A few years ago I posted a technique to spot twitter users who had amassed a fake audience which was quite popular (link). Today I’m going to post a couple of quick tips on how to spot bogus LinkedIn accounts before they pollute your network, steal your email addresses and make you feel rather silly for accepting people you never knew.
“Fake LinkedIn accounts” I hear you say? Easy to spot right? Not so much. As I ran through some fake accounts I was easily able to identify in my quick skim tonight I saw many people I know (including several CEOs, notable journalists and other pretty smart people) who were directly connected with these accounts. Easily done – these fake profiles aren’t obvious until you know what to look for.
To be honest I do wonder how rigorous LinkedIn is in looking for fake accounts. In fact I created a fake profile for an April fools joke a few years ago and it’s still there today (although it’s pretty harmless, completely inactive and fairly obviously a joke account). So whilst LinkedIn figures out how to spot the fakers, in the interim it’s up to us to be more vigilant with who we accept into our network.
The account below is a complete fake designed to look authentic. The picture is a morph between several hollywood celebrities (try guessing who!). It has 500+ connections, a respectable number of endorsements and is followed by a number of people I know well from my own LinkedIn network. It also lists working with big brands and contains links to them too as well as several groups. There are dozens just like it.
Let’s get down to business…
How to spot a fake LinkedIn Account:
1. Reverse image lookup. Visit www.tineye.com and see if the profile image is located elsewhere. (I have the chrome plugin installed which I use quite often). Some fake profiles use stock images or celebrities and are easy to spot. The images in the profiles below matched a number of results from a site called Morphthing which is a destination used by LinkedIn spammers to create mugshots. Closer inspection of some of the images from this site reveals a slight bleeding between the images – another giveaway.
2. Copy and paste the first line of their description into Google. Again, if it is unique, the likely result will be a Google result to that very LinkedIn page, but if it is not then beware. I was able to find a number of other fake profiles simply by pasting the first line of copy (“A tenacious, hardworking and charismatic young lady with a huge future ahead of her!”). Note: It may well be that this has been copied from a real LinkedIn profile.
3. Google the person’s name. Include details they have left including location and job. If they are real, it won’t take long to find another matching profile, but look for different images of the person taken from other angles (because some fake accounts will exist in several social channels). Seeing the same profile shot every time and no others is generally a giveaway.
4. Beware overly attractive people! Yes. Do I really need to explain the logic of why spammers use attractive people? Same goes for famous people. Also beware tightly cropped shots of people like the ones above. Most real people avoid extreme close ups.
5. Look for Generics. Look for the company name. See if they are part of that company’s official network and whether they are connected to people within it. Generic names with generic titles are sometimes a giveaway. Remember these fake accounts are created in bulk. The attention to detail is often a little sloppy.
6. Ignore the profile +500 connections – it means nothing and is not a method to validate and account. (Sorry I know, some of us work hard to build those networks, but spammers can do it in a few minutes).
7. Surf the recommendations. If there are individually written recommendations, look at the profiles of those writing them. Paste the recommendation into Google.
8. Accept people you know or you know to be legitimately connected through your trusted contacts. I currently have 471 invites in my LinkedIn inbox. There’s probably a few I need to accept because I’m a little lazy pressing the accept button (sorry if you are one of them), but most are people I can’t verify or whose intentions were unclear. I value my linkedin network and like to keep it as clean as I can rather than add everybody that sends me a request. My other rule is that I never add recruiters unless I know them well personally – most aren’t interested in me, just the access to my network.
Finally you can report fake accounts to LinkedIn from the main tab in the profile. Annoyingly the ‘report abuse form’ is simply too long (another thing LinkedIn should take a look at maybe?). I found over 20 accounts in five minutes this evening and there is no way I am filling in 20 forms.
Hope that helps. If anyone has any other tips leave them in the comments and I’ll add them in later.