‘TikTok trickster conned my autistic daughter out of £ 2,000’

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Dear Katie,

Last Christmas my eldest daughter got a new iPhone as a present and I started using her old one after wiping and resetting it. Four days later, on Dec 29, my youngest daughter, who is 10 and has learning difficulties, was playing on the phone when she became the victim of a TikTok dancer who duped her into giving him £ 2,012 worth of “coins”.

I only realized this when email invoices from Apple started to appear in my email inbox. I immediately took the phone away from her. I followed Apple’s process to request refunds for the 23 successive purchases, but they were refused. I then emailed Apple multiple times with no response. I also wrote to its regional head office in Ireland, but received no acknowledgment.

Eventually I received an email with a link to its legal process, which gives very little information at all. This is such a lot of money to lose in the space of a few minutes in this way. I believe Apple has let me down by failing to identify the unusual activity on my account and protecting me by blocking the suspicious payments. I also feel its customer care has been nonexistent.

I also want to get to the bottom of how this TikTokker convinced my daughter to hand over so much money. Because she has autism I haven’t been able to fully establish what went on from her di lei account of events di lei.

– AH, by email

Dear Reader,

If only you’d remembered to activate the child safety mode on the iPhone before handing it to your daughter to play with, all this could have been avoided. But here we are. To be fair, you had had child mode activated on your previous phone and you had been so busy hosting relatives over Christmas that you hadn’t got around to setting up the new phone properly.

You had been using the phone only for a couple of days and your mistake has cost you £ 2,012. To me this feels like too harsh a punishment.

Even though your daughter had accessed TikTok via your own adult account, I was staggered that the social- media app made it possible for users to give content creators such vast sums of money in return for seemingly nothing at all.

I asked TikTok to investigate the account in question “Ohidur247”, which has four million followers and is blue tick verified, so we could better understand what had occurred. I said I wanted to know what the money was for and whether the transaction was legitimate or a scam.

TikTok came back to say it had investigated but remained unable to explain what the payment was for. It insisted, however, that no rules had been breached. I said this lack of detail was unacceptable and demanded a more detailed investigation.

Later I sent a message to Ohidur247 and received a bounceback from TikTok, saying the account had been suspended. This rang alarm bells.

I called TikTok and it confirmed my suspicion that something was amiss with this account. It had conducted a further investigation, it said, which had established that Ohidur247 had in fact breached its guidelines in relation to fraud and scams.

As it turned out, it said, the profile had been enticing a number of users, including your daughter, to pay it “coins” in return for followers. But of course nothing ever materialized in return.

Quite why TikTok couldn’t have established this in the first place is beyond me.

Ohidur247 wasn’t exactly being subtle about what he was doing. Looking through his profile di lui I was easily able to find posts by him suggesting he was able to produce followers for other users. At the top of his profile of him was displayed his “top gifter” of him; it wasn’t your daughter, which means someone else must have given him a sum even bigger than £ 2,012.

Meanwhile, I was in touch with Apple, which seemed somewhat keener to clear up the matter at its end.

I totally agreed with your point that its payment system should have flagged up suspicious activity and blocked the payments. You would expect similar transactions going through a high-street bank to be flagged as suspicious.

Happily, Apple agreed to refund you in full for your losses, but stressed the importance of activating child mode on your phone. You are all too aware of this now. Apple has made it clear it will not refund you if this happens again, which you accept.

You know how lucky you are to have your money back and you won’t be making the same mistake a second time.

As pleased as I am for you, I remain troubled by TikTok’s apparent ambivalence towards what looks like extortion taking place on its platform. Although Ohidur247 has been permanently banned from so-called “live streaming”, through which he seems to have duped your daughter, this TikTok trickster’s four million-strong account remains verified and active.

TikTok isn’t the only social-media platform that needs to get a better grip on fraud and scams, which are a plague on their users. The longer they continue to operate as a wild west, in which rogues can operate almost unfettered, they are effectively daring regulators to dig their claws in and clean up their game once and for all. Perhaps that is what should happen.

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