CEO of Judi Hays Inc.LinkedIn marketing strategist and author of Elevate, Expand, Engage – A Refreshing Approach to Winning on LinkedIn.
The proliferation of fake profiles on LinkedIn is heating up. Fake profiles are a problem for everyone. Even the FBI has approved of those LinkedIn spam accounts pose a threat. Even worse, they can jeopardize your bottom line.
Fake profiles waste valuable time, expose you to scammers, clog up your newsfeed, and even put your own profile and network at risk. With LinkedIn’s importance to many industries and businesses, understanding how to avoid fake profiles in your network is an important part of your networking and marketing success.
The three-step litmus test to identify a fake LinkedIn profile
There is no doubt that profile fakes have become more sophisticated over the years. The advance of AI-generated images means the photo in the profile may not even be a real person. But you can usually still spot a counterfeit if you know what to look for.
While an invitation to connect can be flattering, take the time to check for authenticity before clicking accept. The first step is to look at their full LinkedIn profile. While fake profiles are getting better and better, there are still often some common clues.
• Use a reverse Google image search or TinEye to see if their profile picture is being used elsewhere under a different name.
• See if their education and work history are logically linked.
• Check for internal inconsistencies, such as dates or locations that don’t make sense.
• Search for suspicious or incomplete information.
While some of these things could also be the result of a poorly written profile rather than a fake one, you’re looking for patterns. If you see any red flags, you’ll want to use their content and network to verify further.
As part of this profile test, LinkedIn recently announced a new ‘About this profile’. According to their announcement, it will show you “when a profile was created and last updated” and “whether the member has verified a phone number and/or business email associated with their account.” Be sure to check this as part of your screening process.
Profiles are created once, but content is more difficult and time consuming to fake. Scroll through their recent posts and history to look for these dead giveaways.
• Do they post regularly?
• Do they write a message with their content, or just share links without further information?
• Do their posts have comments and do they interact with those comments?
• Are there any other comments they’ve written on other people’s posts?
• Did they send you information in overly personal or formal language? (such as “Hello my dear” or “Dear Sir or Madam”)
As a reminder, this is another good reason to keep your own account active. If you don’t, you could end up looking like a bot.
The last area to check on a LinkedIn profile is to check out their network.
• Do they have less than 100 connections in total?
• Does the profile have followers in addition to connections?
• Have some LinkedIn recommendations been written and do they seem sincere and relevant to the rest of the profile?
• Do you have mutual connections?
The bottom line is: real people have connections and relationships with real people.
If you think the account is fake, be a good member of the social media community and report it. The more we can proactively report and have these profiles removed, the better the LinkedIn environment is for all of us.
Protect your account and identity
Detecting counterfeits is a good first step, but you also want to protect your data and information. Your online reputation and connections are valuable business assets and should be treated as such.
If you aren’t already, make sure to regularly download your data and information from LinkedIn. This can help you in case you ever have a security breach. But there are things you can do to prevent this from happening in the first place.
• Use a strong password that is unique to LinkedIn.
• Regularly check your privacy and security settings.
• Enable two-factor authentication for your logins.
• Regularly run a reverse image search using your own profile picture to see if it shows up where it shouldn’t.
• Set up a Google Alert for your name.
• Check the number of active logins to ensure that your account is not being used by third parties without your permission.
Pro Tip: In addition to these security habits, make it a habit to review and update your profile quarterly.
LinkedIn remains one of the most powerful tools in your social media toolbox for business contacts and opportunities. Don’t let it be spoiled by fake accounts, bots or spammers.
Have a network strategy. Most of us wouldn’t walk down the street inviting random strangers over for dinner. Similarly, you should use discretion about who you invite to your network. This is your cultivated space. It’s worth taking the extra time to appreciate quality over quantity.
Finally, take the time to verify the authenticity of the account by quickly checking the profile content and network. Make sure you protect your own account. And then work on building engagement and relationships on the platform. If you do these things, I believe you will continue to see LinkedIn as an effective tool for you and your business.