As I’ve outlined in my past research on TikTok scams, dubious products are another popular vehicle for scammers. From my research, I found scammers using stolen TikTok footage of women at the gym in order to promote gym leggings.
These leggings are being sold on a Shopify store, which is employing the dropshipping technique, whereby the scammers operate as a middle person, as their products originate from websites like AliExpress.
When users purchase the leggings from these advertisements, they are paying a higher price than what the scammers are quoted for the leggings. For instance, I found a similar pair of leggings on AliExpress offered for $12 less than on the Fashion Leggings page. The major concern with these advertisements is that scammers cannot guarantee the item being purchased will arrive, or arrive as advertised.
However, in this instance, it appears the scammers are leveraging a very generous affiliate program for this smoothie diet product.
Unlike the adult dating affiliate offer I outlined earlier, this affiliate program is driven by Cost Per Sale (CPS). For CPS offers on this weight loss program, affiliates can earn a 75% commission on the front-end product, as well as potential upsells, which could net an affiliate up to $100 per sale. CPS offers are often the most generous because they are much harder to convert.
Creators are using stolen TikTok videos, the same types of videos used to promote adult dating websites, to drive up their views and subscriber counts. For example, one user has received over 78 million views on their channel, but if you look at a breakdown of their actual content, it’s the videos that they did not create that have the greatest engagement numbers.
Comparison of videos from a YouTube channel showing the massive success from using stolen TikTok videos compared to other content on the same channel Image Source: Tenable,
There are also a number of YouTube channels that have been created solely as hubs for stolen TikTok content, similarly to gain social currency.
Scammers net at least 3.2 billion views on YouTube
Based on an analysis of 50 YouTube channels that I’ve encountered, I’ve determined that the operators of these channels have received 3.2 billion views across at least 38,293 videos. In total , the channels had at least 3 million subscribers at the time this research was conducted.
The following is a sampling of some of the notable channels I’ve come across in my research and their associated engagement metrics as of :
Please note this is not an exhaustive list, so the figures shared here are likely an undercount of the true numbers of views, videos and subscribers amassed by scammers using stolen content from TikTok. Source: Tenable, *Missing data points are due to either the removal of a channel or because a channel has chosen to hide subscriber count data to the public.
Every new service and platform is an opportunity for scammers
Over the last mers migrate from platform to platform. It is almost a rite of passage for a new service or platform when scammers find their footing. While the way these scams operate will vary based on each platform and its unique nuances, the types of scams are carried over from platform to platform. Even though YouTube has been around for 16 years, the YouTube Shorts product is essentially a new platform altogether, which is why I am not surprised to see scammers inundating the service in the way that they have.
Scammers won’t go away easily. They are determined to capitalize on the massive success of platforms like YouTube Shorts and TikTok. Leveraging existing functionality within YouTube to report these channels is truly the best way for users to help clean up the platform. That is, until the next big social platform emerges and scammers eventually find their way there.