Temu markets itself to be the place to shop like you’re a billionaire, but is it all just a scammers' paradise?
Founded in September 2022, Temu is an e-commerce website that stocks almost anything you could think of at heavily discounted prices, and it is all shipped from China (Which? October 2023). The site gives the same vibe as Shein and Wish when it comes to the whiff of unethical selling - how can they afford to sell all these products for nearly nothing? Many have been distrustful of the site from the time it first found its way on everyone’s phones, seemingly blowing up out of thin air. The prices are always suspicious about these sales, such as the sale-ends-soon countdown at the top of the page. Moreover, many people, despite the apparently 5-star-rated app, have complained about losing their money to scammers.
There have been many spurned ex-Temu users on TikTok to detail the downfall of using the app. One, in particular, was hounded with calls, messages, and even Facetime from scammers after purchasing a small thing as a hair clip from the app. Annalise, the user in question, said that she had only bought a 30p hair clip, and then was bombarded and harassed with messages and texts from the site (The Sun, October 2023). She further detailed in a TikTok video about how she had received numerous scam calls after giving her information to Temu when purchasing her item (TikTok, September 2023). The comments were full of others who had suffered the same fate:
"I haven’t even bought anything from it. I just signed up for the app and this is still happening to me.”
"I work in credit card fraud and the amount of cards getting compromised after a Temu purchase is wild."
Temu has been rated the most downloaded app of August 2023 in the UK and reportedly has 38 million downloads worldwide (Which? October 2023; CNN, February 2023). Its success has seemed suspicious to some, who, after the unmasking of the horrors behind Shein, were right to feel the need to investigate further.
Not only have there been reported scams, but there have also been undelivered packages, wrong shipment of products, and false advertising, to just name a few. In fact, the Better Business Bureau has already received 30 complaints about the app and its business and received a customer rating of 1.5 stars, back in December 2022 (Time, December 2022).
According to Steven W. Mosher for the New York Post, Temu’s Chinese parent company Pinoduoduo (known these days as PDD) had been found to be using malware (short for malicious software used unethically in technology) that would look through customers phone and computers for their personal data (New York Post, August 2023).
An investigation into PDD’s 6.49.0 version of the app in late February 2023 revealed a lot more, by cyber firms Check Point Research, Oversecured, and Hyppönen’s WithSecure. CNN approached the researchers for a statement where they revealed that “the app was able to continue running in the background and prevent itself from being uninstalled, which allowed it to boost its monthly active user rates”, Hyppönen stated (CNN, April 2023). So, Temu’s success is not necessarily down to its top-rated products, services, or last-minute deals. It could just be because no one can uninstall the app.
In a similar video on TikTok to Annalise’s, another user talked about how Temu had stolen her bank details. Ashley said, “it starts with the small amount they take out first of all, and then, after that, it was a higher amount every two weeks, [...] And I hadn’t noticed, until I looked at my account and saw something that was, like, I think the website was called levelrun.com” (TikTok, September 2023). Ashley went on to say that her bank had confirmed it had been going on since her first purchase with Temu.
A similar video by a user, under the name ‘Dimples Queen’, also said that just a week after her purchase from Temu, “48 hours ago, I found out that my credit card information has been stolen” (TikTok, August 2023).
Many in the comments of both videos validated the user’s experience, describing their own issues with the app. Others dished out tips on using PayPal, and Cash App, for example, when checking out using Temu. However, shouldn’t the site be trustworthy from the start if it’s selling a top-range experience to its users? Many spouted the usual “you get what you pay for” rhetoric, but this only goes to defend the poor products for the cheap price, not the scams, harassment, and fraud that seem to continue to happen on this app. Yet, all has fallen silent since the malware scandal, where Temu has since been removed from the Google Play store, finally. Nevertheless, the app still continues to haunt the Instagram feed of everyone on social media.
Edited by: Anwen Venn
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