Avoiding scams on the internet is an increasingly difficult task, especially when apps like TikTok appear to be pushing scam apps to users.
TikTok was being used to spread adware apps on Android and iOS, according to the latest report by Avast. Adware is a program that can be surreptitiously installed on a device without the user knowing and it then produces a constant deluge of unwanted pop-up ads. These ads are not only distracting and annoying, but can also contain dangerous viruses.
Internet scams of all varieties are destructive for everyone, but they tend to prey on children and the elderly who may be less able to identify and avoid suspicious looking links and apps. The makers of this adware seem to be aware of this tendency, since these apps cater to the interest of young people. Scam apps, such as the ones currently being pushed on TikTok, are alluring, colorful, and advertise fun, which is part of their dangerous potential.
According to the Avast report, fake TikTok accounts have been set up to help spread the scam apps while disguising them as game apps, such as “Wallpaper” and “Shock your friends.” The digital security and anti-virus company says the adware scam was first identified as a result of a child reporting a suspicious looking TikTok profile promoting the apps. The report was filed through an Avast project in the Czech Republic which aims to protect children from dangers online through education. The apps appear to be masquerading as game and entertainment apps and overall have been downloaded nearly 2.5 million times. The TikTok profiles involved have so far amassed half a million dollars through the scam. The software that is installed causes adds to pop up incessantly in other apps, and charges users between $2-$12. Since discovering the suspicious TikTok profiles, Avast has also uncovered a popular Instagram account pushing similar scam apps.
Guarding Against Scam Apps
The internet is growing more vast by the day and it seems increasingly difficult to ensure the safety of all apps being used. Still, there are steps that can be easily taken to avoid falling victim to a scam app. Firstly, users should be on high alert when an app is not free. If an app is charging a surprisingly high amount of money for a simple game, that equivalent versions are free, it is more than likely a scam. Additionally, if an app is requesting access to any of the user’s information, photos, files or contacts, that is also a red flag that the app may be doing more than it should be.
For parents, adware scams such as these can be especially frightening because it can be difficult to monitor children’s behavior online and it is hard for kids to know when something is suspicious. It is probably wise to talk to kids who use tablets and phones unsupervised about the existence of unsafe apps and what to look out for before downloading anything. Whether its TikTok or any other app, it is also important to talk to elderly people about these risks as well, so that they can be better equipped to use the internet safely.
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