LinkedIn: Fake Profile?

Note: if you are Tracy Wilson and have joined a company in Botswana then please contact me and I will retract this post.  I hope you will appreciate that healthy scepticism is part of life on the internet.

A few weeks ago I had a LinkedIn contact request from “Tracy Wilson,” her profile was claiming that she has recently moved to Botswana “due to an exciting career move.”

“Fair enough,” I thought, it’s possible that she is joining a company involved in mining, diamond trading, banking or some other high profile industry.

LinkedIn - Tracy Wilson - Phishing Profile?

LinkedIn – Tracy Wilson – Phishing Profile?

So I accepted the request, and within a very short space of time I had a message:

Thank you for accepting me into your professional network.
I am just about to move to Botswana, waiting on my start date.
I have never been before and wondered whether I could take your number for when I get there?

Possible phishing attempt from a LinkedIn connection.

Possible phishing attempt from a LinkedIn connection.

I gave a polite reply enquiring which company she was joining, and where she was going to be based in order to give her better advice.  That was on 1 May, to date I have had no reply.

Looking more closely at the profile and engaging critical thinking raises a few more sceptical flags:

  • Large number of contacts but very few endorsements for skills: 500 contacts and 39 endorsements compared to my 65 contacts and 51 endorsements.  To me that says that few of her contacts actually know her.
Few professional endorsements compared to total contacts on a suspect LinkedIn profile.

Few professional endorsements compared to total contacts on a suspect LinkedIn profile.

  • Very light employment history: she looks to be about my age so she would have graduated late nineties to early noughties.  A long term position as PA to the Managing Director of Lloyds TSB (started as a graduate and then stayed there for 8 years?) followed by a stint as Business Development manager linking to a dormant subpage linked to a genuine communications company.
  • Relevant interests: no visible groups and following six companies from diverse sectors (PR, real estate, telecoms, marketing, training/coaching and pharmaceuticals) compared to my more focussed industry interests.
Possibly fake LinkedIn profile with few but diverse professional interestd.

Possibly fake LinkedIn profile with few but diverse professional interestd.

My conclusion is that considering Tracy was PA to a Managing Director of an internationally recognised banking group and then worked in PR I would have expected the profile to be much stronger.  There isn’t much commentary on the internet about fake LinkedIn profiles, here are some fairly comprehensive commentaries on the subject:

  • Linked Strategies – identifies a few red flags and tells you how to report (ironically offering courses on building powerful LinkedIn profiles – I rank this kind of thing alongside SEO and social media mavens…).
  • Undercover Recruiter – some suggestions about why people create fake profiles and other social engineering schemes.
  • Plugged in Recruiter – much the same as Undercover Recruiter but a bit longer with some screenshots a lot like mine!

Just like other social media platforms, when somebody friends, follows or requests to become a connection then you should ask:

  • Is this a real person?
  • Why do they need to connect with me?
  • What do I gain from engaging with this person?

On first impression I felt it would possibly be beneficial, but that first message asking for a phone number was the first red flag and the reason I went digging deeper.

Just like friending on Facebook, connecting with somebody on LinkedIn gives them access to certain personal information.  When the first thing a person does is ask for a phone number or email address (and then doesn’t reply to your reply).  Handing out personal information puts you at risk of being exploited or inconvenienced (spammed, scammed, cold-called, identity theft, etc.) so take your time, evaluate the request and be sceptical.

Stay safe online, people.

1 comment to LinkedIn: Fake Profiles and Phishing

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