Social media influencers attract a new generation of cheaters

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

A website linked to hundreds of ‘contract cheating’ allegations at Australian universities is using sponsored social media posts featuring popular influencers to attract Australian students.

The latest marketing strategy from is to enlist some of Australia’s most popular influencers to promote its products to uni students.

Its ‘study help’ services are being promoted via TikTok and YouTube, with influencers even filming on campuses at leading tertiary institutions. The practice is known within the education industry as ‘contract cheating’, which is when students outsource their academic coursework to others.

The campaign continues as the higher education watchdog considers how to address concerns by universities that the website enables students to cheat.

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Blocking contract cheating sites

The University of Wollongong is among a growing number of higher education institutions to block Chegg on its server. The uni has also advised students not to sign up for the virtual service that charges users subscription packages from $15 per month.

In 2021, three out of four cases of contract cheating at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) were linked to the website.

The University of Sydney is also facing increased reports of cheating by using the controversial website.

But the US-based technology company says it offers legitimate study help and that the “vast majority” of its subscribers use it to learn.

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The power of social media-led influence

Fonzie Gomez, Jamie Zhu and Dr Sarah Rav – with between 1.9 and 2.2 million followers each – are three popular ‘influencers’ who have filmed recent sponsored posts that promote the Study Pack product Chegg offers.

Some of the videos feature interviews with students filmed on The University of Sydney campus, asking them if they know the brand’s name, and if they’ve ever used its service.

The videos actively promote Chegg as a website offering study help for uni students but don’t provide clear warnings that using some of the functions to cheat could see users fined and penalised.

Mr Gomez lists the price of his TikTok packages as between $5000 and $12,000.

Ask an expert for homework answers

Although many people subscribing to Chegg may find the available tools, including practice exams and textbook rentals, helpful, the main concern from universities relates to the website’s ‘expert Q&A’ function that invites subscribers to take a photo of homework questions and get an answer within 30 minutes.

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In May this year, the company’s share price halved, with Chegg admitted ChatGPT had impacted its subscriber growth and revenue.

Deakin University assessment expert Professor Phillip Dawson acknowledged that Chegg could not be labelled a cheating website, but he said it was not disputed that a lot of students used Chegg to cheat.

Identifying contract cheaters

A recent academic misconduct report from Sydney University said university assessment questions with requests posted on could be detected with a bot.

But since late 2022, when Chegg stopped providing IP access data, it has made the investigative identification posting to the site more difficult to determine.

According to a University of UNSW spokeswoman, Chegg and companies like it were now more likely to use social media platforms to target students directly.

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The uni’s 2021 academic misconduct report, revealed 257 of 335 contract cheating cases discovered by the tertiary institution involved students who had posted questions to Chegg for answers.

A Chegg spokeswoman said:

“We are confident that students who use Chegg Study as intended in line with our associated terms of use and honour code will be doing so within the bounds of even the broadest academic integrity policies.”

“We have also launched a free tool, Honor Shield, in Australia, which allows professors to pre-submit questions, preventing them from being visible on the Chegg platform for a specified period of time.”

Earlier this year, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) wrote to universities to express concerns that some of Chegg’s website functions were being used “to receive solutions to assessment tasks that [students] are required to personally undertake”.

Whether Chegg has breached Australian anti-cheating laws, which have already been used by TEQSA to block 150 commercial contract cheating service websites, is yet to be realised.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]