Inbound links should not hurt IMO. As the case with tsunami, there are instances when 'link baiting' tactics bring lots of natural backlinks for a site in a very short span of time.

What can hurt is when you try to 'build' too many backlinks in quick time. It might leave a pattern which the SEs can detect and yes, the SEs might even penalize your site, specially when your site is new and does not have much trust rank.