Online scammers are always looking for fertile ground for their money-making and identity-theft schemes, and they've hit the jackpot with Pinterest.
An online bulletin board combining the social aspects of Facebook with the immediacy of Twitter, Pinterest has capitalized on the needs of social media fans, especially women, and become the fastest website ever to cross the 10 million unique monthly visitor mark in the U.S.
What does all this hype and adulation add up to? A hotbed of phishing pages, survey scams and other landmines you'll have to avoid.
Because Pinterest allows its users to view bulletin posts (pins) from everyone, not just friends, and users can follow anyone they like without asking for permission, it is, as Ioana Jelea from the security firm Bitdefender said, "Scam heaven."
On Bitdefender's MalwareCity blog, Jelea outlined a fake $500 H&M gift card currently spreading on the site; clicking the link on the so-called "Pinterest Giveaway" redirects Pinterest members to another Web page that promises the chance to win a new iPhone 4S if you "verify yourself by completing one simple test below." Of course there is no H&M gift card and no free iPhone, and filling out the survey only rewards those who launched it and allows them to keep spreading similar scams.
Researchers at the security firm Symantec found an almost identical scam, except the hook was a free $100 Cheesecake Factor gift card. (Cheesecake Factory is a favorite of online phishers and crooks; malicious offers for free meals often pop up on Facebook.)
It is Pinterest's convenience that breeds these scams, Jelea said. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, where phony offers and phishing pages often come bundled with a fake message from a friend or contact, Pinterest cuts out the middleman.
"Pinterest is basically a repository of visual elements, there's no need for elaborate social engineering tactics or carefully crafted word-based baits on this side of the social sharing universe."
The same advice to avoid these types of scams on Facebook and Twitter still holds true for Pinterest: If an offer seems suspicious or too good to be true, ignore it. Common sense, supported by anti-virus software, can go a long way in keeping you and your computer out of harm's way.