Pinterest: A New Credit Card Fraud Frontier?

Pinterest, the current darling of the social media world, has undeniable potential for businesses with a visual element – a fact that has already received much attention here and elsewhere.

The most obvious example would be those involved in the fashion industry – it’s been shown (by Google Ad Planner) that the fashion-conscious public are almost 11 times more likely to head for Pinterest than the average web surfer. The same applies to those related to arts and crafts, cookery, special occasions and interior design.

While business owners around the world ponder the best way to best exploit the burgeoning site, hackers and scammers have already started damaging its somewhat cutesie image. As it stands, the site is a virtual wonderland for cybercriminals, with users happily clicking through with little thought for what comes next. As many have gone to great lengths to illustrate, such free and easy clicking is a security no-no.

To engage with Pinterest, users ‘pin’ linked images to virtual boards for others to see and click on. Images may then be ‘re-pinned’ to the user’s own board. Online survey scammers are currently flooding the site with images requesting that the user complete a survey in exchange for some kind of financial reward or free gift.

Once clicked, these images take the user through to shady external sites where they may be asked to enter their credit card information or reveal other personal data. Users are also told to ‘re-pin’ the image to receive the promised reward, thus propagating the scam.

For obvious reasons, the old adage of ‘don’t click on things that you don’t know’ doesn’t work with Pinterest, as this is exactly the point of it.

Keeping customers pinterested

Unfortunately, the inevitable result of the scammers’ work could well be that Pinterest users become suspicious of anything that looks like it’s selling something – a potentially disastrous development for honest-to-goodness businesses hoping to raise awareness of their latest products or services.

So what can concerned business-owners do to reassure potential customers?

One thing is to make sure the site linked to the image looks official – half-baked sites with bad spelling will instantly sound warning bells. Don’t raise suspicion by dropping in pages related to special offers – keep the number of click-throughs to a bare minimum.

Also resist the temptation to ask the user to re-pin an image: if they want to they will anyway – asking just seems spammy. When it comes to making the sale, forget about asking users to register an account first. Allow them to go straight through to a secure payment area.

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Justin Schamotta is a senior staff writer for consumer site Choose (follow @choosenet). He specialises in covering credit card terms and right issues, as well as commentary on product and industry updates. The money section also covers personal loans, current accounts and savings - find more on choose.net.