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You may have recently read about Facebook having over 83 Million fake accounts, which amounts to 8.7% of the Facebook site. That seems like a significant slice but these include duplicates (46m or 4.8%) and what Facebook are calling “user-“misclassified” (almost 23m or 2.4%) which are usually non-persons i.e somebody’s pet. So we learn that only 14m of all Facebook users (1.5%) are ne’er-do-wells who use a bogus account as cover for some dodgy behavior, of one flavor or another.


One could take the view that a professional networking site like LinkedIn is a somewhat more attractive target than a pure social chin-wag site like Facebook. The only verification step you need to build a Profile on LinkedIn is an email address, too simple really. So let’s assume that not everyone who you see is really who they purport to be on LinkedIn. It’s quite likely in fact that you will come across a fake. This guide will help you to spot them. Why is that important? To protect you from whatever they are in the fakery business for.



(1) The Picture looks too good to be true – some of us have a great eye for spotting catalogue or stock pictures, if you have any doubts at all, do a Google search on “TinEye” (great reverse image search site) or use Google’s own excellent ‘search by image’ tool:


If the person turns out to not match the original picture, congrats – you have spotted a fake.


(2) Lack of Connections – often but not always, the faker is not interested in building connections, this means that they often have less than 10 Connections. Low connections is either someone just starting in the LinkedIn platform or they are fake. You decide which label fits.


(3) Incomplete Profile – spammers in particular are not keen to fill out a Profile, it takes too long (and they usually start and discard multiple or ‘phantom’ profiles over their career) and can out them if they provide too much ‘fake’ data.


(4) Heavy on Groups – Groups are the primary port of entry for most spam-artists and scammers, since they allow unfettered access to all fellow Group members. Fake Profiles on LinkedIn therefore usually have incomplete sections but complete (i.e the 50 group maximum) Group membership lists.


(5) Profiles are disjointed – if the fake has bothered to fill out the Profile, it’s highly likely that they have made mistakes by overshooting on highly regarded institutions (Harvard, MIT, Cambridge etc.) but lacking the specifics on areas such as educational achievement, career roles, and skills. If you sense that a Profile is potted, imprecise and does not flow, then your gut is probably right.


(6) Zero Recommendations – the faker almost never bothers to get Recommendations because it can get them trapped in the web they weave.


(7) Google is your best friend – for helping you to decide ultimately if the person you are viewing is fake or not. By searching on someone’s name and adding key information like their job title and current or prior employer, you should be able to determine their authenticity.


At the end of the day, you can choose what to do with a fake on LinkedIn. You can certainly report the Profile to LinkedIn and feel reassured that the cogs of security will grind on and deal with the abuser eventually, or you can message 5 of your LinkedIn friends tell them the fake identity and ask them to report also, thereby speeding up the process, a little.


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That’s all from me for this week. Please take a few moments to share this article with your network. I read and respond to all comments.

By Andy Foote