Fake profiles are become more common on social media sites, including LinkedIn. I recently published a piece on how to spot fake profiles and what you should do if you identify one – here is the link.
Now, I dive a little deeper into the world of fake social media accounts so we can better understand why somebody would want one and how we can protect ourselves from them.
If you’re wondering why someone might want a fake profile, you’ve come to the right place. Fake profiles across all social media are more common than you might think and there is a range of reasons why they are used.
There are many, here are just 6 ways in which a fake profile can be used:
Collecting your email address and creating databases
This isn’t as easy as it once was, but it is still possible. People will create a fake account to connect with other users, grabbing their contact details and building a database for commercial purposes.
Phishing and scamming using the messenger function
Online scams come in many different forms and social media is no exception. If a user is initiating a phishing attack or scam, this will often be done through the messenger function in an attempt to seem more authentic. An example of this is sending a link or file via the messenger function.
Offering fake jobs
Fake profiles are sometimes created as a channel to post fake jobs. Why post a fake job? Well, there are several reasons. The user might be trying to collect your email, save your resume on file for future use, or simply test the job market waters. It could also be for something more sinister, like identity theft.
Spying on competitors
This one probably won’t come as a surprise, but fake profiles are a way to take a look at the competition without letting them know you are watching. Some people will create a fake profile, jump online and learn exactly what they are up against and what material they can use for themselves.
Avoiding comprising their account
Not playing by the rules? Creating a fake account minimises the risk associated with unacceptable behaviour as it won’t impact a user’s original account.
Reviews play such an important role in modern business. If a company is new with limited reviews or have received some negative attention, they might get some users to create fake profiles so that they can post fake positive reviews about their products or services.
If I accept a fake profile invitation, what damage can it do me?
Fake profiles are typically created with negative intent. Whether it is a dishonest way to collect emails for business purposes or something more malicious, it’s worth keeping your digital distance.
If you accept a fake profile invitation, you put yourself at risk for potentially harmful data collection. For instance, if you apply for a fake job, you will be providing any personal details to the user of the fake profile through your resume and application documents.
A person could use these details in a damaging way, depending on their particular intentions. On one end of the scale, you could be unknowingly providing your contact information for a marketing database, but on the other, it could lead to something much more serious like the theft of your identity.
How to protect your profile from being hacked?
To minimise the dangers associated with fake profiles and hacking, there are a number of steps you can take.
Step 1 – Don’t download any files that look ‘not quite right’
If it looks strange, it probably is. In this instance, it really is better to be safe than sorry so only open trusted downloads.
Step 2 – Put a two-step security verification on your LinkedIn account
Make it harder for people to access your account by setting up two-step verification. Adding an extra layer of security will help keep your details secure.
Step 3 – Change your password and don’t leave your LinkedIn consistently logged in
Another way to protect your account is to change your password regularly. Always log out of your account when you are done using it to reduce the chance of someone else accessing it.
Step 4 – Periodically clear extra sessions
To clear saved data, make it a habit to manually clear the data from your browser. It will ensure your details don’t remain in the system where someone can get them.
If you are using LinkedIn, or any social media, there’s a good chance you will eventually come across a fake profile, but it doesn’t mean you have to be afraid. Understanding why someone might use a fake profile will ensure you are better prepared to identify one and undertake safety measures to protect yourself.
Kylie Chown is the current #2 LinkedIn expert in Asia-Pac, 2021 and 2020 Finalist Best Social Media Educator & Best Use of LinkedIn, Australia’s first Certified Social Media Crisis Advisor and founder of My Digital Brand, helping professionals, businesses and corporates create a world-class digital brand.
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