I get requests for connections on LinkedIn every day that are fake, and I’m willing to bet you do, too.
When I first joined LinkedIn, the mentality was to add anyone and everyone, with the sole purpose of rapidly expanding your network, because you never know who they might lead you to.
These days, I’m becoming a lot more careful about who I connect with. Of course I want to keep increasing my network, but my LinkedIn strategy has changed from ‘meet absolutely everyone’ to ‘meet the people who matter’.
And although fewer people are connecting to every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, many are definitely still doing this. I know this because the fake profiles that find their way into my inbox are already connected with other people in my network.
Hell, it even got so bad earlier this year that LinkedIn launched a lawsuit in San Francisco against “unknown hackers” who allegedly used automated software to “scrape” member accounts and copy data from actual member profile pages.
So why aren’t we taking more care to background check our connections? We do this with job candidates, so why don’t we do it on social media? Is the threat of having your data misused not enough of a deterrent?
Over the past few weeks, a number of my colleagues and me have received numerous LinkedIn requests from “members” which I’ve determined to be fakes.
How do I know? Often, it’s quite obvious, because the users’ names are not capitalised, or are written like “aaaaaaaaandy kumar”. Other times, their background information is patchy and their company names don’t exist when you chuck it into Google.
Many times their profile pictures are the biggest giveaway – some scream ‘stock photo’ while others are clearly of models and famous people, and some others, well, they come from more sinister places.
Just take a look.
This is “Joey Jasmine”, apparently a senior events manager at a company called Radmox Event Consultants.
There’s not much information in her profile, although someone has gone to the trouble of writing up a summary and a very brief experience outline. We also have a number of shared connections (which makes me wonder how many people in my network aren’t picking up on all these fakes!)
But the biggest giveaway is when you Google search the image of “Joey” and this comes up:
Yep, that’s a bunch of links to various ‘Malay girl’ dating websites.
Next up is “Rebecca Joy”. Without even reading her summary and experience, I’ve got a hint it’s a fake because her profile photo looks too professional. Granted, this isn’t unusual for many professionals nowadays, but just to make sure, I did another Google image search:
Turns out, “Rebecca” is actually Malaysian Chinese model and actress Carmen Soo. Who knew?:
And finally – in what might be the worst example – we have “Sairah Sharmini”, a “senior human resource at Express Human Resource Ltd”.
In actual fact, this image of “Sairah” is 14-year-old American girl Diana Tourdot, who went missing from a sleepover in California earlier this year, as told in this Huffington Post article:
So, how do you spot these fakes?
Red flags for spotting a fake profile
There are a few giveaways for a false LinkedIn profile, but these are probably the most obvious ones:
– Misspelled names or odd capitalisation
– Job titles which make no sense
– Company names which don’t exist when you search for them
– Only one job in their experience
– Obvious use of stock photos (some of which you’ve probably seen a number of times without realising)
– Generic company names
– Very few connections
The easiest way I’ve found to spot a fake is to simple Google image search the profile photo being used, as showed you above. Simply right click the image, hit ‘Search Google for this image’ and wait to see what pops up.
What can you do about it?
Start being more careful about who you connect with. Do you actually know them, either first or second-hand? Have you been introduced? Do a quick check to make sure they are who they say they are, if you have never heard of them before.
If you’ve done a bit of a search but you’re still not sure, flag the profile as spam. If enough people do the same thing, LinkedIn will suspend the account.
So there you go. Let’s start being a bit more careful about who we connect with. And please share this information with your wider networks so we can get rid of the fakes, spam and bots once and for all.