When it comes to social media sites on the Internet, Pinterest is often mentioned as one of the top. When it started, it quickly caught the public’s attention, because people love to create their own bulletin boards of things they enjoy. With Pinterest everything is visual, and it’s easy to share your pinboards with others and view as many pinboards as you like.

But as with many other social media sites, Pinterest has some risks. Yes, it’s addicting to sit and pin images all day long, but that’s not the risk I’m talking about. So what is risky about using Pinterest? First of all, you could end up copying someone’s copyrighted image, which could result in legal troubles. I’m not trying to scare you away, but be aware that using an image that doesn’t belong to you can end up costing you a lot of bucks.

Let’s say you saw an image you liked, copied it and then pinned it on one of your pinboards. The only problem is that the image may belong to one of the photo image licensing firms like Getty Images. If it does, you’ll end up getting a demand letter for $1,000 – $2,000 – for using one of their photos without paying a licensing fee. And if you think you can get away with using only one or two, think again. Many firms use software that searches the web looking for images that were used without permission. If you pin on Pinterest, use only images you took yourself!

Privacy Risks

So what are the privacy risks of using Pinterest? After all, you’re just showing people images of what you like. Well, the problem is that whatever you pin – can be seen by everyone in the world. Everyone. So if you decide to pin some lovely images of you in some lacy underwear, your privacy and reputation are at risk.

The bottom line: never pin a photo or image that you wouldn’t mind showing to your parents, boss, friends or kids. You may feel comfortable showing an image to some close friends, but you definitely wouldn’t want your boss to see that image of you in that lacy underwear.

With regard to your privacy, it’s not only visual. Pinterest lets you add comments to your pins, and the same rules apply. Never put a comment on your pinboards that you wouldn’t mind letting your kids, boss or anyone else read. You might have been kidding around with your comments, but if in fact someone takes it the wrong way, you’re asking for trouble.

Another issue is that if you’re on vacation and away from home and you put that information on Pinterest, everyone will know you’re not home. So never put that on a Pinterest board. If you happen to be in an exotic location, save the images to pin later, when you’re back home again.

Finally, if you have kids and they’re into pinning as well, share this information with them. Make them understand that once you add an image or comment to a pinboard, the entire universe will see what they pinned. It’s just good parenting to let kids know the risks of sharing things on social media.

Deleting Pinterest

Because of privacy issues or other security problems, you may want to delete your Pinterest account. The good news is you don’t have to be an IT specialist to remove your account. Just log in, and click on the three dots at the top – “…” A menu will come up, and scroll down to “edit settings. Under “account” – click on “deactivate account”. When a new screen appears, click on “Permanently close my account” at the bottom. Confirm this is what you want to do, and you’ll get an email. When it arrives, click on “Yes, Close Account”. There are more options available on how you can delete Pinterest account completely, though.

Other Security Concerns

You wouldn’t think Pinterest would attract scammers, but unfortunately, it’s popularity has brought the hackers and cyber thieves out of the woodwork. One of the biggest scams with Pinterest is a spam pin. For example, you may see a very young-looking grandmother with perfect skin showing on many different pinboards, along with a chance to win a $50 gift card.

The problem is, there is no grandmother – just a hidden link to a third-party site where you’ll be asked to fill out a short questionnaire in order to “win” one fo those gift cards. The minute you submit your questionnaire – bingo! Malware is downloaded into your computer in an attempt to steal your private information. It happens all the time.

How can you avoid those span pins? Here’s the tip: you can always find where a link goes by looking at the lower-left corner of your browser. If you see a shortened URL, don’t click on it! You can also use a browser extension called “Unshortenit”. Simply paste the shortened URL into the extension and you’ll get a full description of the actual page, along with a safety rating of that site from Web of Trust. It’s just s a smart way to stay safe.

Another Pinterest problem is “collaborator hijacking” – where a board you have pinned on suddenly starts showing nasty content. We’re talking content you wouldn’t want your kids to look at. It’s how some people get around Pinterest’s content guidelines. You can prevent this by only responding to invitations from people you know or trust. If this does happen you’ll need to immediately uninvite yourself from the board in question.

Finally, beware of fake boards that invite you to collaborate – especially if the invites come from celebrities. As you would imagine, celebrities are not going to invite you to collaborate with them, so if you see a famous name – forget it!

Recently, Pinterest began offering secret boards that you can share with select people that you choose. You can make these boards public if you choose, but if you do, you can’t make them secret again. If you do decide to make a secret board public, be sure the content is something you wouldn’t be embarrassed by if your family or coworkers saw it.

Be sure you understand Pinterest’s privacy settings before you start pinning away. That way you’ll be able to enjoy sharing your images without fear of getting into legal or other troubles. If security concerns continue, simply delete your account!