Pinterest 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; 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.
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]
[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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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