Hoax or no, Pinterest users should beware of spammers, security expert warns

PINTEREST users are being warned of scams that could dupe them in to making purchases on online shopping websites.
The warning comes after an anonymous user publicly claimed to be making thousands of dollars by spamming the picture-based social networking site.

“As a growing service, Pinterest is not immune to challenges faced by sites across the web, including spam,” the website said in a statement issued to Mashable.

“However, it is a tremendous priority for us to quickly address them. Our engineers are actively working to manage issues as they arise and are revisiting the nature of public feeds on the site to make it harder for fake or harmful content to get into them.”

The website has become one of the most popular social networks, allowing users to post photos to online pin boards and share ideas or inspirations in areas like fashion.

While in this case the spammer later retracted his claims as a “hoax”, security advisor for online security company AVG Michael McKinnon told news.com.au the threat was very real.

“Most scammers live for short term money,” Mr McKinnon said.

“They're going to exploit weaknesses in new sites, knowing full well that the operators would become better at blocking these things as time goes on.

"Pinterest is a very visually-based website and there is a strong consumer focus, it terms of the appeal of products.

“When you use compelling images, you've already got someone at your behest. You can persuade them more easily than just plain text.”

Tech website The Daily Dot initially reported the spammer was using automated computer programs - or “spambots” - to post fashion products to the Pinterest community, who then “re-pinned” the posts and bought the items linked to his Amazon accounts.

Amazon affiliates make money by driving users to sites owned by Amazon from other sites, such as Pinterest. The affiliates are also paid for any purchases made within 89 days of the initial click through.

The spammer - known as “Steve” - later contacted the site and said the claims were a prank.

“It was a hoax, period,” he told the site. “I thought it would be funny to play this prank seeing how popular Pinterest is and see how fast it could go viral. Honestly, if it hadn’t grabbed this much attention I probably would have kept playing along.”