Pinterest, a virtual bulletin board that allows users to post pictures and videos that interest them, is generally agreed to be the next big thing in social networking, and now surpasses Google+ in total visits despite not having the backing of a multibillion-dollar tech company. So it was perhaps inevitable that that meteoric rise in popularity also meant that scammers would start taking advantage of this fresh stomping ground.
|Computer security firm Trend Micro confirms that there are scams afoot on the newly bustling social network.|
According to Trend Micro, the biggest scams right now are of the phony "free stuff" variety -- not surprising, given that many people use the network to post pictures of products. Users are posting pictures that say Starbucks (SBUX) is giving away free gift cards to all Pinterest users, with a link to the Web site allegedly giving out that freebie. Once you get there, though, you're asked to take a survey, which is a trick we've seen before on Facebook: The scammers get a small commission for every user who completes the survey, and the user doesn't get the promised freebie.While we haven't seen reports that you're at serious risk for identity theft or malware, at the very least it wastes your time, and the scams spread like wildfire as people re-pin the picture before realizing they've been duped. And it's not just the Starbucks scam you have to worry about -- a similar scam promises a free wallet and purse from Coach (COH), and given the high proportion of women on the site it's not hard to see why it would get some traction. That link leads to the same survey scam. Without widespread awareness of such scams, they're likely to continue to spread on Pinterest as scammers take advantage of users not accustomed to seeing them on the fledgling community. "You're going to see these things rapidly spike in popularity as scammers adopt their existing platforms like spear-phishing to Pinterest," says Cameron Camp, a researcher for security software company ESET. And for now it's unclear what, if anything, Pinterest is doing to clamp down on these scams. When we reached out to the company last week to ask what it's doing to protect users from scams and malicious sites, we never got a response. Until the company starts taking action, you should treat any free offers with suspicion and be careful about which links you follow. >To submit a news tip, email: email@example.com. Follow TheStreet on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.