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May 13, 2016 / Stephanie Anderson

10 red flags for spotting fake LinkedIn profiles

To effectively network on LinkedIn, you need to grow your connections. While the golden rule is to not accept anyone you don’t personally know, the reality is that many people connect with others they haven’t met. After all, business doesn’t happen in a bubble and neither does networking.

Because of this, fraud has grown tremendously on LinkedIn. Criminals make fake profiles in order to contact you for a variety of reasons. It doesn’t benefit your professional reputation to have fraudulent connects, and worse, it might cause big problems.

Most LinkedIn fraud happens via InMail. You connect with a criminal who is posing as a professional and then they send you a spam InMail, such as:

  • Recruiter seeking your personal information for a potential job
  • Romantic inquiries
  • Inheritance schemes
  • Freebies and offer claims

These types of fraudulent emails look legitimate and may contain links that have malware and viruses that can knock your computer out cold. Before you connect with anyone, it’s best to take some precautions. Here are a few red flags to look for any time someone requests to connect.

1. No picture: Most people have a head shot on their profile. If a connection lacks a photo, it’s an immediate red flag.

2. A perfect picture: Does the photo look stock? Does the person look like a model? Yes, there are a lot of attractive professionals out there, but if the picture looks like it’s plucked from the pages of a magazine, be suspect.

3. Few connections: How many connections does the person have? Several hundred or two? If you don’t know the person and they have very few connections, just say no.

4. Limited or generic information: It’s easy to copy job titles from another person or simply use generic ones. Where spammers fail is they often won’t fill in any information beyond titles. Beware the profile that lacks details about experience.

5. Questionable tag line: The tag line is the information that appears immediately after a person’s name. Does this content scream “spam”? If so, don’t connect.

6. Shared contacts: When you look, do you have any shared contacts with this person? Connections often cross over within industries, so a real person may be a second-degree contact with you already.

7. Recommendations: Not everyone activates the recommendation feature on LinkedIn, but it’s still an important feature to look for when spotting a fake profile. Only a real person will have recommendations from their network.

8. URL: Many professionals will customize their URL on LinkedIn. An account that doesn’t have a custom URL, or one that has a number that indicates it’s newer (3 million +), may be fake.

9. Exotic location: Does the location of the person seem suspect? If it feels odd that someone in Ghana would want to connect with you, trust your gut.

10. Keyword stuffing: In an effort to be more searchable, criminals create fake profiles bursting with keywords. If the profile uses too many keywords or keywords that nobody in your industry would use, consider it a warning.

For more LinkedIn networking insights, check out our post Follow, connect or get out of the way? Navigating LinkedIn relationships.