E-Threats Social Networks

Welcome to Scamterest: How Spam and Online Misdeeds Spread on Pinterest

Many brands have started using Pinterest to create buzz around their products. Some online retailers report that Pinterest users spend more money than their Facebook counterparts. With almost a million daily active users and very high visual impact, the sharing platform has also become a massive target for scammers and spammers.

Pinterest users can upload, save, sort and manage images and other media content through collections known as pinboards. Scammers also pin images to mislead users for commercial purposes. The social network acknowledged the problem and took action by allowing users to report questionable content and forbidding uploads from popular URL shorteners, such as bit.ly or goo.gl, which are famous in Scamland. However, a spammer can edit a picture’s source link with no further security checks once the picture has already been pinned.

Pinterest appears to share most scam baits with Facebook, mainly because it relies almost exclusively on visual content. The most popular cross-platform scams are gift card giveaways.

Example of a typical pin that leads to a giveaway scam

 ‘Please pin itscams

Welcome to Scamterest: How Spam and Online Misdeeds Spread on PinterestThis type of scam has been gaining traction since the introduction of the ‘Pin it’ button for websites. It follows a simple scenario. Users are redirected to a page that asks them to pin an apparently exciting video to their profile before watching it.

Clicking on the ‘Pin it’ button triggers a JavaScript call which opens a pop-up window. The pop-up lands the user on ‘get your prize’ pages or some form of SMS-based overcharging service.

Snippet of HTML Code

Welcome to Scamterest: How Spam and Online Misdeeds Spread on Pinterest

Affiliate marketing spam

This type of scam links a pin to the spammer’s affiliate account. Cyber-crooks create multiple fake accounts, re-pinning a lot of images which have proven to be popular. The spam accounts usually have few followers, but they follow a lot of people in the hope they’ll click on their pins, increasing the spammer’s revenue.

Welcome to Scamterest: How Spam and Online Misdeeds Spread on PinterestHowever, Pinterest has started stripping tags from Amazon affiliate links to prevent users from making money on pins.

Spam detection and solutions

  • Cross-platform social spam

Pinterest users can tweet or `like’ a pin. This allows the scams to spread on either Facebook timelines or Twitter streams.

  • Integration with Bitdefender Safego

Bitdefender offers free protection on Facebook and Twitter through the Safego app. Pinterest does not offer an official API yet, so dealing with spam can be done either by scanning Pinterest related items on the user’s social feed, or by scraping pins’ source pages and filtering their content.

Last year, Pinterest became the 4th most popular social network, after Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, according to Alexa Traffic. ComScore also estimated Pinterest reached a total of 25.3 million visitors in September 2012, marking its debut in the Top 50 U.S. Web Properties.

The photo-sharing website recently announced tests of a new navigation system, bigger pins, and more related content to keep user clicking.

All product and company names mentioned herein are for identification purposes only and are the property of, and may be trademarks of, their respective owners.

About the author

Florin BRAD

Florin Brad is one of the newest additions to the Online Threats Department. He strongly believes he was a writer in a previous life, as he meticulously crafts his code and his phrasing.

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