Sites and apps frequently gamify their products and experiences to grow their user base. It’s a relatively easy way to have their customers become more involved thanks to whatever incentives may be on offer. A game here, a rewards program there, and everyone is happy.
Well, almost everyone. If scammers insert themselves into the process then it may not all be plain sailing. Unfortunately, Bleeping Computer is reporting a wave of dubious Temu referral scams pretending to offer up salacious leaks of private celebrity photos.
These scams are being posted to video platform TikTok, where high visibility and the desire for good deals runs the risk of making these fake ads go viral.
Temu, in operation since 2022, is known for offering a wide selection of goods at cheap prices. The site makes use of a rewards system, where users can generate referral numbers and send them to friends and family. The referral links are frequently shared in places like Facebook groups, which offer a combination of discounts. Mobile games tied to the referral process can often increase the discounts still further. This feedback loop of gaming and rewards is quite the successful combination in most instances.
So far, so good. Where this goes horribly wrong is a nasty wave of spam cluttering TikTok with the promise of fake celebrity nudes taking up space on the social network. Using the tagline “If you search it up, be prepared” along with common hashtags like “#anime, #manga, #art”, a variety of photos of celebrities are overlaid with text saying things like “I thought she was innocent”. It’s all very sleazy, tricking the viewer to install the Temu app and enter the referral number to see the supposedly leaked images.
But these images don’t exist, it’s just the main bait for the scam. As we’ve seen in the past, leaked photographs and celebrity deepfakes are a potent mix and guaranteed to drive clicks, traffic, or installations. Bleeping Computer cites Jenna Ortega, Brooke Monk, Hailie Deegan, and Olivia Rodrigo as just some of the celebrities used for this scam campaign.
The only good thing we can really say here is that the links don’t lead to phishing or malware. So far, it’s “just” scammers racking up store credit. However this is still a big problem for many reasons, not least of which for Temu which is faced with the possibility of people gaming its system.
Bogus celebrity nude promos posted to TikTok aren’t good for the platform or the users, and both services will have to try and take these fraudsters to task. Meanwhile, users can also do their bit and report any such videos they spot on their feeds. Nobody is posting genuinely leaked imagery to TikTok, and most definitely not for the purposes of store credit.
The promise of fake stolen imagery is one of the oldest tactics in the book, and yet remains a very effective resource in the scammer’s toolkit. Whether you hear about such a thing by email or social media, our advice is to steer clear. Apart from it being incredibly distasteful and quite possibly illegal depending on where you reside, you run a major risk of falling victim to a more serious form of scam.
Is a quick clickthrough for store credit or some other reward really worth putting your system at risk? We’d suggest that the answer is most definitely a resounding no.
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