And suddenly the money is gone: expensive TikTok matches and cash gifts

"So cute!", "OMG!" - with one click, you can support creators on TikTok with cash gifts. The harmless names often conceal that gifts may cost up to 300 euros. Especially during live matches, viewers are encouraged to send cash gifts. Keep reading to learn how the gift system on TikTok works and which settings in the app are relevant to young people. 

Date 2024-02-08 Author German Safer Internet Centre Topic gaming, media literacy/education Audience children and young people, parents and carers
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TikTok is one of the most popular apps among young people in Germany. To ensure a safer surfing of the online world, TikTok tries to limit certain features through age-based account settings. This includes preventing people under the age of 18 from sending or receiving gifts. However, these security measures only take effect if users enter the correct age when creating their account. One look at the videos on TikTok is enough to see that this security measure is obviously very easy for children to circumvent. But how does sending gifts work? 

What are gifts on TikTok?  

Both when watching regular videos and live streams, there is an option to send gifts. To do this, users must first purchase "coins". This is the name of the currency on TikTok. With these coins, users can then buy a variety of gifts and send them to creators. These gifts consist of small icons such as a gift box, a chick or a garden gnome (see image below). The price of these gifts varies greatly and ranges from just under a cent to several hundred euros. 

Creators on TikTok collect the gifts and then exchange them for diamonds. They can then have TikTok pay them out as real money. TikTok has summarised the exact requirements for this here

Image 1 description: Example of a typical scam on TikTok: In the livestream, it is promised that something will happen if a certain number of likes or gifts are received. However, nothing actually happens (TikTok screenshot 17.07.2023). 

Image 2 Description: In a match, two contestants compete in a live stream to see who can receive the most gifts in a given time (TikTok screenshot 17.07.2023). 

How live matches encourage purchases  

Recently, TikTok introduced the "Matches" feature. Here, two or four TikTokers challenge each other live, and the winner is who gets the most money from the viewers by the end of the stream. In order to achieve this, the participants put all their effort into entertaining the audience. This can lead to viewers quickly spending more money than they had planned. Creators use a number of tricks to encourage viewers to spend money: for example, they exploit group dynamics, try to elicit pity, or sell specific actions (such as participating in a challenge) for a certain number of gifts.

Tip for parents and caregivers:
In order to be able to track whether your child has already sent gifts unnoticed, parents can look in the profile settings. To do this, you need to open the profile, press the icon with the three lines and then click on "Settings and privacy". Click on "Credit" and then on "Recharge". In the top right corner, you will find an icon that looks like paper with the TikTok sign and below it the "Coin history". Click on "All types" and select "Gifts sent". Now, you can see if any gifts have already been sent from the account. 

Important settings for teenagers  

The most important safety precaution for appropriate TikTok use is setting the real age in the profile. This is because many of the more problematic functions are not available when TikTok is used by minors – for more information on this, visit the page dedicated to TikTok on Klicksafe’s website. In addition to sending money gifts, for example, some comment functions are also disabled. 

The safety settings are important but do not provide complete protection. Therefore, it is also important to talk to children and young people about the following aspects: 

  • Establish how much money can be spent on digital items. Credit cards can be a good way to keep track of costs. 
  • Explain what tricks are used by content creators to encourage users to spend money.
  • For example, you could watch TikTok videos - and especially livestreams – together and talk about them afterwards. 

Consider together whether creators on TikTok can be supported in other ways. For example, with a like or by posting a nice comment. 

Right of return (it may only apply to Germany) 

Anyone – at least in Germany – who has purchased coins on TikTok can make use of a 14-day right of return. The revocation is possible without giving reasons. TikTok offers an online form and a sample to fill in this purpose. Please note that only the purchase of coins via TikTok directly can be claimed here. Anyone who has purchased coins in the Apple App Store, or the Google Play Store must contact these services directly. Gifts purchased with coins are generally excluded from this exchange. 

Find out more about the work of the German Safer Internet Centre, including their awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for other Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.   

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