The ad, created by a web site promoting Pinterest bots, promises to show interested parties how to “make money with Pinterest”. This is an element of novelty as scammers actually seem to be taking money out of their pockets to make sure that their scams hit it big.
The paid advertising campaign can increase the efficiency of scams as the Facebook ad targeting mechanism allows you to “define your ideal audience by what they are interested in, using terms people have shared in their Facebook profiles (timelines). These may be drawn from their listed interests, activities, education and job titles, pages they like or groups to which they belong,” according to Facebook’s help centre.
The embedded link in the ad takes users to a web page that features a survey they are supposed to take in exchange for a Visa gift card and an e-mail address submission form for possible subscribers. While the “free gift card” method is reminiscent of a recent spam wave that hit the Pinterest platform, the bot-based money making mechanism advertised in the ad is very similar to the #followback scams on Twitter.
“Pinterest is one of the hottest social platforms of the moment, which would explain scammers’ malicious interest in its huge user base. The interesting thing about this scam is that it pays a twisted tribute to Facebook by targeting its users with ads,” said Catalin Cosoi, Chief Security Researcher at Bitdefender. “We should all be on the lookout for new, customized scam mechanisms.”
The Pinterest team indicated that the spam and money-making mechanisms violate the platform’s acceptable use policy in two areas: unsolicited advertising materials and use of the service for third parties’ benefit without Pinterest’s agreement. Pinterest recently updated its policies to eliminate a few unclear matters regarding ownership of pinned content and more general copyright issues.
“As a growing service, Pinterest is not immune to challenges faced by sites across the web including spam and phishing. However, it is a tremendous priority for us to quickly address them. Our engineers are actively working to manage issues as they arise and are revisiting the nature of public feeds on the site to make it harder for fake or harmful content to get into them”, stated Erica Billups from The OutCast Agency, on behalf of Pinterest.