Social media offers many opportunities for scammers to make money. And, they have few concerns about exploiting tragedy. For example, the current war in Ukraine has seen many con artists asking for ‘donations’.

TikTok makes it easier to spread fake news

Whilst scams are present across all social media platforms, they’re particularly prolific on TikTok, whose algorithm is easy to exploit: TikTok will show you popular content made by anyone, not just people you ‘follow’. You don’t even have to engage with a video for it to gauge your interest in a topic. The length of time you linger on a video is enough. 

A common trick is to use footage from another event (e.g., the 2020 warehouse explosion in Beirut) and pretend it’s recent footage from Ukraine. Another, is to create fake live streams, filming generic streets in other European cities and layering war audio over it. 

Beware of cryptocurrency donation requests

Cryptocurrency donations specifically have attracted scammers. After the Ukrainian government requested bitcoin donations, many scammers jumped on the opportunity. They hoped to exploit the technical complexity and irreversible nature of cryptocurrency transactions that arises from a moment of gullibility. 

Clickbait farms generate revenue from misinformation

Even without defrauding individuals, scammers can profit from disseminating disinformation on social media. By creating clickbait articles around popular fake news – e.g., the recent “freedom convoys” in Canada – they’re able to monetise them via advertising programs such as Facebook’s Instant Articles and Google’s AdSense. This has led to the rise of clickbait farms. Simply by sharing this fake content you’re helping them make money. 

With so much information available via social media, particularly in times of crisis, it’s easy to be fooled. Make sure you access news from credible sources and, if you’re being asked to donate, always check the credentials of the organisation requesting it. It’s always safer to donate via a registered charity.