Fake LinkedIn (and other social media) profiles have become alarmingly common and alarmingly real.

Today, sophisticated methods such as data scraping are being utilised to create realistic profiles based on real people, fooling online users into believing these profiles are genuine and that they belong to an actual person.

Even those of us who believe we have no secrets to divulge can fall victim to data scraping, so it’s important to remain vigilant online!

The thing I am hearing more often is, ‘how can I spot a fake profile?’.

Well, they certainly won’t be wearing a mask on their LinkedIn profile picture or have it in their headline! These profiles have been designed to seem real and the tell-tale signs aren’t likely to be obvious. That being said, there are a few things you can look out for.

Here are some of the signs of a fake profile – these are not definitive triggers, more signs of what to look for :

● Overly attractive profile pictures – If an individual’s profile picture looks like a professional model shot, it could be fake! Many fake profiles feature an attractive individual photo, and it could be male or female.

 Employment histories to die for! – If something appears too good to be true, it probably is. 25 years old and CEO at Google and Microsoft? Questionable!

● Dubiously good education – Same goes for education. If an individual has completed an extensive list of post-graduate studies and they are in their early 20s, it’s worth investigating.

● No Recommendations or Skills – A profile without recommendations or skills CAN be a sign of a new user or an incomplete profile, but if the individual appears well connected and still lacks these things, it maybe a fake.

● No ‘About’ or ‘Featured’ section – A fake profile typically has neither of these sections or if it does, the information outlined is inaccurate.

● No or very little genuine engagement – Not a lot of action on the page? This might be because it’s not a real user!

Many people use mutual connections as a way of assessing the authenticity of a profile, but if you take one thing away from this post it should be this top tip – having mutual connections is NOT an indication of authenticity!

A lot of users accept connection requests from everyone, even fake profiles. Just because somebody you know is connected to another user, doesn’t mean that the other account is real.

So, what should you do if you suspect a fake profile?

I think it’s worth spending a few seconds checking every request to connect to verify the profile is real. If you want to investigate further to ensure an account is authentic you can:

1) Reverse image check – If you suspect a profile photo has been scraped from someone else’s online information, you can do a reverse image search through Google. That way, you will know if an image has been sourced from somewhere, or someone, else.

2) Review profile information – An serious LinkedIn user will have a robust profile with detailed information outlining their skills, past employment, volunteering contributions, and industry qualifications.

The internet can be a misleading place but having a better understanding of fake profiles will help you to navigate LinkedIn more effectively.

If you do suspect a fake LinkedIn profile you can report it to LinkedIn by:

1) Clicking the More icon on the member’s profile.

2) Clicking Report/Block.

3) Selecting Report this profile in the What do you want to do? pop-up window.

4) Selecting the applicable reason for flagging the profile.

5) Clicking Submit to proceed .

Remember to keep the signs in mind and always check connection requests before accepting – you can have the benefits of LinkedIn and reduce your risk.

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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