April 13th, 2012
Allison here, with AllClear ID. Online pinboard and latest social media craze Pinterest may have just emerged as the third most popular social network, but it’s also emerging with scams. As people “pin” some of their favorite things, scammers and cyber criminals are now pinning things that are leading to spam, phishing sites and other malicious things.
Pinterest is becoming a popular target for cyber criminals because the site itself is getting more popular, but also because a simple eye-catching photo is all it takes to lure someone in and have an Internet scam succeed in stealing your information or your identity. On Facebook and Twitter, a scammer needs a carefully crafted sentence or lead to entice someone to click a link. The most common scams include filling out a survey, signing up for a subscription or a free offer, and downloading something onto your computer.
However, some of the latest Pinterest scams don’t do any of those things. One advertises an “amazing weight loss product,” where posts include a variety of enticing thumbnail pictures. The captions to these pictures read that the product is sponsored by Pinterest (it’s not), and that it really works. However, when you click on the links, they take you to an acai berry miracle diet website. This is an example of a bait and switch. Baiting and switching like that is a big warning that the whole thing is probably false. It’s one way these scammers hook people in to get the information they need to steal identities. The miracle diet acts like the solution to the problem of being overweight, and is a way to reel in unsuspecting people.
Another scam involves reaching out to people through a Facebook ad, advertising a way people can make money on Pinterest. The link goes to a website that offers a Visa gift card, where all the person has to do is fill out a form to get it. Even though this is also a bait and switch, an additional risk to identity is filling out that form. Since you didn’t originally click on the link for the gift card, but are now being asked to sign up for it, it might “like” the gift card as a reward for clicking on the link. By thinking twice about the form and being careful about your personal information, you can avoid these scams and the problem of having your identity stolen.
It’s unclear whether the accounts that post some of these scams have been compromised, or have been intentionally set up by scammers, which is a critical thing to think about when using social networks. They aren’t going away, and they could easily be coming from “friends” as well as strangers. With Pinterest, and all the other popular ones, there’s always the possibility of someone getting into your account (or a friend) and posting these malicious links. Just because your friend or your sister posted about an amazing weight loss product doesn’t make it legitimate or trustworthy. Be mindful of what’s being offered, where the link takes you, and what’s being asked of you. If you give away your personal information to the wrong person, your identity could be at risk.