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pinterest security issuesPinterest is one of the fastest-growing social networks of the past year, and has attracted many fans who love to share their world in visual ways. Alas, with its growing popularity, also comes its growing potential as a scam platform, where spammers supposedly make more than $1,000 a day. It’s not only scams that you have to beware of, though.

Like any other growing platform, Pinterest has its threats, security holes, etc. The main difference from Facebook or Twitter seems to be the naivety  of its users. This not not to say that Pinterest is populated only by a certain kind of users who are naïve and don’t really know how to use Pinterest properly; rather, it’s due to the fact that this is a new network, and many of us have yet to encounter any spam or scams on it, a fact which makes us feel safer than on other social networks.

This article was not written to scare you or make you stop using Pinterest – Pinterest is still as safe and fun to use as ever – it’s just here to educate you about the potential threats you may encounter on Pinterest, so you’re able to continue using it and enjoying it just like before.

Scam Pins

While Pinterest seems like a haven from the well-known AMAZING WEIGHT-LOSS DIET and FREE $100 gift card spams, it’s actually not. While these scams are rarer than on other social networks, several have been reported over the past few months. These scam pins take the form of a regular pin, usually promising something people might want, such as a gift card, a diet, etc.

Just like on Facebook, clicking the pin will redirect you to a third party website, where you will be asked to repin the scam pin, fill in a survey providing personal details, install malware, or all of the above. These pins can contain any image, from a famous company logo to a cute puppy, and read something along the lines of:

WOW! An amazing new weight loss product sponsored by Pinterest! It worked for me and I didnt even change my diet! Here is where I got it from [LINK]

Or

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[BRAND] is giving away free giftcards to all Pinterest users! Visit [LINK] to get yours

These pins can also include multiple tags of random users, and you might find yourself tagged in one of these posts without having anything to do with it.

This is not to say that all gift cards on Pinterest are scams, but pay close attention to the URL these pins lead to before clicking on them. If the URL doesn’t seem like anything official to you, don’t click it and don’t repin it. If the URL is shortened, you can use an expander such as Long URL to check it out first.

Collaborator Hijacking

This one can potentially be much more malicious than scam pins. If you’re not a big brand or have many followers, you’re probably safe from this specific type of hijacking, however, you should still be aware of it

As you probably know, Pinterest allows for collaboration on its boards. All you have to do in order to add someone to your board is follow at least one of his boards and then invite him to collaborate on the board from the “Edit board” screen. The person you invite doesn’t have to be following you.

pinterest security issues

When someone accepts this invitation, the new board appears on their Pinterest profile, and is pretty much out of their control at that point. Many people don’t know that when they are offered to collaborate on a board, the board actually appears on their own profile as well.

pinterest security problems

This situation used to be worse, as collaborators could be added without their consent, and has happened on prominent accounts such as Barack Obama’s and Starbucks. When a person adds such an account as a “collaborator”, he can start pinning inappropriate content on the board, which appears on the collaborators profile. While these hijacks occurred adding someone to a board did not require their explicit approval, it’s still something to pay attention to.

To stop it, all you have to do is edit the board and remove yourself from the collaborators list.

Fake Accounts

Fake accounts are a problem on every social network, but like many other threats on Pinterest, we tend to expect them less here. These can be especially dangerous when combined with the previous threat: a well-known name has just invited you to collaborate on a board. You happily accept, only to find out it was a fake account and you’ve compromised your own profile.

pinterest security problems

Fake profiles can be advertised as such, like this one for Michelle Obama, but can also be completely vague, such as this one for Mark Zuckerberg. Is it real? Might be, but no one really knows for sure, so when you have some dealings with a famous name on Pinterest, take this possibility into account, and don’t assume anything. Pinterest doesn’t have verified accounts.

Another aspect of Fake accounts is accounts used for spam: these fake accounts can be used to spread spam, and also to mass-follow users and thus flood their inbox with notifications. This personally happened to me on Twitter, and seems to be happening on Pinterest as well.

