STOP Damaging Your Personal Brand & Reputation on LinkedIn With Fake Connections

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There have been a number of articles and press reports about the increasing use of LinkedIn by spammers and other types using false LinkedIn profiles.

If we are honest most of us have been there. Taken in by the deceptive profile that wants to connect on LinkedIn we accept, we might even take time to thank them.  Almost immediately the spam or phishing message comes in and we either ignore it, delete it or wish we had been more vigilant.  Maybe next time we will be.

Don’t worry, you are not alone. Many of the most connected and most professional on this network are doing the same, without knowing or perhaps, I hope not,  caring.

The profile above was……. purported to be of a professional on LinkedIn. He recently reached out to me to make a connection. But just a cursory glance immediately made me suspicious – a national insurance company with an office in Japan!

I uploaded their headshot image to Google Image Search and discovered the same image was also used on more than one LinkedIn profile as well as other websites.

Were there other phantom profiles? Sure enough I started to find some of Bryan’s ‘friends’ and, like Bryan, there seemed to be several tell tale signs.

7 Ways To Spot a False Profile

  1. Their first and last name was all in lower case or first name was in CAPS. Sometimes both first and last name started with the same letter like Donald Duck!!
  2. Their profile had very limited information. Often it did not have a summary at all or just jobs and companies but no experience detail.
  3. They were a senior executive of a large organization. Unless you are someone like d it’s unlikely the CEO of Coca Cola or the CFO of HSBC wants to connect with you. Another popular false profile job title is Recruiter.
  4. There has been no activity on their profile for the last two weeks even though sometimes they had a high number of connections. Often they were also rarely members of Groups.
  5. The headshot was obviously from a StockPhoto service or looked like it had been copied from somewhere and was blurry due to having to make it larger.
  6. Even though they had several hundred connections they had no skills endorsements or recommendations.
  7. An opposite was that many fake profiles had very low numbers of connections.

After reporting the profile to LinkedIn support for action I now make a point of posting false profiles on my updates to let others in my network know, because what was shocking was how many leading career experts and professional ‘gurus’ (some even networking and LinkedIn experts) had these types of profiles as 1st level connections.

How was this so? Maybe it was a…….

  • Case of needing to be able to say my list is bigger than your list?
  • Proactive response to the value Seth Godin places on the connection economy?
  • They are not responsible for choosing their own connections….surely not?

I get it. We want to connect. There are so many choices and demands. Your time is precious.

A number of people have asked, “Why are there false profiles on LinkedIn?”

  • They want to spam you with messages or offer you partnerships to sell products or services for them. They feel CEO or VP has more chance of a positive reaction than Sales Rep.
  • They want access to your network to make approaches and pitches
  • It’s a lazy way to build a cold call list
  • They are after your data to sell on to others your email address, twitter names etc.
  • They want to stalk you and follow your activity and who you interact with.

Some clients I have worked with, really great and successful professionals, are only just dipping their toe in to this network. The potential to forge great relationships and partnerships is just beginning for many of us.

Both LinkedIn and ourselves need to appreciate this. I think there is more that LinkedIn could potentially be doing from a technology standpoint to curtail this.  Their big reliance though is on the community to flag this type of profile.

And you should not be relying on someone else doing it so you feel you do not have to. I have recently reported a false profile but because not enough people have noticed and reported it they are continuing to add hundreds in to their network and have not been shut down.

So isn’t it worth all of us spending a few extra minutes to maintain a professional network instead of presenting the image of an online flea market?

If not we all lose. LinkedIn starts to become less valuable to us and it’s shareholders, and we will only have ourselves to blame.

5 Steps You Can Take to Avoid Damaging Your Personal Brand & Reputation With False Connections

Step 1 – Read Profiles

Carefully read through the potential connections profile. How complete is it? In reading a professional networking profile you should be able to get a fairly good sense of who this person is. What they have achieved in their various roles and companies. Most of the profiles I found only had one position on their profile with no details and very little other information. An immediate red flag.

Step 2 – Who Do They Know?

See who else in your network, especially 1st level contacts, is already connected to this person. Get in touch with 2 or 3 of those connections and ask them what they know about this person. They might end up embarrassed, but also grateful.

Step 3 – Do I Know You?

If Step 2 is not possible then send a note back to the person looking to connect with you. Ask them to refresh your memory as to how you know them. Often this is a genuine reach out, or you have forgotten or someone referred you, but better to ask. If you do not get a reply chances are the person is trawling or a phantom, but remember most people are not checking LinkedIn every day.

Step 4 – Check Images

Copy and save the image and upload it toGoogle Image Search or TinEye Reverse Image Search. See where else the image appears. I just did that with a recent request for another connection and this helped quickly to confirm them as genuine and appearing in several professional websites.

Step 5 – Report Them

Help everyone else not have the same issue. I found 6 such profiles in just 15 minutes and have taken the time to report the profile. If you do find what you believe to be a phantom profile, let LinkedIn know. You can do that right on the original request to connect. Or you can use these simple instructions from LinkedIn to flag the profile as inappropriate.

And What About You?

Upload your own headshot in to the image search at Google or TinEye and check that your profile picture is not being misused. I just found an old one of mine was not only being used on another blog (a marketing and advertising one no less) without my permission, but they had also edited it. Wonder if they will notice my calling them on it here?

Question: What steps do you take to be sure the connections you make are genuine?

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