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HOW TO SPOT A FAKE LINKEDIN PROFILE

January 28, 2015
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LinkedIn is THE place to be if you’re a professional and want to connect online with others in your industry.

Sadly, it is also loaded with people claiming to be the professionals they are not. In fact, they don’t even exist; these fake LinkedIn profiles are used for spamming, scamming, and phishing. In other words, the people behind those profiles’ creation are deceitful no matter their intent. Their objective is to snag your personal or work email to get you to connect with them or even worse, send you an email, which could include malware or nuisance spam mail.

As we know, while the Internet and social media provide many great opportunities, resources, and ways of connecting, it is also full of fraudsters who want to trick you out of something. Usually that includes your identification, personal contact information, or even credit card information, etc.

AUTHENTIC PROFILE OR NOT?

To help you avoid being spammed on LinkedIn, here are a few steps you can follow if you receive an invitation to connect and you’re not sure if it’s authentic or not.

1) Never accept a LinkedIn invitation if it comes via your personal or work email (unless you actually know the person). Only accept invitations (or not) when you’re logged into your LinkedIn account and use either its message or InMail feature.

If you receive an invitation to connect from someone whom you do not know via your personal/work email account (while NOT logged into your LinkedIn account) but appears that it’s coming from LinkedIn, pause before you click on the “Accept” button.

In fact, before you click “View Profile” in that same email, hover your mouse over the “View Profile” button/link and check the URL (website) address in the lower left of your browser screen. If it’s different than the usual: “www.linkedin.com/in/…”, then report it as spam and delete the email from your Inbox.

2) Check out the profile photo. Is it of good quality? Does it almost look “too good” and appear similar to high-resolution corporate stock photography?

If the profile photo, the person’s headline and summary all seem a bit curious to you, then I’d suggest you go with your gut and not accept their invitation. If their profile pic really seems odd, here’s a trick you can do to check the photo. (By the way, you can do this with any image you see on the internet, thanks to Google. In fact, check your own profile photo to be sure it’s not being misused elsewhere.)

1. Hover your mouse over the profile photo and right click. Select “Search Google for this Image.” A Google page will appear and display other places where that image is found across the internet.

2. Review where that photo appears. If it shows other people’s LinkedIn profile pages or varied other social media where that image appears, then it’s likely legit because your connected to those people.. However, if that photo is appearing in many different places – especially on websites in other countries, businesses, or organizations – click on the photo and check it out.

I did this recently for three suspect invitations I received on LinkedIn. The photos looked like stock photography to me – something you’d see in a professional business brochure, a corporate website, etc.

Sure enough, one of them was of a model whose image is legitimately used by a Russian stock photo agency and she was posing as a real estate agent. Another woman’s face was used on a fake LinkedIn profile and I traced it to an electronic brochure for a daycare center in Asia. All someone had to do was take a screen shot of these nameless people and plug it in as a photo to create a fake LinkedIn profile.

3.) Another possible giveaway to a fake or suspect profile is one that is written purely for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). While it’s good form to have solid SEO on your LinkedIn profile (and LinkedIn’s algorithm is based on strong SEO), you should still write for your audience in your style and voice.

A faux profile might also consist of many keywords or search terms strung together in a lame effort to look “real.” Also, each of those keywords or search terms often begins with capital letters. Or there may even be a lot of misspellings, too.

Here’s a screen shot of one example I recently received:

4.) Review the person’s Experience and Endorsements sections. Their Summary section may look okay, but their Experience section may read like a job description and their Endorsements will likely only show a few skills and a handful of people will have endorsed them.

5.) Flag or report an inappropriate profile to LinkedIn. They’ve made it easy to do and the instructions will guide you. (I’ve reported many of the fake profiles I’ve discovered and not heard any word back from LinkedIn but still think it’s important to make the report.)

All social media platforms have their challenges and issues with fake profiles and all types of spammers. Hopefully these tips will help you in deciding who to connect with to truly reach your online networking goals without being tricked.

LinkedIn really is the right place to be for your professional networking, personal branding or job seeking objectives. Stick with it!