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Fake! Fake! Fake!

I am member of LinkedIn since 2007, means 10 years. I am using this social network for my business and I have to tell you that it works, at least for me. I do not want to say that is a perfect of unique tool, but very useful…but… LinkedIn, which about 500 million users globally, is a prime target for scammers looking to connect with professionals across a variety of industries. This is a bad news but very much true. Generally speaking, cybercriminals are using fake LinkedIn profiles to map out the networks of business professionals to scrape contact information and later use these to send spear-phishing emails.

Mostly of those fake profiles made by scammers copy information from real LinkedIn profiles to pose as recruiters and attract new connections. Indeed, statistically speaking there are just few percentage of people refusing to accept a recruiter in their network, especially if over profession there is a very attractive picture (nice business woman or handsome businessman very often).

In general, the primary goal of these fake LinkedIn accounts is to map out the networks of business professionals. Using these fake LinkedIn accounts, scammers are able to establish a sense of credibility among professionals in order to initiate further connections. In addition to mapping connections, scammers can also scrape contact information from their connections, including personal and professional email addresses as well as phone numbers. Which is the main target? Well those information could be used to send spear-phishing emails.

I would like to share with you my suggestions/advices in order to help you in detect such fake profiles, I hope it will help a bit to avoid to be scammed. Remember also that if you have a suspicious something wrong happened with your account, you can always send such info to LinkedIn customer services for an additional verification. Anyway, here you have some suggestions:

1)   Pictures: As I said before, you will often find that you will have some younger attractive man (or woman, who have sent you a connection invite out of the blue. The picture often look like the ones you might find as a stock image (as many often are!), you know the cheesy smile and the bright white teeth types (like promotion of some dentist…). They are often of a younger generation and often you will find some disparity with picture and age / experience from their profile too. In case you are a bit confused about real/fake invitation, simply do a reverse image search using something like TinEye (www.tineye.com) or a Google Reverse Image Search (https://www.google.co.uk/imghp) as these often highlight the recurrence or original image that has been used.

2)   Professional experience: maybe you are the best C-level headhunter in the World…but I am always sceptic if the executive director of the largest corporations in the world like CEO of Coca Cola you a or a President of some large bank from Saudi Arabia send you an invitation….could be, but in general be careful. Ask to yourself if there is a reason why such person should be contact you.

3)   Invitation: I use to add always a unique message when I invite somebody. Could be the purpose of the request, I also like receive such kind of invitation that make more dynamic the request. I understand some people are not such familiar as I am with LinkedIn, but sounds a bit ‘too cold’ and sometimes suspicious and invitation without few words of presentation…

4)   Endorsements: this is one of those occasions that endorsements can really help you as often they have very few endorsements, despite hundred plus connections, and often there are a few people endorsing them for everything (good quality control there then – Warning!)  trying to drive more endorsements through social guilt.

5)  Premium subscription…or the lack of: often the people in these roles will be advanced users of LinkedIn and exploiting the functionality to a good level to necessitate an upgrade and hence I am on guard the moment I don’t see a premium upgrade, makes me even more nervous and cautious to check and qualify more. Fake profile users never seem to buy upgrades.

6)  Groups: the other dimension I have noted is that fake profile users rarely join groups of any  type or of any volume, not always the case but often and this should alert you to being vigilant before you give it all away on LinkedIn.

Of course, there are much more situations in between and I cannot generalize further. I could mention just some cases of fake profiles made ad hoc to be selected in the recruiting process (at least for a primary step) or not upgrade profiles of professional not anymore in charge for a specific position (often they use to declare they didn’t update the profile on LinkedIn…but sometimes they fired, or they just left the organization or the company bankrupted, etc). In the end, you can also use your own settings for privacy more restricted to protect your network. In the end, LinkedIn is a great tool for business and connecting people, but as always, we must be aware that ‘make business’ have different meaning for a variety kind of people….