If you're a regular user of TikTok, you may have become familiar with the online retail site Temu — willingly or otherwise. Temu advertises very heavily on TikTok, both on its own and through word of mouth from various users. The storefront sells a similar variety of products to Amazon, though according to testimonials, Temu's prices are even cheaper than what you'd find on Amazon. This sounds very tempting, but that temptation has been tempered by some worrying reports on the site and its strategies.
The Better Business Bureau has given Temu a C+ rating due to the hundreds of complaints it has received about the storefront. Temu's marketing strategies have been likened to a multi-level marketing scheme, encouraging users to share referral codes and recruit more customers.
Those are all fairly good reasons to treat Temu's advertisements with an entire shaker of salt. However, to complicate matters further, both Temu itself and users with Temu referral codes have been employing some shady tactics in an attempt to entice more shoppers.
Online game items or skins
One of the most common scams to proliferate on the internet is false claims of free items for redemption in online games. Games like "Fortnite" and "Roblox” have a large userbase of younger players, many of whom also use platforms like TikTok, where Temu predominantly advertises.
It's for this reason that many Temu partners will run ads on TikTok and elsewhere promising those who join up with Temu using their referral code will receive free items in online games like limited-edition skins and premium currency. Unfortunately, these individuals have no such items to offer. Anyone who enters the referral code will get exactly nothing, while the partner receives a payout from Temu.
It's important to remember that there is no such thing as a truly free bonus for online games, especially for the most popular titles. If someone is advertising free stuff to you without any kind of sign-in or quid pro quo, it's almost always a scam — full stop. Ignore these claims entirely, as there's nothing in it for you.
Everyone is willing to bend an ear for their favorite celebrities and influencers. It's not unusual — people have had their shopping habits influenced by celebrities for as long as they've existed. Thanks to information falsification tactics on TikTok, bad actors can make you believe that your favorite celebrity has given a glowing endorsement to some random product or service, when in reality, they've done no such thing.
Multiple Temu advertisements have been sighted on TikTok featuring doctored tweets and social posts from popular celebrities expounding the virtues of Temu. These celebrities are seen encouraging everyone to buy their merchandise there, often encouraging the usage of "their" referral code while at it. Many of these TikTok videos have since been removed from the platform as well, meaning others have clearly been affected and reported these scams already.
Nobody can know their favorite celebrities inside and out. At the very least, if you see a post in an advertisement that you don't remember them making, it's probably because they didn't. You can check the relevant socials of your favorite celebrities for confirmation if you like, but generally, most celebs and influencers wouldn't advertise with Temu anyway given the controversies and lawsuits.
Clickbait is one of the oldest forces of evil on the internet; exaggerating or outright falsifying information in the name of precious engagement. Tactics of avoiding clickbait have become part of the required learning for surfing the web, but that doesn't stop bad actors from trying to sucker you in with outrageous claims.
One of the most common versions of this in regards to Temu scamming is the promise of compromising celebrity photos or secrets. Similar to the celebrity endorsement scams, ads may appear in TikTok For You pages with a generic photo of a celebrity, often paired with a caption like "I thought they were innocent," and promising to divulge dark secrets to users who enter a Temu referral code.
You enter that referral code on Temu, the partner gets their rewards, and you get the realization that you've been hoodwinked. Putting aside any obvious moral hang-ups of trying to invade others' privacy for profit, it's a borderline rule of the internet that anyone promising salacious photos is absolutely full of it. Don't give them the time of day.
On major retail sites like Amazon, brands both large and small operate personal storefronts that serve as convenient centers for their company information and product catalogs.
These storefronts are a very convenient way to browse products, which is probably why Temu copies several of them wholesale, creating nearly-identical storefront pages on its own site. However, the important factor to this is that these copied storefront pages are almost always made without the brand's actual consent or permission.
Temu was actually sued back in April by hair towel brand Hicober for copying its Amazon storefront page without its knowledge or permission, forcing Temu to take it down. This is a good reason to treat any duplicate product listings on Temu skeptically — if they were made without the brand's permission, then odds are good that if you try to order something, you're going to get either a knock-off or absolutely nothing. A cheaper price tag doesn't mean much if you're getting a box full of air.
Temu's store policy claims that it offers a blanket 90-day return and refund policy, allowing you to ship back any items you're dissatisfied with to get your money back. If you end up getting a knock-off or a box of nothing, you'll definitely want to snag a refund as soon as possible. Unfortunately, based on multiple user reviews and reports from the Better Business Bureau, this refund policy is vestigial at best — and hostile at worst.
Users have reported requesting refunds from the storefront and shipping back the items they bought, only to be informed that not all the items were received, even if they were shipped in the same box. Others have sent back their items and were told to wait for a refund, only to have no activity in their bank account for weeks on end.
Even those that have successfully completed a refund were only able to do so after multiple delays, and back-and-forth with Temu support gradually wearing them down. While we can't say for certain if these tactics are deliberately malicious, it does provide ample reason to be extremely skeptical of Temu's return policy.