Is Pinterest Safe?

Since Pinterest is a relatively new service, there are questions about how safe it is.  Like many social media services where ease-of-access is prioritized over verification, there are certain things to watch out for on Pinterest.  It's not that Pinterest isn't taking steps to deal with these problems, mind you; we're just letting you know that they exist, so you'll know how to spot and avoid them.

Though Pinterest requires you to input your full name and age in order to sign up, it lacks the capability to determine whether that information is completely accurate.  This means that, while most people use Pinterest honestly, there are some people who are not who they say they are on Pinterest.  These people sometimes attempt to trick others into revealing personal information with fake pins about giveaways or contests.  Others will try to sabotage other people's accounts by inviting them to collaborate on boards, then filling those boards with objectionable content on purpose.  Fortunately, these scams are relatively easy to avoid by adjusting a few security settings on Pinterest, as well as exercising a bit of critical thinking and common sense.

5 Safety tips for using Pinterest

1. If something about a pin or board seems too good to be true, it probably is.

You've probably seen or heard of scams over email or telephone where "I lost 100 lbs. in three weeks with a miracle diet pill!" or "You just won an all-expenses-paid cruise!"  While these kinds of scams are rarer than you might think on Pinterest, that's not to say that they don't exist.  Use common sense when it comes to following Internet links attached to pins, or following or commenting on boards.  This means things like never posting overly personal information on Pinterest, such as your account password, credit card number, or home address.  While not every pin advertising something on Pinterest will be a scam, the risk that you will be scammed or have your account or computer hijacked or infected with viruses will usually be far greater than any potential reward, so it's best to stay away.

2. Only collaborate on boards with people whom you know and trust.

It's probably not a good idea to collaborate on a Pinterest board with people whom you don't personally know.  The reason for this is that a board you collaborate on will be linked to your own profile, and so any changes to the board will at least partially reflect on you.  Troublemakers will sometimes use this to their advantage by inviting you to collaborate on a board, and then intentionally adding pins to the board that violate Pinterest's content guidelines.  Since the board is partially linked to your account, at best, it won't make you look very good to other users, and at worst, it might get you in trouble with Pinterest. 

You can de-invite yourself from a board if you notice this kind of thing happening, but only accepting invites to boards from people you know and trust is a sure-fire way to avoid this problem.  This kind of hijacking usually happens to celebrities and big businesses more often than average users, but it's still something to be aware of.

3. Be wary of fake accounts, especially concerning celebrities.

While there are some celebrities who do have genuine accounts on Pinterest, there are plenty of others who pose as celebrities and create fake accounts with which to scam people or otherwise cause trouble (by doing things mentioned in the two previous tips, for example).  Unfortunately, Pinterest doesn't have many tools to help people verify certain accounts, so you're just going to have to use common sense.  Look at the number and types of pins that they have, and decide whether they're the amount or kind of pins that a person such as this would have.  It's also a good idea to not accept any invitations to collaborate on boards with celebrities, for reasons described in the previous tip.

4. If you don't want people to see your content, then put it on a secret board, or just don't post it at all

Pinterest is a social media website, so it has an emphasis on sharing.  However, there may be some content or information that you don't want to share.  Unfortunately, it's impossible to make a secret board private again once you reveal it, and it's also near impossible to make pins that you yourself upload to Pinterest private again (even if you delete them) once they've been shared with others.  With this in mind, if you don't want other people seeing some of the pins that you create yourself, put them on secret boards.  And before you reveal secret boards, make sure you're okay with people seeing every pin on that board; if you aren't, remove the pins that you don't want made public before you reveal the board.  Finally, you don't have to add any extra information about yourself to your profile beyond what you were asked for when you signed up for Pinterest.  So, if you're concerned about your privacy, just leave that stuff blank.

5. Adjust your privacy settings to limit how much information can be used to find you.

In addition to the recommendations in the previous tip, there are a few other things that you can do in the Account Settings area of Pinterest to keep from drawing too much (unwanted) attention to your account.

  • In the "Account Basics" section, change the "Search Privacy" setting to Yes to keep people from being able to find your Pinterest account through a search engine such as Google Search, Yahoo Search, or Bing.

  • In the "Account Basics" section, change both "Personalization" settings to No to keep Pinterest and its advertisers from snooping on your activities both on Pinterest and on other websites.

  • In the "Account Basics" section, click Clear Search History beside "Search History" to tell Pinterest to get rid of information regarding what you've searched for on the website.  It's useful if you've built up a sizable search history and Pinterest's suggestions are getting in the way of other things that you want to look for.

  • In the "Social Media" section, try to only connect Pinterest to one or two other accounts.  Besides the fact that your contacts will probably be similar across your social media accounts, Pinterest may try to post your activity to certain social media accounts, so your contacts on those accounts will know what you've been up to on Pinterest.  While you can tell Pinterest not to do this, an easy way to avoid it is to limit the number of other social media accounts that Pinterest can connect to.

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