Android App (Or Lack Of One)

Android is the most popular mobile OS in the world right now, and yet, at the time of this writing, there is still no official Pinterest app for Android. I repeat, there is NO official Pinterest app. As you can imagine, the lack of such a desired app is like a broken window calling to a thief, and there have been several fake apps which appeared in Google Play for a little while before their real nature was discovered.

The problem with these fake apps is not only that they’re fake, they can also access your data, pollute your phone with spam, and more. The official app is rumored to be coming out soon, but until then, beware of what you install, and watch for official news of the official app. Up until then, it’s all fakes.

No Personal Boards

This is not really a security threat, but it is something people tend to forget. In general, social networks make us forget ourselves, and more importantly, forget that the Internet is a public place, no matter what privacy we feel we might have.

On Facebook, we can set it up so only friends see our posts (although they can still be shared by them), but on Pinterest there is no such option yet. What you pin is public, and can be repinned by anyone, even people who don’t follow you at all.

pinterest security issues

One way to keep some sort of privacy is to hide your Pinterest profile from search engines, but even if you do that, don’t forget the public nature of your pins, and keep private content off Pinterest.

Bottom Line

Pinterest is a wonderful place, and as long as you keep an eye out for these Pinterest security issues, you can and should continue using it safely. Just like with any other social network, don’t forget what Pinterest is – a social network. Treat it as such, and you’re good to go.

Did you encounter any of these threats on Pinterest? Did you witness or hear about a threat we missed? Share it all in the comments.

Image credit: Attention sign image via Shutterstock

  1. Stephy
    November 17, 2016 at 1:54 am

    My Pinterest is frozen and the screen says 'report a bug'. What do I do?

  2. Jaswinder Kaur
    July 29, 2016 at 2:58 am

    Thank you dear so much for your helpful post.

    Today I spend so much time, but it took a lot of time to reach on your post and get real help to delete Collaborator Board, which I was seeing from this morning.

    With the help of your tip-Collaborator Hijacking, I was able to remove that board.

    Again Thank you so much.

    Jaswinder Kaur.

  3. Susan Bertrand
    June 25, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    I pinned an offer of free seahorse and beach themed drawings and was sidetracked to a war game on Itunes. When I tried to exit that, I was immediately shifted to a porn site. Is there somewhere to report a malicious pin?

    • SK
      January 11, 2016 at 11:09 pm

      I don´t think that there is.

  4. Phil manino
    January 9, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    I gain personal delight when I seek out images of architecture, garden ideas, etc. but the logo to get me to join Pinterest is always in the way. This is the only reason I'd join Pinterest...just to get a better visualw/o the obstructions. I don't feel I need to join just to share w/ people what my interests are. Can I simply join, seek what interests me, and not pin a darn thing for fear of being hacked/exposed/taken advantage of?

  5. fly
    September 7, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I'm having problems similar to the "scam pin" one, except that I never even clicked on the pin. I'm not that ignorant to the internet to do that!
    However, I'm still getting these scam pins repinned to my boards whenever i pin a regular pin.

    I can only assume that a normal-looking pin had another pin hidden in it somehow.
    I really don't know how else my boards got infected. The source of the spam pins are from users I don't even know, who I don't follow and who don't follow me.

    One of my friends thinks it was a FB virus, so that could be a cause as well, though I never click on anything suspicious over there either.

    • Yaara Lancet
      September 8, 2012 at 12:01 am

      That does sound weird. I'm not sure I understood the problem exactly, but a good place to ask about it would be MakeUseOf Answers. Someone there might know what to do about it!

  6. vividvilla
    July 29, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    well everything has a security hole..I think Pinterest is better than Facebook interns of security and privacy

  7. Deborah Jordan
    July 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Be sure to read the terms of use for this site. Be careful what you pin. You may get into trouble with copyright issues and Pinterest will not back you.

