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May 7, 2014

How to Spot a Fake LinkedIn Profile and What to do About it

LinkedIn image — LinkedIn Offices.

LinkedIn is plagued by fake profiles and scams aimed at gaining access to your personal details and your connections. Operating on a global scale, using hundreds of fake profiles to attract connections, the simple, but ingenious operation allows them to amass and harvest thousands of e-mails and profiles.

Here are some tips on how to spot a fake profile.

  • Be wary of someone trying to contact you through a group, rather than a first-, second- or third-degree connection. Scammers join the groups for the specific purpose of accessing members’ information.

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  • Run the profile image through a Google search by right clicking on the picture. You will see an option to ‘Search Google for this Image.’ Click this option and you will be presented with a range of places where the image has appeared.

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And here is her U.S. profile:

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  • Look at the profile before you accept any invitation. Most fake profiles have false details regarding employment. For example “Amelia Stewart” works at a false recruitment agency that no search engine has been able to locate.
  • Work history is very patchy, if it exists. Scammers are so busy creating multiple profiles they clearly lack the time to complete a profile in full and generally list only one or two jobs, with vague dates and locations. Amelia claims to be in recruitment but unlike other recruiters on LinkedIn she has limited connections and a very thin resume. Similarly, education is usually confined to “Bachelor’s Degree”, with no dates or specifics of the course.
  • Interests are generally obscure. Amelia listed “Kite-flying” as an interest on one profile and beading on another.
  • Spelling mistakes were always the key to a false profile but this is less of a flag now than it was in the past.
  • They only reply to a contact with a generic message.

If you come across a false profile you must report it to LinkedIn or they will continue to operate. If you suspect that a false profile has invited you to connect with them go to the drop down message section on their profile for sending Inmail.

Select ‘Report this person,’ and send an explanation as to why you need to report them. LinkedIn will only investigate if they receive a number of complaints from members.

Curiously a number of people had “endorsed” Amelia for her “work”, which again contributes to the debate that endorsements are meaningless.

LinkedIn took three weeks to remove Amelia’s profile, and on May 5 deleted Australia Top Job and Canada Top Job groups, but not before they had amassed more than 10,000 members each. They continue to send daily e-mails to the groups’ members.

A search for Amelia now returns the following message:

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LinkedIn did not respond to my multiple requests (via the Suspicious LinkedIn E-mail option) to speak to a media representative in Australia and there is no listed public number to call.

Hopefully the company will continue to resource their security unit to allow swift investigations of fake profiles. But here’s a few more they might like to follow up, just in case.

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Nikki Cripps is a Sydney-based copywriter, specializing in online content, social media, LinkedIn profiles and public relations. She has been managing for more than seven years and is an occasional contributor to SPN. Working with big brands and small businesses, she sometimes works for clients in-house, where she gets to talk to grown ups about Game Of Thrones, drink bad coffee and eat too much chocolate.