Updated January 2015  The continuing popularity of this post tells me I’m not the only one bothered by all the fake profiles on LinkedIn. I’ll keep the updates coming whenever I get new information.

Why did I write this post? I get connection requests from fake profiles on LinkedIn every day. Whether you realize it or not, you’re getting them, too. They’ve caused me to rethink my entire LinkedIn strategy. I’m going to try to convince you to do the same.

Recently, I tweeted this question to LinkedIn:

Here’s what they said:

So there you have it. LinkedIn does try to filter out the fakes, but they’re also relying on us to highlight questionable profiles so they can take a closer look at them.

The wisdom around connecting on LinkedIn used to be: Make your network as wide as possible. Connect with everyone indiscriminately because you never know. That obscure connection in Uganda might be connected to the global VP you’ll want to meet next year.

Fast forward a few years… I’ve got more than 2,000 connections, some of whom I’m realizing are fakes. They got into my network because I used to participate in open networking. You may have heard of it referred to as LION – LinkedIn Open Networking. The premise of LION was that the more people you’re connected to, the better your chances are of being able to secure an invitation to someone you’d really like to meet. For recruiters, this is very attractive. However, since I became aware of the number of fake profiles on LinkedIn, I stopped doing it.

Although it’s rare to see anyone advertise their LION habit anymore, I know people are still doing it because some of the fake profiles that ask me to link have already been accepted by people in my network.

How To Spot A Fake LinkedIn Profile

It’s pretty easy if you’re willing to give it a couple of minutes. Yesterday, I received a connection invitation containing a photo that I knew was on a fake profile a couple of weeks ago. That one was easy. Usually you have to look for red flags. Typically a fake profile will have multiple problems; so don’t assume you’re looking at a fake if there’s only one troubling item. Send them a note, instead, to ask what made them reach out to you. If they’re legitimate, you’ve made a new connection. If not…

Red Flags

  • Name misspelled or capitalization is wrong
  • Job title doesn’t make sense (chemical instead of chemist)
  • Very few connections
  • Only one job
  • Profile photo is identified as belonging to someone else (In Chrome, right click on photo and select ‘search Google for this image’)
  • Multiple jobs but timeline makes no sense
  • Jobs with global companies but they don’t make sense in the context of their probable age or location
  • Problem with education timeline when compared with work timeline
  • Career summary reads like a textbook description of a job family. Example: Customer Service Representatives help make a company’s services better understood or more easily accessed by customers.

Here’s Why You Should Care About Fake Profiles on LinkedIn

Cultivate a powerful LinkedIn network by being a discriminating connector.There are no good or legitimate reasons to perpetrate a fraud on your network by taking on a fake identity. Each person who accepts an invitation from a fake LinkedIn profile is helping someone who’s up to no good. When you connect with these fakes, the next person in your network may be fooled based on seeing that you’ve accepted the individual into your network.

One article I read this morning said that some of these fake profiles belong to recruiters. I’m not so sure about that. I’ve worked with recruiters right across the country and have never encountered one who would do something as skanky as that. Have you ever heard of recruiters doing this? Personally, I would distance myself from any recruiting firm or recruiter who engages in deception of any form. Side note: I do know a couple of people who use a made up name with a funny photo or team mascot pic. I don’t find these troubling as they’re not trying to fool anyone into thinking they’re a business person.

why do people take the time to create fake profiles and connect with hundreds of business people?

We’ll never know for sure, but here are a few possible reasons:

  • Hide the identity of a known fraud or felon
  • Create an email database for promotional campaigns
  • Create an email database to be sold to others
  • Gather information on contacts for identity theft
  • Inflate the size and expertise of a company by creating numerous fake employees with many connections
  • Use a fake persona for industrial espionage or to publish unflattering comments about the competition

Connecting with these profiles erodes the value of everyone’s network. It plays into the hands of people who are up to no good. Let’s not help them. Are you with me?

Keep LinkedIn professional. Learn how to spot fake profiles.click to tweet

Another article you might enjoy is “Will Fake Profiles Be The Death of LinkedIn?” by Jim Love. He shares some interesting examples of fake profiles.

Despite all my complaints about fake profiles, I do enjoy networking on LinkedIn. Send me an invitation. I’d love to meet you.


Correction:This post, when originally published in August 2013, contained screen grabs of a profile I had decided was not legitimate. A reader named John Smith found that this person actually exists. He wasn’t a fake at all! Fortunately, I had removed the profile name and placed black bars across the photo so that he couldn’t be identified. I’m very grateful that Mr. Smith took the time to leave a comment here.


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37 thoughts on “How To Recognize Fake LinkedIn Profiles (and Why You Should Care)

    1. Hi Rene,

      I read your article – thanks for writing it. The more people who are aware of the problem, the harder it will become for the fake profiles to proliferate. Thanks, too, for taking the time to leave a comment here.

      Susan

      Like

  1. About fake recruiters
    I am pretty sure many recruiters are fake. Having connections with an unknown guy is pretty ok if he is a recruiter. I got this guy that entered my profile, he did not ask me the connection but being him a recruiter I a sure there are people that ask for the connection . I check if the companies he worked for actually exist, not at all.

    Like

    1. Hi Aldo – You could be right. I don’t personally know any recruiters who would create a fake profile but who really knows? I’m so glad you stopped by today and took the time to leave a comment. Thank you.

