‘Viral capability’: TikTok becomes valuable scam awareness tool

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Two-thirds of Australians aged over 15 were exposed to a scam last financial year. Of those people, 552,000 fell victim, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). It’s led experts to search for ways to reduce the $3.1 billion residents lost in 2022 to scams but TikTok has emerged as a valuable source in the scam prevention fight. READ MORE: AI voice cloning scams ‘will come to Australia’ – so how do you guard against it? The Chinese-owned social media platform, built primarily to entertain, has 840.4 million views under its scam video hashtag and another 24.2 million under #scamawareness. Sophos scam researcher Aaron Bugal said TikTok was becoming key to driving safety in Australia. Bugal said the information on TikTok was a combination of different user experiences. “You’ve got a lot of the users that would suggest to be on the lookout for certain types of scams and ways in which scammers obtain the ability to deceive people,” he said. LIVE UPDATES: Voice to parliament referendum rolling coverage and results Bugal said the types of videos on TikTok were varied but often had similar themes like romance, cryptocurrency and impersonation scams. He said it was beginning to “eclipse traditional awareness methods”. “Scamwatch here in Australia is a great resource and I strongly suggest that anybody who is unfortunately a victim of a scanner… to report it to Scamwatch. “But that viral capability of these social media platforms like TikTok, it’s a really good and quick way to get that scam quickly out to others.” Popular water bottles used to lure users in new social media scamView Gallery There are also scams on TikTok itself, prompting a warning from Bugal to be mindful of what they are being asked to do as viewers. “Take stock of what is being told to you and just take a moment to digest it,” he said. “If it’s trying to be coercive, or if there’s some sort of request for money or information, be super hesitant just to divulge that information.” Intelligence and security concerns surrounding the app also prompted some countries, including Australia, to ban TikTok from government devices six months ago. There are concerns the app could be used by the Chinese government for surveillance. TikTok has consistently denied these claims. READ MORE: Do you feel like your phone is listening to you? You’re not wrong But, nevertheless, the videos on TikTok likely contribute to Generation Z being more scam-aware than older generations. Eighteen to 24-year-olds have lost about $15 million to scams compared to those over 65 who have lost nearly $100 million from January to August this year, according to Scamwatch. Bugal said having conversations with friends and family as well as educating yourself about scams was the most effective way to prevent falling victim. “Especially for scams and scammers that originate from outside this country, there’s very little to no recourse so we can take against them,” he said. “So until that change, like laws change and regulations change or even governance around using telecommunication systems for fraud in this sort of way (changes)… it’s down to the individuals to be a little bit more aware about what’s happening.”

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