Do you often get LinkedIn connection requests from complete strangers?
Does your spidey-sense ever start to tingle when you see a strange profile on LinkedIn?
The prevalence of fake LinkedIn accounts has become an increasing problem for the social networking giant. Some spammers are smarter than others and some fake accounts will require a closer inspection to spot.
Fake profiles can have several hundred connections already as well as a handful of Skill Endorsements. They also usually belong to several groups and follow a couple of companies and influencers.
If you know what to look for, fake accounts on LinkedIn are usually pretty easy to spot. Often you can visibly see patterns and signs that are common amongst these fake LinkedIn profiles. Here are a few signs that I trust when gauging the legit profiles against the fake ones!
1. Receiving Many Invites From People In The Same Company
If you start receiving an unusual number of invites from people from the same company (unless such an influx is expected for a specific reason), this is often the sign of fake LinkedIn accounts. Quite often they will use well-known companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, Bank of America, etc.
Another dead giveaway would be a number of requests from people with very similar, generic headlines.
2. Suspicious Profile Image
Images are also a good way to spot fake accounts. If you get the feeling that a profile photo looks like a stock photo, you can look it up with Google’s search by image search. This will quickly tell you if the photo has been used elsewhere on the web.
While there are lots of real people still using logos as their image, a generic pic, such as a flower or another random object, can also be a warning sign of a fake LinkedIn profile.
Images of celebrities are also a good giveaway, as are images of women in suggestive looking poses. A dead ringer for a fake profile is one where the image is of a woman but the profile has a man’s name, or visa versa.
3. Lack of Real Personal Info
A common denominator between many fake LinkedIn accounts is the lack of any real personal info about that individual. If anything, there are mostly generic statements that lack any specificity in the summary and experience sections.
Profiles by real people often include a mix of personal details such as causes, volunteering, hobbies, education, recommendations and the use of first person when writing the sections such as the Summary or Experience. This isn’t to say that profiles written in the third person are all fakes. I’m merely suggesting that profiles written in the first person tend to be fake LinkedIn accounts less often.
If you open the profile of a person who sent you a connection request in another tab to look for any additional red flags that cause you to question their authenticity. If it’s a close call and I really can’t tell, I tend to decline the connection request.
4. Suspiciously Good Looking People
OK, so I’m having a little bit of fun with this one and truthfully it isn’t a reliable indicator on its own, but it can paint a bigger picture when it’s among other red flags. Romana Frey shared one of her experiences identifying a fake LinkedIn account with me:
“Last week I received an invitation that I knew was fake right away. It was a photo of an attractive man from England in a field totally unrelated to mine with just a few connections. I accepted anyway, just to check my intuition, and I was right – he immediately sent me a message saying he was coming to Canada and wanted to meet me.” – Romana Frey
It’s not just women, it happens to men too! Here’s a comment sent to me by Bruce Smeaton:
“A profile of a young woman complete with a drop-dead gorgeous profile photo (which is either a stock photo or stolen from Google Images), a job role as a content producer and/or blogger with “World Connector”, a local US or UK address (and associated educational references), but very poor English literary skills.”
5. Premium Members Can Be Fakes Too
I had never seen fake LinkedIn accounts with a premium memberships until recently. It’s still rare but even fake accounts will sometimes have a Premium LinkedIn membership so don’t blindly accept an invite without a glance at their profile.
Fake LinkedIn Accounts Aren’t Your Only Concern
While you want to avoid connecting with fake or spam accounts on LinkedIn, you don’t need to protect your network or account like you would on Facebook. LinkedIn is a professional platform that can help you build and expand your network.
That said, it doesn’t mean you should connect with every non-spammer who sends you a connection request. The quality of your network is important but I don’t think it’s necessary or beneficial to deny a connection request solely because you have never met the person before.
Look Out For The LIONs
I also personally avoid connecting with LIONS (LinkedIn Open Networkers). These people put LION in their headline as a sign to show that they will connect with anyone, spammers and fake accounts include. I find these people to have a very low quality network and I don’t typically like to be associated with them. I believe in expanding your network but there has to be a purpose for each party to be connected to each other.
Checklist For Identifying a Valuable Connection
Once you have determined that an account belongs to a real person and is not fake there are still a few factors you may want to consider before clicking accept:
- Did they send a personalized request?
- Do they speak/write in the same language?
- Is this person a potential prospect or strategic alliance partner?
- Is this person a competitor and is there a benefit to being connected?
How Do You Identify Fake LinkedIn Accounts?
What are some of the signs you look for when trying to spot fake LinkedIn accounts? Let me know in the comments below.