‘Please help Ukraine’: fake live streams on TikTok show telltale signs of scam

While TikTok has been an important platform for documenting the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there has also been a lot of misinformation shared on the video app. France 24 monitors looked at some of the posts that used out-of-context or fake videos as an excuse to solicit donations to help the Ukrainian people.

Video filmed in complete darkness. You can hear sirens, groans and gunshots. At first glance, it may look like a real live broadcast from someone in the midst of the conflict in Ukraine. But if you keep watching, the supposed “live” video seems to be playing more frequently. He appeared on TikTok at 4:17 PM Ukraine time, when the sun was still setting.

Other accounts had broadcast this same “live” video earlier in the day.

Left: Screenshot from a video supposedly broadcast “live” at midnight (Paris time). Right: The same video posted by a different account at 3:17 pm (Paris time). In a fake live broadcast on TikTok, apparently showing scenes from Ukraine, you can hear sirens, air strikes and loud sounds.

This type of fake live broadcast is not uncommon on TikTok, with some common features: videos of unidentified buildings, sirens in the background, and the addition of loud and crying sounds. Videos like this are often accompanied by messages like “Pray for Ukraine” or “Donate for help.” They receive comments from people all over the world.

Flambée de comptes #Tiktok qui font des live en parlant russe ou autre sur fond de bruit de sirène, ou de personnes en habits Military qui laissent penser qu’ils sont in Ukraine… 99% d’entre eux ont l’air d’énormes Tricks that claim dis dons #LaGuerre pic.twitter.com/qkaGrGNcUy

– Mathieu Flaig (@MathieuFlex) February 24, 2022 This Twitter thread has shared several “lives” on TikTok documenting the conflict in Ukraine. But many of them are showing telltale signs that they are scams. The American channel NBC found that one of these accounts had posted another video of the street in which this “live” video was made. And they showed British license plates on cars parked there.

In addition to attracting countless views, comments, likes, and followers, these accounts also collect hundreds of donations. TikTok allows users to buy credits and send “virtual gifts” to creators during a live broadcast.

But it’s hard to know exactly how much money these videos bring in. Some virtual gifts cost only a few cents, while others can be worth tens of euros. The person receiving the gift can then cash it in for actual cash – which isn’t always equivalent to the amount donated. But the faster the live stream, the more money you will pay.

Fake live streams that use repetitive videos and dubbed sounds are nothing new on TikTok. Sometimes users post videos of beautiful landscapes or wonderful photos. A user managed to deceive fans by reposting a live video of singer BillieEilish. Now, some have used the conflict in Ukraine as a way to raise money.

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