Pinterest spam among top four tricks on photo network: Internet Scambusters #520
Image-sharing social networks are the latest craze but they're fraught with potential hazards -- like Pinterest spam attacks.
While the online "virtual corkboard" does battle with the tricksters, we list the Top 4 Pinterest scams and hoaxes.
We also explain what you should and shouldn't do to deal with them.
Beware Pinterest Spam, Scams and Hoaxes
Add Pinterest spam and scams to the catalog of dangers and frustrations you face if you're an Internet social networker.
As most readers will know, Pinterest is a "virtual corkboard" -- a website where members "pin" and share their favorite photos and graphics.
It's a relative newcomer to the social networking scene, having really only taken off in the past year or so, but already it has an estimated 30 million-plus members.
It's lots of fun as a place both to post your own images and to explore those of others. You can follow users just like on Facebook and Twitter, you can search for collections and themes, and when you find something you like, you can "re-pin" it on your own page.
But using it means you may have to step onto thin ice because one of the key things you likely will do is click on other folks' images, with all the risks that carries.
That also makes it a target for spammers, scammers and hoaxers, and, although Pinterest is working hard to identify the crooks and remove spam sites, it's an uphill battle.
If you use Pinterest, here are the four most common tricks you need to watch for:
1. Pinterest Spam
Spammers set up bogus accounts, hundreds or thousands of them (though Pinterest tries to prevent this) using automated software and then "follow" you in the hope you'll follow them back, thereby seeing images of whatever it is they're promoting.
They may also hack your account by discovering your password, either on Pinterest or elsewhere if you have used the same one on multiple sites, and post their images directly on your page.
Spammers are also using Facebook and Twitter to post links to supposed sensational Pinterest photos.
If you click on one of their images, you may be taken to a retail site, which may be perfectly legitimate -- the spammer collects a fee for taking you there.
Alternatively, it may lead to a malware download or phishing attack.
2. Bogus Surveys
We reported on this scam in an earlier issue, Watch Out For These 4 New Phishing Scams, and like other online bogus surveys, the aim is usually to phish for your personal details, which may then be used for identity theft or sold to spammers.
The lure is usually a free gift of some sort. When you click on the "free gift" image, which you may see on someone else's board, you're told you can't proceed until you re-pin the offer on your own page.
This means all the people who follow you will now see it and maybe do the same thing because they trust you as a source. That's how it spreads.
After you complete the survey, you're asked to provide address details and even bank or card information so your gift can be sent to you.
But the only gift is the detail you've given to the crooks.
3. Mobile Phone Scams
There are a couple of mobile device tricks to be on the lookout for:
- Clicking an image that links to a download link for a purported Pinterest site viewer app or another program, usually for an Android device. It may well be an app but it's carrying a virus payload that will infect your device.
- Using Pinterest on a cell phone, you click on an "adult" type image that opens a phone dialer and connects you to a premium charge or recurring service, which shows up on your monthly phone bill.
4. Hoax images
The Internet and email inboxes are full of images that have been doctored, usually just as a bit of mischievous fun rather than for any malicious purpose.
But, as we previously reported in Snagged Photos Used to Support Urban Legends, they can serve a sinister purpose if they're being used to trick you into parting with money or information.
Often they have been altered using the image manipulation software Photoshop -- hence the term "photoshop'd."
Recipients who fall for the trick usually pass the images on to others. And so it goes.
As a photo site, Pinterest is a natural target for these hoaxers and it's loaded with fake photos.
So many, in fact, that one Pinterest user has set up a collection of them at Fake Plants and Other Hoaxes.
(There's no reason to think any of these images are malicious but don't click on them anyway.)
The social media information site, Mashable, also has a Top 10 Pinterest hoaxes collection.
Actions You Can Take
Obviously, you should exercise caution when clicking on any image, even on friends' sites and you should be wary about taking surveys or re-pinning any images.
If they ask for personal information first, it's likely a scam.
Certainly, you should never disclose your password and, if you think your account has been hacked, change the password immediately.
For more guidance on password security, check out our most recent guidance, 10 Keys to Password Security.
Pinterest has taken robust action against spammers and scammers but, when it comes to seeking guidance, the site itself is a bit of mish-mash.
The company has told the New York Times that dealing with scammers and spammers was "a tremendous priority" and that engineers were "revisiting the nature of public feeds on the site to make it harder for fake or harmful content to get into them."
Pinterest also told the Times they had "put tools in place to detect suspicious activity like automated following and commenting."
At the time of this writing, there was no specific anti-scam page although, again, one member has set up a page about scams, Fighting Pinterest Scammers and Spammers.
The company also encourages members to report spam or other objectionable images, which you can do by clicking the "Report pin" button that appears to the right of an open image.
Pinterest spam and scams are a serious concern, but, as for the hoaxes, unless they're malicious just take them with a pinch of salt.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!