TikTok hustlers tempt with get-rich-quick scams as economic storm hits

TikTok hustlers tempt with get-rich-quick scams as economic storm hits

Charlotte Jessop started making financial education videos on TikTok as the UK went into its first lockdown. Her short clips on paying down debt, cutting spending and investing quickly became a hit.

“A couple of videos went viral, and it led to tens of thousands of followers pretty much overnight,” the 34-year-old says.

“There was a lot of TikTok content that wasn’t necessarily good advice, and some of it was scammy or dodgy. So I thought maybe there is scope to be the voice of reason.”

Since March 2020, Jessop has amassed 60,000 followers and her videos viewed millions of times. But her growing audience has made her social media account a target for scammers seeking to prey on everyday TikTok users.

TikTok is hardly alone in being targeted by financial scammers. Jessop says one follower lost £100 to a similar impersonation effort through Instagram. But as Britain’s fastest-growing social media app, it is coming under growing attention as the snowballing cost-of-living crisis leaves Britons searching for answers – and potentially tempted to pay more attention to ‘getting rich quick’ rather than financial education.


Comments on Jessop’s videos have been swamped with imitation accounts, cloning her profile picture and choosing a username as close as possible. Typically, they will direct users to private messaging apps, promising rewards of thousands of pounds.

“We’ve spent ages building up trust on these platforms. And these scammers that are essentially copying our accounts,” says Jessop, who says she has tried in vain to have them removed. “I will report them and TikTok will do nothing. They’ll say there’s no violation.”

The number of adults using TikTok, owned by the Chinese tech giant ByteDance , exploded during lockdowns from 3.2m in September 2019 to 13.9m in March 2021. Yet it is still disproportionately used by younger adults, who are now the most likely victims of financial scams, according to Lloyds.

The app’s short, attention-grabbing videos, delivered through an unnervingly addictive recommendation algorithm, are sprinkled with stories from micro-entrepreneurs claiming to make thousands through risky or passive investments and buy-to-let landlords with highly-leveraged property empires.


But there are growing concerns that users could be lured across the line from financial advice videos into fraudulent money making schemes.

On Monday, peers from the House of Lords Digital Fraud Committee questioned representatives from TikTok and Facebook parent Meta about what they are doing to tackle scammers as scrutiny grows over such fraudsters on social media sites. The number of users of TikTok exploded during lockdowns from 3.2m in September 2019 to 13.9m in March 2021 Credit: Geoff Smith / Alamy Stock Photo Lord Browne of Ladyton questioned whether the sites are truly committed to rooting out scammers instead of shunting the blame elsewhere. He asked: “Where does the balance lie between consumer awareness and victim blaming?”

TikTok’s UK director of government affairs Liz Kanter said that moderators deleted more than 2m rule-breaking videos posted by UK users last year. Explaining that TikTok’s policies ban users from promoting “get-rich-quick schemes, pyramid schemes and peer to peer lending,” Ms Kanter said that more than 13,000 of those prohibited videos had been promoting online scams.

“We banned over 10m ads in 2021, containing these and other types of ads that violate our policies,” added Ms Kanter. Its own figures suggest about 8pc of content that infringes its rules relates to frauds and scams.


Last summer TikTok banned the promotion of “investment schemes with promises of high returns” such as pyramid schemes.

Earlier in the year the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a public warning urging users to steer clear of “high return” share investment tips on TikTok, saying advice posted on the site didn’t warn consumers about the risks of large losses.

The financial regulator hasn’t shied away from posting its own videos on the site, reaching out directly to what it calls “younger, higher-risk investors” and warning them of the dangers of getting caught up in financial scams. The FCA has spent £50,000 on its own TikTok adverts to warn users against falling for scams.TikTok also repeated its pledge to restrict financial advertising so only FCA-regulated businesses could place ads for financial products and schemes. Such pledges also include moves to prevent users taking part in ‘pump and dump’ scams. One such scam centred around joke cryptocurrency Dogecoin, in 2020, where so-called financial influencers hyped the token’s growth prospects.AdvertisementThe Telegraph viewed several videos that directly encouraged hard-up users to start taking part in credit card fraud. Under the hashtag #taketherisk were numerous videos encouraging users to start cloning credit cards.Many of these […]

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