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Pinterest may not be as big as Facebook or YouTube, but as social networks go, it has proved lucrative for scammers. Several security issues exist, and while things are better than they were — scammers at one point generated over $1,000 a day — Pinterest is far from perfect.
But because Pinterest doesn’t look or feel like a social network, scammers seem to be able to get away with more. It’s tougher to spot something suspicious. Even if you genuinely know how to use Pinterest, you can still be dragged into someone’s scam.
While Pinterest remains fun to use, the risks are there. Fortunately, we’re here to help you spot the scams, and make the most out of Pinterest’s privacy settings. That way, you should be able to keep using Pinterest without worrying… just as long as you remain vigilant.
1. If That Pin Seems too Good to Be True…
The latest weight loss diet is always popular, but does it genuinely have a place on Pinterest? And does anyone ever really get those free $100 gift cards?
Pinterest has long suffered from spam pins, with attractive images of a successful diet, or perhaps a wrinkle-free grandmother, popping up on many Pinterest boards. A single click and you’ll be diverted to a third party site. Here, you’ll be asked to repin the dodgy pin, fill in a survey “for your chance to win” or download some malware.
Or all of the above.
How did you come across the pin? Perhaps you were tagged in it. You can’t really do much about that. But you can be smart. Don’t click on anything without being certain about the destination. You can see where a link leads by checking the lower-left corner of your browser window. If a shortened URL is used then it’s a good idea to avoid it. You can also use a URL expander tool to check the destination.
Given how easy it is for scammers to hook you in, it’s a good idea to avoid pinning any personal information, such as your address, full name, date of birth, or even an accidental image of your credit card.
2. Avoid Collaborator Hijacking
A long-standing threat on Pinterest comes from “collaborator hijacking” in which a board you collaborate on — that is, pinning on — starts displaying undesirable content. This may be an attempt to display unsuitable material for minors, for instance, or something else that you (or others) find distasteful. Basically, content in breach of Pinterest’s content guidelines.
Because you’ve previously agreed to contribute to the board, it is linked to your account. All of a sudden, those cupcakes you’ve been sharing with other mums seem a lot less wholesome, right? Your reputation takes a hit right there.
The best way to avoid this from happening is to only accept invites from people you know personally, or at least trust. If you find yourself caught this way, simply uninvite yourself from the board in question. The quicker you act, the better. Keeping a tab on all of your boards, and ensuring they’re organized should help.
Although this sort of thing usually only happens to Pinterest accounts dedicated (or controlled by) celebrities or big brand names, it has happened plenty of times to Joe Public. Make sure it doesn’t affect you!
3. Learn to Spot Fake Accounts
Fakers are a problem online: fact. Another fact is that Pinterest doesn’t have any verification system in place. This is not the case with other social networks; Twitter has its own (controversial) verification system, while Facebook actively teams up with celebrities.
In fact, it doesn’t even need to be a celebrity that the scammers pose as. They could pose as your contacts, “using a new account”, and using it to scam you with invites and fake pins, as shown above.
So, how can you tell?
Well, first of all: celebrities are unlikely to invite you to collaborate on Pinterest. So ignore any invites you receive from Beyoncé, Russell Crowe, or David Beckham.
Also, check their boards out. If they look relatively new, back away. If the pins seem inappropriate for the person who supposedly inviting you to collaborate, again, back off. The bigger distance you keep between yourself and scam accounts, the better.
That’s three ways in which Pinterest poses a privacy issue. What can you do about them?
Make the Most of Secret Boards
Pinterest’s focus has always been on sharing. For a long time, there was no was no difference in what you shared: everyone saw it, or you simply didn’t bother pinning. These days, there is the option of setting up a secret board.
But this comes with some caveats to consider. While everything on a secret board is for your eyes only, this may not be ideal. Secret board settings are somewhat inflexible:
- A secret board can be made public, but not reverted to secret.
- A secret board pin can be made public, but again cannot be made secret again.
The solution to this is to make sure that when you reveal a secret board, the content you have pinned to it is material you’d be happy for others to see. If not, delete the pins. It might be an idea to create another secret board, just for those pins.
Understand Your Pinterest Privacy Settings
Concerns about Pinterest’s privacy issues over recent years have led to a number of privacy settings being introduced and/or revised. So if you would rather your Pinterest board remained beyond the interest of scammers, try opening the Account basics screen (found as a cog icon when you view your profile page). From here:
- Ensure the Search privacy option is set to On
- Change these Personalisation options to Off:
- Use sites you visit to improve which recommendations
- Use information from our partners to improve which recommendations and ads you see
- It’s worth clearing your search history too, with Clear Search History.
- Under Notifications, you can reduce the amount of notification spam you get by receiving updates from Only people you follow.
- You can limit interaction from spammers by disassociating your social networks. This is a good way to avoid their attention.
- Use the Security options to check that you’re the only person logged into your account. This will list any recent or active sessions accessing your account. If you see something concerning, use the End activity
- Under Apps, any mobile apps you have used for Pinterest will be listed. On Android, several apps can log in to Pinterest, but you should only use the official app. If there is an app you don’t recognize listed here, disassociate it from your account.
Note that you can also Change your password, and Deactivate account if things are getting out of hand.
Don’t Let Your Pins Turn Bad
Pinterest is great, but these privacy issues can make a pleasant experience turn bad, very quickly. But the same can be said about Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat… even YouTube. Remember, Pinterest can be fun, but you should be on the lookout for:
- Scam, spammy pins
- Collaborator hijacking
- Fake accounts
Being aware of these problems will help you to keep your Pinterest account private. Further secure it by using secret boards, and using the Pinterest settings to enhance your privacy. Then, find ways to use Pinterest more effectively!
Social networks are not everything. Treat them with restraint, don’t overshare, and you should be fine. Keep your real world life and your Pinterest life as separate as possible, and enjoy what’s out there.
Have you been scammed on Pinterest? Has your account been associated with something unpleasant? How did this affect you? Tell us in the comments.
Image Credit: Ink Drop via Shutterstock.com