      Like

  2. I’m not so sure your assumption that the LinkedIn profile is a fake based on a few spelling mistakes is correct. A little more research would prove otherwise: (link removed)

    BTW…I’m not sure how this guy would like you calling him a fake).

    Like

    1. Hi John, thank you so much for writing. You are absolutely correct. I jumped the gun on this one. I hope my error won’t discourage readers from checking out all invitations from unknown persons before allowing them access to the legitimate people in our networks.

      Like

  3. Thank you for this highly informative article.

    I am from Montreal, Quebec and I noticed 2 grammar/spelling errors, that ARE unfortunately pretty well accepted here in Quebec.

    1 – The reference letter says: Hani is a detail oriented and graceful and positive attitude controller. The phrase needs a comma after the word ‘attitude’. (this note appears to have been written by someone whose grammar may not be the best, and/or whose first language is NOT English. What they mean to say is that the person has a positive attitude.

    2 – The word used to describe him as being a CONTROLLER. Us English people know that the correct word to describe a management finance position is Comptroller. But the french people here in Quebec say and spell the word: Controller or controlleur.

    Since I am living in Montreal, I am not so sure that I would have taken into account these 2 grammatical errors in the overall investigation of a possible fake persona.

    I am still glad to know some of things to look out for in order to protect ourselves.

    Like

    1. Hi Diane,

      You’re making a very good point; one single error should never be construed as proof that the profile is fake. Recommendations written by people whose native tongue is other than English may contain words that look odd to us but are honest. If the profile didn’t have many other errors, I would have taken my next step, which is to write to the person.

      That happened to me yesterday. I rec’d an invitation from someone in the U.S. – a VP with Citibank. His Twitter profile pointed to a woman named Sandra — which I thought was odd but still wasn’t sure, so I wrote to him. He turned out to be legitimate. He had simply misspelled his Twitter handle on the profile.

      Thanks for reminding us that it’s good to be cautious, but not to take it too far.

      Like

    1. Hi Heather – Don’t feel bad. I probably have a few in my network, too. Personally, I don’t think it’s worthwhile to actually go through and scrub them out. Unless you only have 30 or 40 connections total… It could take you forever. Being on the lookout in the future is awesome. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Like

  4. Susan this is great information. I will pretty much connect with anyone that asks…assuming they appear to be real and their profile is complete. But I never really bothered to dig deeper and actually READ their information. I’ll definitely be paying closer attention from here on out.

    Like

  5. Wow, never even thought of this. I know I’ve ahd some people attempt to connect with me on Facebook, have no friends or only women. Those are red flags to me. Or someone wants to join my art group and they have no friends and only belong to groups – red flags. I’ll be more watchful now and may review a few of my contacts. Thank you.

    Julieanne Case
    Always from the heart!

    Reconnecting you to your Original Blueprint, Your Essence, Your Joy| Healing you from the Inside Out |Reconnective Healing | The Reconnection| Reconnective Art |

    http://thereconnectivehighway.com

    Like

  6. Susan, I had no idea that this went on! (do I feel a bit naive?!)
    I do get quite a lot of requests for connections on, and I decided some time ago that I would be quite discerning about who I accepted on LinkedIn because it is, I think, a professional more than a social network. I actually have a lot of requests I’ve not yet accepted or looked at … But … now I shall put aside a little time and go and view them VERY carefully!!
    I guess that is a downside to our social world now, that there are some undesirables out there up to the games you mentioned above, and it makes me feel a bit sick that people will take advantage of others in this way … but it is a fact of life and we can only be true to our own values to be comfortable in our businesses.
    Your snips from the profile above are a good pointer as to what to look for Susan – have you seen any with fake testimonials?
    I guess we follow our instincts and your guidelines to manage our connections:)
    A REALLY Enlightening post, thanks 🙂
    Jacs

    Like

    1. Hi Jacs,
      On your question about the testimonials: yes, some of the fake profiles have fake testimonials. Sometimes the biggest give away is that the recommendation doesn’t match the profile in any way. For instance, someone might get recommended as a great chemist but the profile says they’re a programmer. The fakers are probably counting on our scanning quickly and not really reading what’s in there. Too bad I didn’t take your cautious approach. I’m sure I let quite a few in before I caught on.

      Like

    1. Hi Suzie — People like us who are sincere about building community are the ones most surprised by this. We’d never consider abusing connections. That’s probably how I ended up with so many fakers in my network! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Like

    1. Hi Jamie, I’ve had quite a few people say that to me today. Maybe this one would be a good post to circulate to more people can be made aware. I considered myself a pretty savvy LinkedIn user but I didn’t realize the scope of the problem until I started digging in a little. Hope you’re enjoying a nice summer day where you are!

      Like

  7. Ouch. I’m so trusting I assume everyone is ok (apart from all those USA army generals who have no friends and so much time on their hands they want to chat with me on Skype). I’ll have a better look next time someone I don’t know pops up in my box.

    Like

    1. Hi Tilla – It’s natural that we would put more faith in invitations on a professional network. I never used to check, so don’t feel bad. One negative to checking everyone out that I didn’t think to put in the article is the added time it now takes to deal with invitations. I get several every day which eats up a good 15 minutes. Yeesh!

      Like

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