And are a total pain!
I would consider myself to be a strategic online networker. I do connect with people I don’t know if their credentials look sound. Although many LinkedIn members have devised detailed ways to quiz people on their reason for connecting, I don’t have time to decide if the owner has a fake LinkedIn profile. I have preferred to give those connect requests the benefit of the doubt.
In the last two days alone, I have reported three. I have 82 invitations in my inbox unanswered, because on first viewing they seemed dubious. I haven’t got round to doing a forensic analysis of potential network requests, before clearing them out.
Integrity of the network
LinkedIn is my anchor business and social media network. I have a premium account and it is invaluable for every aspect of my professional work. So I don’t want to be conned by some data mining software, using a stock photo, trawling for email addresses or access to my network. Nor do I want to be contacted by financial services sharks, or loan and pension creeps, or anyone confusing LinkedIn with Match.com.
If I find I have comments added to my LinkedIn Pulse posts from half-naked Indian mystics, giving their phone numbers and another from someone who claimed to be the illegitimate son of a brothel keeper in Thailand (language more graphic, and I don’t want get brothel keeping spam, but you get my drift) then you have to ask how do these profiles even get set up and allowed to continue?
And before someone gets on my case about sexist comments, I blocked and reported a woman only today, because she wanted to send me private photos and a “special message.” She claimed to be the Marketing Director of a well-known brand of wine!
I need LinkedIn to protect all members, but especially paying ones, who are part of their business model for revenue generation. I would like to be sure that when I look at a profile, send an InMail, or advertise to a LinkedIn demographic, that the profiles are all genuine. It’s hard to know how many fake LinkedIn profiles there actually are. Facebook claim to have 83 million fake profiles, so with 330m members, even if it’s less than 1%, that is a high number to have lurking in our LinkedIn networks.
New levels of sophistication
But what I am also observing is superior levels of sophistication in fake LinkedIn profile creation, when it is genuinely hard to tell. I was recently sent a connection request from the CEO of a Dubai based bank, a city I visit, so it didn’t seem out-of-place. I checked the profile and although sparse, with one typo, I decided it was fine. Within moments I had an offer to have access the fortunes of a long-lost, but very dead relative! The only family member I have in Dubai is my daughter, who is clearly alive.
A few Saturdays ago, there was a flurry of activity from known network contacts as a mutual “connection” had gone on the LinkedIn equivalent of a drunk dialling rampage, sending his female contacts inappropriate messages. I wasn’t sure why, but I had suddenly become the “go-to” authority on dodgy profiles in my circle. He has now been blocked and reported. Was he genuine? Maybe he was and got LinkedIn mixed up with a dating site on a lonely Saturday night. The reality is I don’t know. He was connected to a high number of my own contacts, so I assumed when I connected, he was bona fide.
Can we really spot a fake LinkedIn profile easily?
Some say they can and others do reverse searches of time-consuming, forensic complexity. A very high percentage of LinkedIn profiles are poorly filled out or incomplete anyway. So for me, it’s actually getting harder to tell. After a quick analysis of the 82 requests lingering in my inbox, I could still observe no real consistent patterns. I recently thought I had been spammed by the CFO of a financial services organisation and cautioned the person that her contact was not in line with LinkedIn guidelines. She apologised profusely. She was a new user and hadn’t understood the etiquette.
What I would like to see from LinkedIn, is some help via a benchmark of minimum levels of profile completion before approval is given and a higher level of control. Many other sites don’t allow you to continue without complete data. If Ryan Air can do it anyone can! Semi-naked photos and brothel keepers should never make the initial cut. I recently saw a suggestion that the voluntary provision of ID could secure a verified account. Could that work? I suspect that will just make the level of fakery rise to new heights.
In the meantime I will just have to trust my instincts, which are being challenged. When in doubt I block and report.
Any ideas to solve this annoying problem?