥🔞” The goal behind these bot accounts is typically to lure users in with sexy photos that have been lifted from other pages, then trick them into signing up for erotic websites. As an image-based social network, Instagram has long been an ideal ecosystem for such scams to flourish.
But lately, porn grifters have been making their way to TikTok, according to a new report from cybersecurity firm Tenable . The short-video-sharing app has become explosively popular among teens in particular since launching one year ago in the U.S., and is now home to a shady operation involving impersonation, sexting — and Snapchat.
TikTok is “a huge platform with lots of users who are very engaged and active,” said report author Satnam Narang , who noted that TikTok appeals to grifters in part because of its young and potentially naive user base.
Soon enough, he added, “it’s going to be a haven for scammers.”
TikTok/Courtesy of Tenable Scammers are masquerading as young women on TikTok. Here’s how the porn hoax works: The scammer will create a TikTok account and fill it with videos stolen from random women — usually showing them dancing or working out in revealing outfits. The captions, which often include popular hashtags that are more likely to get picked up by TikTok’s algorithm, will direct users to a separate Snapchat profile with messages such as, “Waiting in my 18+ Snapchat” or “More n.u.d.e items in my Snapchat.” (Splitting sex-related words up with periods is a common strategy to circumvent spam filters.)
These TikTok accounts can be quite successful: One viewed by HuffPost had more than 12,000 followers and 34,000 “hearts,” and posted videos of more than a dozen different women. The account was removed Tuesday after Tenable flagged it to TikTok.
TikTok users who take the scammer’s bait will then go to the promoted Snapchat profile. From here, the ruse will go in one of two directions: They may see a “ Story ,” or temporary post, showing a scantily clad woman (also a stolen photo or video) with text advertising a “ Premium Snapchat ” membership. (Snapchat doesn’t offer a “premium” version of the app; some people sell access to their private accounts where they claim to post “premium” NSFW content.)
TikTok/Courtesy of Tenable TikTok users are being directed to Snapchat, where they can be scammed into paying for content they’ll never receive. The users will be instructed to swipe up on the Snapchat “Story” to access a hyperlink — a feature that isn’t available on TikTok, and is only available for a relatively small pool of users on Instagram. They’ll land on a page for an online payment service such as PayPal.
“As you can imagine, the users who pay for the supposed ‘premium’ Snapchat aren’t likely to get anything in return,” Narang wrote in his report, adding that the going rate is around $5 to $20.
Alternatively, the scammer may be engaged in an affiliate marketing scheme that’s more complex but could be more consistently lucrative. Affiliate marketing is an enterprise in which people can earn a commission by driving traffic and sign-ups to a certain website (fraudulently or otherwise). In this case, the scammer will post a “Story” on Snapchat often promising pornographic content for users who swipe up. Those who oblige will instead be redirected through a series of pages that will ultimately lead to an adult dating site.
TikTok/Courtesy of Tenable Affiliate marketing programs have incentivized people to scam others into clicking fraudulent links. For every user who signs up on the site, the scammer could receive $1 to $3, Narang said. Those who add their credit card information could be worth up to $50 for the scammer. It’s a hoax with low overhead costs and a potentially high return on investment.
Porn grifters have set their sights on TikTok as a starting level for their scams to try to cash in on its meteoric rise as a video-sharing app for young people.
Masquerading as attractive women has proven to be a highly effective way to draw in followers on TikTok in particular. One account impersonating YouTube star Liza Koshy managed to accumulate nearly half a million followers, and was verified by the app. (TikTok told HuffPost the verification was done in error. The account was removed on Tuesday.) It’s also easier to go viral in general on TikTok than on other platforms. The porn scam accounts that Narang reviewed had an average of 650 followers, whereas on Instagram, such profiles rarely gain traction.
“TikTok has strict policies safeguarding users against fake, fraudulent or misleading content. 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,” said a TikTok spokesperson, who noted that the company has taken down each of the accounts identified by Tenable. “As part of our regular process, we constantly review the tactics of malicious accounts to further strengthen our systems.”
Eliminating online scammers is most often a cat-and-mouse game, warned Narang.
“They’ll continue to find unique ways of getting around any detection methods that are in place for TikTok to remove them,” he said. “As long as there’s some sort of way to make money, they’re going to find ways to take advantage of the platform.”
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Google is aware of sites hosted on another’s subdomain – Search Engine Land

Sign up for our daily recaps of the ever-changing search marketing landscape. SUBSCRIBE Note: By submitting this form, you agree to Third Door Media’s terms . We respect your privacy . Google is aware of sites hosted on another’s subdomain It’s improving its systems to recognize such content and treat it accordingly. George Nguyen on August 14, 2019 at 4:52 pm More
Google has stated that hosting content in a subdomain or subfolder of another entity’s site is not against its guidelines, but that it is improving its systems to recognize that content and treat it accordingly. The statement was delivered via the Google Webmasters Twitter account on August 14.
The tweet. “We’ve been asked if third-parties can host content in subdomains or subfolders of another’s domain. It’s not against our guidelines. But as the practice has grown, our systems are being improved to better know when such content is independent of the main site & treat accordingly. Overall, we’d recommend against letting others use subdomains or subfolders with content presented as if it is part of the main site, without close supervision or the involvement of the primary site. Our guidance is if you want the best success with Search, provide value-added content from your own efforts that reflect your own brand.” Google stated in a three-part tweet.
Why would anyone do that? Third parties are interested in renting out another brand’s subdomain to get a leg up on the competition in terms of search rankings, which may help them get more traffic and conversions.
Google’s figuring out how to handle it. Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller touched on this subject during a Google Webmaster Central office hours session on June 28 . During the session, Mueller said, “I know the search leads at Google have been talking about this exact topic for a while now to try to find ways to handle these appropriately. By ‘handling them appropriately,’ I don’t mean we should treat them as spam and just delete all of these subdomains, because they’re not really spam. They’re just kind of sales pages, affiliate pages that are hosted within another website. Maybe the right approach is to find a way to figure out what is the primary topic of this website and focus more on that, and then kind of leave these other things on the side.”
Mueller then went on to say, “When it comes to quality, we try to look at the quality of a website overall. So, if there are particular parts of a website that are really low quality …. then overall, that could be degrading the quality of that site a little bit.”
Why we should care. For brands that are considering using another entity’s subdomain to host their content, Google is aware of such tactics. Although this strategy does not currently violate its guidelines, the company might as well have said “proceed at your own risk.” For brands that are looking to rent out their subdomains to third parties, Mueller’s statement suggests that, if the third party is hosting low quality content on your domain, then your entire domain’s search rankings may be affected. About The Author George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling. Related Topics
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