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How to spot a fake profile on LinkedIn

You might be surprised to learn that there are fake profiles on LinkedIn, not many in my experience but they do exist and they are in fact reasonably easy to spot.  For example …

Fake profile 2

Firstly it is worth pausing to think why these exist and what people get from it, the answer is sadly simple, they are after your data. It might be your personal data that you share every time you connect with someone on LinkedIn, it might be that they want to track your activity to see who you interact with, who you know, who you work with and more.

Just goes to prove that connecting with all is not necessarily the best strategy in the age of data and identity theft.

The good news is that these profiles are often easy to spot and in my experience tend to come in waves. Not one at a time but three plus over a week.

Pictures

You will often find that you will have some younger attractive man (for women users) or woman (for male users) send 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. They are often of a younger generation and often you will find some disparity with picture and age / experience from their profile too.

Can I offer you up a suggestion if you’re not sure? 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. See below as an example:

Fake profile 3

Another good trick is to search for an image of the real person using company and job title and see what you get, other than the potential fake single image, this will often give you the true persons image and identity.

Work experience

I don’t know about you but even I don’t get that many invites from the executive team of the largest corporations in the world …. and they instantly make me suspicious. Why would the Finance Director of Coca Cola send you a connection invite out of the blue? (Warning!)

You also often find that their profiles have multiple focusses such as finance directors that used to be sales directors or vice versa. In reality operating at that level many stay within their specialist fields as expertise is narrow and deep.

Connections

The number of connections is also often a giveaway as they often have a hundred or two and with someone of that level of experience or that seniority it should ring alarm bells (Warning!). You can also learn a lot about the potential by looking at who you know that has connected to them and by how discerning those people are. So for example all those that will connect with anyone are often your shared connections (Warning!) and this should ring even more alarm bells for your cautious approach.

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.

Premium flag

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.

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.

Generally speaking gut feel, given the above suggestions, often proves to be right more often than not, so go with it, if you’re not sure don’t spam them but reply to the invitation and say “thanks, why don’t we talk ..” or similar and see if they prove you wrong and come back to you. Not an experience I have had yet .. but “Amelia” might prove me wrong.

I hope this equips you better to spot a fake profile and if I have slated Amelia here do please feel free to drop me a message and I’d be delighted to remove your image from here – after all you might just be the model from the stock photograph, but I suspect I won’t hear anything.



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  • Herb Miller
    • http://www.thelinkedinman.com/ James Potter

      Dear Herb,

      Sometimes I struggle to know what to say to some of the comments and yours is one of them.
      I’m quite well known for sense of humour and comedic style but you run a massive risk to your account if they join any fake profile back to you and you erode the professional context of LinkedIn, double whammy really.

      This sort of “stuff” might be good on FaceBook or Twitter but should never be done on LinkedIn.

      Best wishes,

      James

      The Linked In Man

  • student

    I recently received an invitation on linkedin from someone who was also connected to three other people I know. He worked at three major companies in UK, profile seemed very legit with a real photo and when I looked him up on other social media sites he existed. So I sent a reply and said I dont know him. Straight after I got a dodgy email from said person proposing a “lucrative business deal”. However when I went back to linkedin and searched for his profile, it popped up but with a few details different and it was a premium account. I also couldnt find the original profile. Thus I have to assume the scammer made a copy somehow of a real profile. How do they do this? And how can I avoid not connecting to such a copy of the real profile in future?

    • http://www.thelinkedinman.com/ James Potter

      Best way to avoid spammers is to make sure you talk to them before you connect. Suggest you reply and the real ones will take you up on the offer. Best wishes, James – The Linked In Man

  • dub baillie

    I have a question about profiles that aren’t completely bogus as there’s a real person there but most of the profile is a lie. We had a former salesman who has blocked my being able to see his account and after some digging I was able to find that his entire work history was fabricated. He’d done none of the things that he claimed to have done beyond holding a position for too long and drawing a pay check

    • http://www.thelinkedinman.com/ James Potter

      Dear Dub,

      Can I suggest that you report his profile direct to LinkedIn themselves. Look at the profile, if you can, and on the right beside send message is an arrow and under there is report. If not try messaging LinkedIn directly at https://help.linkedin.com/app/ask as they might be able to help. Good luck! Best wishes, James – The Linked In Man