    Read this: http://ddkportraits.com/2012/02/why-i-tearfully-deleted-my-pinterest-inspiration-boards/

    • Yaara Lancet
      July 18, 2012 at 3:03 pm

      That's an interesting read, thanks for posting it.

    • Cindy
      April 2, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      use Recuva a free program- scan drive it is on - it takes a very long time - so do it over night. It should bring back most of your pictures, it it has not been a long time since you deleted. It will let you kn
      mow which ones are ruined.

      Search for pics one you have downloaded Recuva- it has worked twice for me- but some pics were detroyed

      In deleted file-the files start get written over

  8. Daniel
    July 11, 2012 at 3:20 am

    I think if you represent a company on Pinterest, asking random people to collaborate on your board is not a good idea at all. Maybe you can ask all your staff to do this but not just from anyone.

    • Yaara Lancet
      July 11, 2012 at 6:17 am

      Yes, it's probably not a good idea, you never know what will come out of it. Most problems related to this occured when random people asked big companies to collaborate. At first, there was no authorization required for this, and once you invited someone, it simply happened unless they opted out.

      A company that keeps an eye on Pinterest could stop it in a sec, but some companies set up Pinterest and forget about it...

      It's much harder to do today, but people should still be aware of what happens when they collaborate on a board.

  9. Kerry Kisslinger
    July 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Great article. Social Media is a great outlet but always comes with some risk.

    • Yaara Lancet
      July 11, 2012 at 6:14 am

      Thanks!

  10. Ben
    July 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    General rule to observe in social media, do not put in stuff you don't want people to know, no matter what they tell you about privacy settings.

    • Yaara Lancet
      July 11, 2012 at 6:14 am

      I could not agree more!

  11. slywlf
    July 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Interestingly, although my Pinterest page has languished due to an almost total lack of interest on my part - I only joined out of curiosity to see what the fuss was about - when I read this article and went to it to reset my settings the site was suffering hiccups! The 'building feed' kept scrolling then would go 'bilp' and start over, and no matter how often I would hit the tab for settings the site just kept building and hiccuping. Maybe all your viewers are trying to 'fix' things at once and the site is going into meltdown? ;-) If I ever can get in I am deleting my membership - waste of my time anyway.

    • slywlf
      July 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm

      Finally got in and deleted my account - one less thing to worry about ;-)

      • Yaara Lancet
        July 11, 2012 at 6:14 am

        That's pretty amusing. :) Glad you managed to get in, that does sound like a weird bug. It's better off deleted than forgotten about, probably.

    • jenny
      March 10, 2015 at 7:40 pm

      how do you reset your password

  12. Kamini Prajapti
    July 10, 2012 at 5:07 am

    This is nice trick for securing your account on Pin interest But i think How to know that the account is fake or not. Many people use account for a Business purpose then what to do ?

    • Yaara Lancet
      July 10, 2012 at 7:33 am

      Fake accounts are not always easy to spot. That said, I believe fake accounts for very famous people or celebrities don't last long unless they state they they're fake somewhere in the profile. If it's for someone less famous, well, just make sure you don't click anything. :)

      • Kamini Prajapati
        July 13, 2012 at 4:38 am

        Thank You Yaara for giving a guidance for Fake Accounts.

  13. Ravi Meena
    July 10, 2012 at 3:32 am

    Pinterest's Development is going Slowwwwww :D

  14. Catherine McCrum
    July 9, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    As with all social media, exposure to misuse exists. Be aware, be private about 'personal information' and be skeptical. And watch the address line as the article suggests, if things are being redirected or warnings about redirection occurs - don't force the issue - ask yourself "is what I am wanting to follow more important than my safety and security?" If not then step back and enjoy another pin on the subject. I am on pinterest daily and thoroughly enjoy it but I treat it as social and not as a necessity.

    • Yaara Lancet
      July 10, 2012 at 7:29 am

      Great suggestions Catherine! As you said, I think the most important thing is to not forget Pinterest is a social network, and just keep aware.

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