Social networking site Pinterest's popularity continues to soar, among both image-happy users and money-grubbing scoundrels. Pinterest fans are being spammed with survey scams and tricked into downloading fake Android apps.
Pinterest is the latest social media darling as users post and share photos and videos of things that catch their interest with their friends. The site is also plagued with weight loss and free gift card scams. There are also multiple fake apps on Google Play claiming to be the official Pinterest app for Android. (Pinterest has thus far released only an iPhone app.) These fake apps display ads on the mobile device's notification bar and may have access to the user's browser history and bookmarks, as well as the user's location, according to Gotta Be Mobile  .
As Security Watch reported back in March, scammers are taking advantage of the platform's retail-heavy focus to post scams masquerading as free offers from well-known brands such as Starbucks and Coach but really directing users to survey sites. On Pinterest, users are also required to "pin" the original scam and download some kind of software before they can collect their supposed freebie. As users see the offers pinned by their friends, they are more likely to become victims as well.
BitDefender researchers recently identified cross-platform scams acting as a "social network go-between" where Pinterest users are directed to Facebook pages and vice-versa. A recent scam showed an image of Justin Bieber on Pinterest and encouraged users to click through to a Facebook page to see more images. Once at the Facebook page, users are steered towards an endless cycle of survey sites which they had to complete in order to see more scintillating images. In another, scammers took the reverse path, tricking users with a Facebook ad purporting to show them how to make money off Pinterest, but actually dumping users in a "survey maze," according to BitDefender.
"This new scam variant strengthens the umbilical cord that seems to tie together the two major online social networks of the moment," the team wrote on the Malware City blog.
Pinterest Fighting Back
Pinterest acknowledged  the spam problem in an Apr. 13 blog post and promised to improve its anti-spam technology. Pinterest encouraged users to report fraudulent pins. The site also currently blocks malicious links.
In the case of a recent wonder diet scam, Pinterest began blocking the links to prevent users from landing on the survey site. However, the profile of the scammer who had posted the weight loss scam remained active, along with "hundreds of other similar" pins that were posted on the profile, in the first place, Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos, noted on the Naked Security  blog.
More importantly, users should continue to exercise a healthy dose of skepticism when seeing these supposed great deals from friends.
Social Media Unite Against Spam
Instead of acting as "if each new virtual social playground that springs up is by default safe from the perils its elders have run up against," a more proactive and collaborative approach amongst all the social media platforms "might save all online social actors, old and new alike, a lot of trouble," BitDefender wrote.
These kinds of social engineering gimmicks are not platform-dependent and are spread by tricking users. The types of scams currently bombarding Pinterest users are the same issues that users previously encountered (and still do) on Twitter and Facebook. As PCMag reported last week  , Facebook recently announced partnerships with Sophos, Trend Micro, and other security vendors to beef up its link scanning engine to block malicious links posted on its site.