To say we are living in one of the most competitive and challenging of times would be an understatement. The issue is far more complex than one could imagine. Each year millions of students are graduating from institutions around the world. These candidates are more skilled and employable than ever before but the fluctuating and volatile economic situation, the changing labour rules and immigration norms, changing political scenarios; coupled with various other factors have made things increasingly challenging for these skilled job seekers. Competition is ripe and opportunities are less. In this scenario Social media boom has become such a blessing for job seekers - to stand out from the crowd, find the right employment and be found by the right employer.
A recent article on a very popular business website said ‘93% of recruiters and 38 percent of job seekers are using LinkedIn’. Professional business networking sites like LinkedIn, XING and Viadeo have become extremely popular among both job seekers and employers alike. Unfortunately, this has also attracted the attention of a new breed of professional frauds and scammers and given way to a new trend of HR scams. A section of people are using LinkedIn to trap desperate job seekers and are tricking them into parting with their personal information. The info gathered in this method is sold offf to database companies. A more serious aspect of this scamming practice is that besides info stealing the scammers also make gullible job seekers click links (shortened using URL shortners) to malicious websites . Clicking such links results in the computer automatically downloading keystroke logging Malware – which can steal all the information from the computer and lead users to becoming victims of identity theft.
A detailed look at most job groups on LinkedIn will reveal that the boards are filled with countless bogus recruitment offers on a daily basis. Scammers have found this a viable option of tricking people who are looking for job.
LinkedIn is a professional network that claims they have over 225 million professional’s profiles online. We are not sure how many of those 225 million profiles are probably ‘bots’, fake profiles created by unscrupulous people for nefarious purposes. Bitdefender, maker of anti-malware software recently warned about a new virulent campaign on LInkedIn that lures victims with exciting job offers from the fake profile of an attractive female recruiter.
The very nature of online networking means establishing connections with strangers based on the information they provide on their professional profiles. We are not so sure this information is authentic and are left with little means to verify whether it is 100 percent true. We go by face value and this is precisely what the fraudsters are trying to capitalize on. The ease with which one could pick a random models picture from Google images and create a fake professional profile has increased this problem, but then there are ways to handle such people online and this is what I am going to talk about below.
I helped expose a major HR scam in UAE in 2012 which got featured in most leading news portals across UAE incl Al Jazeera, Arabian Business, Arabian Gazette, Sail, Reputed Blogs Two years have passed since I conducted an agressive Social media crusade against fake profiles but the problem largely remains and perhaps has gotten even worse. In this article I am going to examine why such fake profiles exist, what are the signs of such fake profiles, and how you can spot such fakes online.
Why do people create fake profiles on LinkedIn?
With an extensive research on this topic, I’ve figured out the below are some of the most common reasons why people create fake profiles on LinkedIn. The below are just examples in no particular order:
- To disguise true identity ( As obvious as it sounds, some people try not to reveal their true identity to prospects ; for instance Human resources professionals who are known to lead people into opportunities often don’t wish to reveal their real name to prospects)
- To gather email addresses for data base and spam lists (Have you received marketing, promotional and other spam emails and wondered how the sender managed to get your email address?)
- To present a more enticing and desirable image ( For instance : There are some male marketers out there who pose as females, for the obvious reason that men are more attracted to good looking female profiles, and it makes their job easier to approach men and close sales)
- To gather a huge network of connections which could possibly be traded for cash to companies ( In today’s world information and connections are key to success)
- To appear more qualified or successful (For instance : People claiming to be alumni at a famous University or ex employer of a fortune 500 company lands them chance to connect with someone who would not have accepted the connection otherwise)
- To insult or attack a rival company posing as/ pretending to be a whistleblower or to impersonate employee of a rival company and issue public insults in their name
What are the signs of a LinkedIn fake profile?
The signs of fake profiles are varied and generally fall into the following issues/categories based on my own understanding of this. However please take into consideration that the below signs individually do not indicate a fake profile, but multiple signs within a single profile vastly increase the chances of the profile being fake.
