Revealed: Pinterest Spammer Using Hundreds of Fake Accounts

What do these Pinterest pins have in common?

Two dresses and a fashionable boot

As I write this post, all three items are showing on Pinterest’s ‘popular’ tab. They’ve received hundreds of ‘likes’, dozens of comments, and thousands of repins.

And they have something else in common, too.

They were all placed on Pinterest by fake accounts.

 

How do I know this, you ask?

Let’s take a look.

Item 1 – Blue Dress: 568 likes, 15 comments, 4148 repins

This was pinned by an account named Rachel Rauchwerger.

Rachel’s account is fairly empty: no description, a few pins including some sort of health products, and is just linked to a Twitter account:

Pinterest Account Page for Rachel Rauchwerger

On taking a look at the Twitter account, the name is different (a little odd) and the account shows no activity:

Rachel Rauchwerger Twitter Account

Taking a look at the pin itself, we see that ‘Rachel’ added a comment:

I bought this dress on a whim, as I had never bought clothes from Amazon before, much less a dress I needed to wear to a holiday party a few days after receiving the dress. Either way, I’m so glad I did it.

Looking at the link for the image, it turns out to be a link to Amazon.com. It isn’t an affiliate link. But some of the other images Rachel has posted do have affiliate links. They’re using an Amazon affiliate code of “finalfantas07-20″.

Item 2 – Boot: 152 likes, 6 comments, 1796 repins

Our second image, a knee-high boot, was pinned by an account with the name ‘Nancy Nelon’. As with Rachel, there’s not much to see on Nancy’s Pinterest profile page:

Nancy Nelon Pinterest Profile

Following her Twitter account link is a similar story — a different first name and an account with no activity:

Nancy Nelon Twitter Profile

Looking at Nancy’s boot link, it points to a product on endless.com using an affiliate link. Curiously, the affiliate ID in the link is remarkably similar to the one Rachel used: finalfantas07.

Item 3 – Pink and Black Dress: 504 likes, 14 comments, 4450 repins

Our third and final item was posted by a certain ‘Sandra Stolley’. Sandra happens to have pinned some sort of health products, too, including at least one that Rachel had pinned:

Sandra Stolley Pinterest Profile

Again, there’s no description on Sandra’s Pinterest profile page; just a link to a Twitter account. Let’s take a look at that:

The first name is different and the account shows no activity.

Are you starting to notice a pattern here?

Let’s take a look at the link for the image she pinned.

It’s also an affiliate link. This time it’s another Amazon.com link. And what’s the affiliate ID? Yep, you guessed it… “finalfantas07″.

Some Further Checks

At this point, I’d say these accounts are looking pretty suspicious.

But let’s do a sanity check and look at who’s been repinning these three items. After all, if fake accounts are posting great stuff, does it really matter?

Here’s what some typical repin profiles look like for items picked at random from the ‘popular’ tab:

Note that all the repinners have profile photos.

Now let’s check the repins for our 3 ‘suspect’ items:

There’s a clear difference. Many of the accounts that have repinned our ‘suspect’ items don’t have profile photos.

A quick look at a few of the ‘repinner’ accounts without photos yields no surprises. As before, we find no descriptions and links to unused Twitter accounts.

Conclusion: Fake Accounts are being used to Artificially Boost Products on Pinterest

It’s clear what’s going on here.

Someone has created masses of fake accounts that they’re using to repin their own items.

The repins trick Pinterest’s algorithm into thinking that the items really are popular. The algorithm then shows them to lots of real users.

By getting attention on the items, the orchestrator of the whole thing counts on some people clicking through the links and going on to buy them, thereby generating him or her some affiliate commissions.

This particular network of fake accounts is fairly obvious when you look into it. But marketers like this are going to get more sophisticated as time goes by and may, in the future, be a lot harder to spot.

Be careful when you’re next repinning on Pinterest. All may not be what is seems.

[Update: this article lead to a write-up by the Daily Dot about a man who claimed to be the mystery "Pinterest spammer". He later retracted his claim, saying it had been a hoax, but not before the story got picked up all across the Internet!]

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Comments

  1. Send this info to Amazon, and this affiliate account will be history. :-)

  2. Alicia King says:

    It’s possible that spammers have learned from this post, and are now using profile photos on their spammy profiles!

  3. Great info.

    I’ve been asking myself ‘How exactly does Pinterest’s sorting algorithm work?’ for weeks now and I’ve finally come across the answer:

    http://www.bit.ly/PinterestAlgorithm

Trackbacks

  1. [...] how he does it, as first uncovered by Total Pinterest. He has bots pinning thousands of pictures of dresses and boots, and “liking” those [...]

  2. [...] can see kind of what he is doing in this article on Total Pinterest and read more of the interview with him on Daily [...]

  3. [...] from bogus accounts, and reaps thousands of dollars a day in Amazon affiliate payments. Last week, Total Pinterest exposed Steve’s spam network, which is powerful enough to elevate pins to the site’s [...]

  4. [...] from bogus accounts, and reaps thousands of dollars a day in Amazon affiliate payments. Last week, Total Pinterest exposed Steve’s spam network, which is powerful enough to elevate pins to the site’s [...]

  5. [...] TotalPinterest was suspicious when they saw the tell-tale signs of hollow profile details, re-pins of products with no visual appeal (Bottles of Cetaphil? Really?), and robotic-sounding comments, all of which contained either an affiliate link or a direct link to a product on Amazon.com. [...]

  6. [...] the links and going on to buy them, thereby generating him or her some affiliate commissions," explains Total Pinterest. "Steve" expects to earn $2,000- or $2,500-a-day this way, which, yes, would [...]

  7. [...] a links and going on to buy them, thereby generating him or her some associate commissions,” explains Total Pinterest. ”Steve” expects to acquire $2,000- or $2,500-a-day this way, which, yes, would [...]

  8. [...] tercer gran problema de Pinterest es el spam. Los blogs Total Pinterest y The Daily Dot han puesto al descubierto recientemente cómo un solo usuario puede ganar miles de [...]

  9. [...] Das rasante Wachstum der digitalen Pinnwand bietet die Möglichkeit, Inhalte, deren Vervielfältigung man wünscht, ohne Kosten und größeren Aufwand zu verbreiten. Dies nutzen bereits einige Marken und Shops. Durch das Repinnen der Fotos von Produkten werden potenzielle Käufer darauf aufmerksam. Die Vorteile liegen einerseits in höherem Traffic, wenn ein Link zu einem Shop besteht, und andererseits natürlich in gesteigerten Verkäufen. Man muss aber nicht einmal einen Shop betreiben. Man kann über Affiliate-Links derzeit auch so Geld verdienen mit Pinterest, sofern die eigenen Pinns die Aufmerksamkeit der Community erregen. Dies haben sich angeblich bereits Spammer zunutze gemacht. [...]

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