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How a Pinterest Spammer Makes $1,000 a Day

This story was updated at 6:45 p.m. ET Wednesday. See the end of the story for the update.
/ Source: SecurityNewsDaily

This story was updated at 6:45 p.m. ET Wednesday. See the end of the story for the update.

Pinterest is this year's social-networking sensation — and spammers have taken notice.

A 24-year-old man known only as Steve claims to make $1,000 per day simply by flooding the image-based bulletin board with items linked to his affiliate account, according to a report on the Daily Dot website.

"Pinterest is by FAR the easiest social network to spam right now," Steve told the Daily Dot. "Quite possibly the easiest ever to spam. It requires almost no work to get started and no money to invest. You just have to know how the system works and how you can fix it to your advantage."

Each image posted to Pinterest, which has become very popular among fashion- and craft-conscious women, clicks through to a separate page where the image is larger and users can comment on it.

Further clicks sometimes lead you to an online store where you can buy the item displayed, even though Pinterest maintains in its Terms of Use that the site is for "personal, noncommercial use."

In Steve's case, he has what the Daily Dot calls "thousands of accounts" on Pinterest. Each of his accounts "pins" only a couple of items — a white dress, a pair of boots — but each "pin" eventually leads to an Amazon page linked to Steve's affiliate account.

Steve's not the only Pinterest scammer — a link posted by the Total Pinterest blog reveals dozens of images linked to Amazon using the Amazon URL shortener, many of them from seemingly fake accounts.

Amazon's affiliate program pays bloggers and other website operators, which Amazon calls "associates," a percentage of the retail price of items sold through their links to Amazon pages. Commissions start at 4 percent and can go up to 8.5 percent, depending on the numbers of items sold.

Pinterest's meteoric rise has given it more than 10 million users in less than two years of existence. In December, it reportedly drove more referral traffic to online retailers than LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube combined.

However, that success has brought with it some security headaches. Scams that have appeared on Facebook for year have recently begun to appear on Pinterest, and the site doesn't have many of the privacy safeguards that more established social-networking services feature.

As for Steve's line of work, he may be violating Pinterest's terms of use (though even that's not entirely clear), but doesn't appear to be doing anything illegal.

"I have no guilt," he tells the Daily Dot. "I'm not trying to scam anyone, or upload viruses to their computer or anything like that. I simply show products to the Pinterest community. I realize that I'm spamming the crap out of the site, but it's nothing personal, just business."

UPDATE: A representative for Pinterest pointed us to a follow-up story in the Daily Dot, in which Steve revealed himself to be a hoaxster.

"I thought it would be funny to play this prank seeing how popular Pinterest is and see how fast it could go viral," he told the website.

However, the Daily Dot isn't so sure. The Amazon account Steve originally claimed to own does have dozens of affiliate pages, and many of the obviously fake Pinterest accounts that link to them are still up.

Meanwhile, other possible Pinterest hackers were complaining about the publicity Steve had attracted, according to the Daily Dot.

"He could probably have hit some pretty good numbers if he just kept quiet for a while,"  wrote a user  called "Meathead1234" on the BlackHat SEO forum. "I have a few sites doing $1000/day right now and I would NOT tell anyone about them or how they earn."

"I've never liked spammers," wrote another forum participant  who called himself ".:mAestro:." "And because of this Pinterest has changed their algorithm again today."