- Name issues
- Picture issues
- Education issues
- Employment issues
1. Name issues:
Name issues are within the name of the suspect profile.
- Generic name like Steward Williams, John Smith, Simon Peter etc
- Usage of Lower case first and last name (I easily spot fake profiles based on this charecteristic)
- Rhythmic names like Sam Smith, Joe Johnson, Shane Lee etc sounding straight out of a Novel or Movie. Basically, if the name looks like one of those "from" names you find in spam e-mail, it's suspicious.
- Clearly Implausible names like Jovito Estera for a female (which is clearly obviously an eastern male name)
- Strange Sounding company names like eg "bei MaE Service Agency" found on a fake recruiters profile (pic below). Some fake profiles use real companies especially fortune 500 ones, others use fictional company names
- Badly capitalized names (all lower case, or ALL CAPS, or just bad caps). People who can't spell their own names or capitalize their own names right are probably bots. At the minimum they are unprofessional.
2) Picture issues:
Picture issues are within the suspect profile picture itself. The fake profile pictures could be stolen from many different places. Initially people just copied photos of famous celebrities. Later they started to copy photos of CEOs of popular companies, socialites and from stock photo services such as Getty Images. Using photographs models stolen from fashion and film websites are also very common. By a simple Google Reverse image search (dragging an image and dropping it onto the Google images search box) - one can find the source of the image and similar images on the internet. This often leads to the legit profile in most cases. One could also use TinEye.com which helps to find the real source of an image.
Fake profile photos generally have one or more of the following characteristics:
- Photos that seem to be way too professional... or Unprofessional
- Photos that are too "posed" are clearly suspect.
- Obvious Stock Photo
- Clearly implausible photo
- Obvious Star Photo (Many fake profiles used movie stars, TV stars, sports stars, and more recently fake profiles in UAE showed up with pictures of Sheikhs and other royalty both living and dead!
- No photo at all (If they don't want to show their face, you probably don't want to connect with them)
3. Education Issues
Fake profiles often have problem with listing about their education. Very often, fake profiles list top class universities, generic name universities, or sometimes don’t list any universities or educational information at all.
Here are some of the signs of a fake education:
- Education at Generic Name Universities or Colleges (ex: Art Centre College of Design)
- Education at prestigious Universities or institutions - that cannot be verified through alumni records, or other references
- No major or specialization listed
- No time listed for college attendance
- Education timeline does not add up
- No education listed at all
4. Employment Issues
Fake Profiles on LinkedIn, often have fake references as anybody can claim to have worked for any company, even if that company has a presence on LinkedIn itself. Most fakers are not that bold though. They will simply make up a name for their alleged place of employment.
Here are the signs of fake employment history:
- Only current job listed and no employment history
- The Employment timeline that does not add up
- Employment at obviously fake company ex Vaneffen Consults. There is no such company and the lady’s image as shown below in the illustration is from iStock Photos.
- Employment at Generic Name companies
- Employment at prestigious companies that cannot be verified through human resources or any sort of third-party sources (company website, published articles, company newsletters and/or recognitions, and so on).
- Employment at nowhere in particular (i.e. no company specified).
Sings of a fake profile - The Red Flags
Suspect Fake Profile Analysis 1
What's wrong with the above profile?
- Unprofessional Photo (The Google search led me to hot blogs in Pakistan)
- Education not listed
- Details of past employment not mentioned
- No description of job responsibilities
- No links to website, blog or twitter
- No recommendations (LinkedIn requires that you at least have 3 recommendations)
- No other information whatsoever, other than the person’s name and company name.
Suspect Fake Profile Analysis 2
Here is an illustration of how to verify whether a profile is fake or real. When in doubt follow these simple steps. Enjoy the full benefits of LinkedIn and find a rewarding career while staying safe from online scammers and Dubious HR’s
LinkedIn Original Post: http://goo.gl/ngckI9
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