About a week ago, I read an article on SecurityNewsDaily where a spammer gave an interview to The Daily Dot and explained his methods. He claimed not only was he making $1000 per day spamming and scamming Pinterest, but that it was really easy.
If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, I wasn’t either until earlier this year. After doing extensive research (read: reading the Wikipedia article and then visiting the site), it’s a social networking site geared towards women.
Pinterest may deny it, but with a font like that it’s no surprise that it appeals more to women than to men.
Anyhow, quoting some excerpts from the article:
A 24-year-old man known only as Steve claims to make $1,000 per day simply by flooding the image-based bulletin board with items linked to his Amazon.com affiliate account, according to a report on the Daily Dot website.
Pinterest is by FAR the easiest social network to spam right now," Steve told the Daily Dot. "Quite possibly the easiest ever to spam. It requires almost no work to get started and no money to invest. You just have to know how the system works and how you can fix it to your advantage."
Each image posted to Pinterest, which has become very popular among fashion- and craft-conscious women, clicks through to a separate page where the image is larger and users can comment on it.
In Steve's case, he has what the Daily Dot calls "thousands of accounts" on Pinterest. Each of his accounts "pins" only a couple of items — a white dress, a pair of boots — but each "pin" eventually leads to an Amazon page linked to Steve's affiliate account.
Amazon's affiliate program pays bloggers and other website operators, which Amazon calls "associates," a percentage of the retail price of items sold through their links to Amazon pages. Commissions start at 4 percent and can go up to 8.5 percent, depending on the numbers of items sold.
This is a clever way to scam the system. If this scammer can succeed in signing up for accounts at Pinterest, and does the same at Amazon, It’s an easy way to make money. He stays under the radar and makes money legally.
A representative for Pinterest pointed us to a follow-up story in the Daily Dot, in which Steve revealed himself to be a hoaxster.
"I thought it would be funny to play this prank seeing how popular Pinterest is and see how fast it could go viral," he told the website.
However, the Daily Dot isn't so sure. The Amazon account Steve originally claimed to own does have dozens of affiliate pages, and many of the obviously fake Pinterest accounts that link to them are still up.
Meanwhile, other possible Pinterest hackers were complaining about the publicity Steve had attracted, according to the Daily Dot.
"He could probably have hit some pretty good numbers if he just kept quiet for a while," wrote a user called "Meathead1234" on the BlackHat SEO forum. "I have a few sites doing $1000/day right now and I would NOT tell anyone about them or how they earn."
So which is it? A hoax? Or a legitimate scam?
If a scammer sat down and manually created 1000 Pinterest logins then this scheme is perfectly plausible. I don’t know how Pinterest has users show up in other users equivalent-to-a-Facebook-news-feed, but there’s nothing particularly innovative here. Social networks and free services have been combating fraudsters for years.
Pinterest is just the latest and they shouldn’t feel bad, it happened to Facebook, URL shorteners, blogs, and others. It demonstrates my golden rule of the Internet – if you become a free, successful service, people will abuse you.