Pinterest scams have been on the rise as the site gains popularity, and today I noticed a new one that seems to be using photography from food blogs to trick people. Specifically they are using people who pin recipes by tricking them into distributing (repinning) their bogus seed links.
After I posted the Avocado-Carrot Salad on Monday, I noticed that my recipe quickly made its way onto Pinterest. I counted 3 separate pins along with 59 repins (and counting) as of tonight. Hooray! I was very happy that people were pinning it to their food inspiration boards.
Those pins were legit and linking back to this site, as they should. Here is an example of one of the legit pins. You can see that it links back to my site since I am the original author. Thanks guys!
Then I noticed something else. There were other pins of the exact same photo (lots of them), only these were not linking to my site.
Check out all of these pins for my salad to see what I mean (as of 7:26pm the numbers were growing). A search for “avocado carrot” shows an explosion of my salad photo. Update April 12, 2012: Most of the bad pins have been removed, and only a few remain. If you click on these pins, you’ll notice that most DO NOT link to my site runningoncloudnine.com, but instead link to is.gd, as shown in the screenshot below.
My first thought was that it was a scummy content farm that scrapped my post and was using it as their own, and someone saw and pinned it from there. Unfortunately this is common and can create duplicate content issues along with not giving credit to the original author. Curious, I clicked on the link. Much to my surprise, instead of being a copycat blog with scraped content, these pins were being linked to a spoof Pinterest page set up as a phishing scheme.
Notice the URL, the original is.gd (or similar) quickly redirects to pintRERETS.com. At a glance, it looks like pinterest.com. The URL seems vaguely familiar, the interface is nearly spot on (minus the top menu bar). Except there is a message asking you to click on a link to “prove you are human”. In my case, the mention of an iPad 2 and Best Buy gift card were a dead giveaway that this was a spoof site. However, they are using all kinds of different messages to try to lure unsuspecting foodies into clicking.
One example is using the following text:
“Browse recipes using the Recipe Tool. To continue, install the tool to look at thousands of recipes. Download Now”
It contains the Pinterest logo and seems like it could be legit, users may think that Pinterest has a new recipe tool that they might be eager to try out.
Scam, scam, scam.
I obviously did not click to find out what the scam is. It could be a scam survey used to gain personal information, or it could be a virus. It could be anything, but you can bet that it is malicious.
As for the people who are pinning these bad links, I don’t think all are even aware that they are doing so. I think that most people just see a photo of a food dish (or purse, or dress, or fill-in-the-blank) and just say “Oh that looks good! Pin!”, without ever visiting the site to see where the link actually leads. People are busy and they don’t have time to research every link they are pinning or repinning. They should check out the links, but reality is that most don’t until they have a little time later and want to actually make the recipe. Meanwhile, they are unknowingly spreading the bad seed of these new Pinterest scams, and the damage grows and grows.
I’m sure this is happening with other categories, but right now I am noticing this happening with photos of recipes from food blogs in particular.
If you have a food blog, check Pinterest for your photos, and if any are linking to a site like the one above report them to the folks at Pinterest. This might be hard to keep up on, but keep your eyes open for it.
And if you are a Pinterest user, take a moment to look at the URL of the photo you are pinning! Make sure that it is a legit site before adding it to your boards and sharing it with everyone. After all, you wouldn’t want your friends and followers to click on your pins and become a victim of a scam. In the end, you are responsible for the links you share.