How to Protect Yourself Against the Most Common LinkedIn Scams
LinkedIn has grown to become the most popular social network for professionals, with over 645 million users in more than 200 countries worldwide.
With so many people using the platform, it is not surprising that internet scams, which have taken root in most other social media platforms, have also found their way to LinkedIn.
Here, scammers lure unsuspecting users – most of whom are eagerly looking for opportunities to advance their careers – with exciting opportunities that carry the promise of great rewards.
For a lot of people, such opportunities are hard to pass.
Due to the digital trust that LinkedIn has managed to build, most users trust that everyone using the site is a professional and are therefore not as guarded as they are on other social media platforms, making them even more susceptible to the scams being perpetrated on LinkedIn.
The fact that LinkedIn also lacks the verified status feature makes it easier for scammers to impersonate public figures and defraud users.
As much as we wish that LinkedIn would remain the safe, trustworthy platform it has always been, the sad reality is that these scammers and spammers are here to stay, and we can expect that they will keep devising new ways of defrauding unsuspecting online users.
Therefore, the only way to keep yourself safe is to be on the lookout and learn how to identify and protect yourself from these scammers.
To help you keep yourself even as you continue building your professional network and searching for opportunities to advance your career, we have compiled for you a list of some of the most common LinkedIn scams, as well as how to protect yourself from these scams.
As the saying goes, knowledge is power.
SCAM 1: FAKE PROFILES
This scam basically involves someone creating a fake account pretending to be someone they are not.
For instance, a scammer might create a fake profile pretending to be a senior person in a well-known company, or even pretend to be someone you know.
Here, the aim of the scammer is to gain your trust. If you receive a connection request from someone who looks like your colleague from down the hallway, there is a high chance you will accept their request.
Fake profiles are the basis of most other LinkedIn scams.
Once they become part of your network, they will then use this trust to scam you, either by sending you fake job offers, sending your malicious links that install viruses and malware on your computer, spamming you, and so on.
The key to protect yourself from such people is to learn how to spot and identify fake profiles. Below are some indicators that a LinkedIn might be fake.
Scammers tend to use common names like John, James, Jane, David, and so on when creating fake profiles.
This is because people are unlikely to be suspicious of such common names. In other words, they use these names simply because the help them blend in.
Be on the lookout for such common names, especially if it’s someone you don’t know or can’t remember meeting.
Of course, this is not to say that everyone with a common-sounding name is a scammer and that you should therefore turn down every such connection request.
All I am saying is that you should do your due diligence before accepting this person into your professional network.
Display Picture/ Profile Picture
Thieves like hiding behind masks so as not to get caught. In real life, it is almost impossible to find an armed robber going to rob without a mask, especially if they expect to encounter people or security cameras.
The same applies in the digital world.
Since they don’t want to be caught, scammers are never going to use their real photos.
However, leaving their fake profiles without a profile picture will already make the profile look suspicious.
Therefore, they will find and use pictures that other people have uploaded online. In some cases, they might use photos of beautiful women while targeting male users or handsome men while targeting women.
When you receive a connect request from someone whose face you cannot actually remember, it’s strongly advised that you do a quick search to find out if the person is who they are claiming to be.
How do you do this?
Through a Google reverse image search.
If you are using chrome, right click on the image and click search Google for image. If not using chrome, you can search the picture through Google images.
The search will help determine if there exists similar images and the websites that contain them.
This will help you determine whether the profile picture is legitimate or if it is stolen.
If the image appears in multiple sites under different users, then this is a clear sign that it is a stolen image and the profile behind it is definitely a scam.
We earlier talked about due diligence. When you receive a connect request it’s important that you dig through the person’s profile.
Find out the number of connections this person has. It’s always unlikely that the scammer will have many connections.
Go further to find out if they have connections in the company they claim to belong in. It would will be strange if they have no connection with other people working for the same company. This is a serious red flag.
The number of shared connections between you and the person can also help you to determine whether the profile is legitimate or fake.
Sometimes, however, the shared connections might check out, especially if they used your connections to get to you.
Scammers are likely to list fake companies with fancy names with the aim of piquing your interest.
Do a background check of the company a new connect request claims to work for.
Find out if this company really exists. Is it listed elsewhere? Can you find it on Google?
If your search turns up negative, run!
Sometimes, however, a scammer might claim to be working for a company that exists, which means that you will find the company on Google. In this case, watch for the other red flags we have discussed.
The only person who will back up a scammer is another scammer.
Therefore, if you receive a connect request from someone who looks suspicious, go through their endorsements and try to determine whether those who have endorsed them also look suspicious. If most of them look suspicious, you are definitely dealing with a scammer.
Most of these fake profiles will have work histories that are just plain absurd or don’t add up.
Watch out for profiles that have too many promotions within small timelines in their work experience or those that have held too many senior positions that seem fishy.
It’s unlikely that someone with a fake account will belong to any closed group or participate in open group discussions.
With LinkedIn being a professional networking site, many closed groups verify their members before admission, therefore a fake account will find it hard to get into such groups.
Since open groups are open to just anyone, some fake profiles may join such groups in an attempt to make themselves appear legitimate.
However, if you notice that a profile belongs to many open groups and has very little information filled out, this could be an indicator that the profile is fake.
Fake accounts tend to connect with many connections as they can never determine where they will make a kill. They are basically hedging their bets.
Be wary if you receive a connection request that has listed a certain skill set in their profile that doesn’t match your profession.
LinkedIn is for professionals, and it is very unlikely that they will have slip ups in form of spelling mistakes in their profiles. Once you encounter a profile that has spelling mistakes, this should be cause for concern.
Sometimes it might be an honest mistake but dig further for other suspicious activities because if they were stupid enough to make the spelling errors, chances are they have slipped up elsewhere.
Contact requests from people who hold very senior positions compared to yourself should clearly be a sign of trouble.
It is human nature to be inclined to accept the contact request from high ranking people, which is why the scammer will use the job title to pique your interest.
Sometimes it is wise to just stop and try putting things into perspective.
Do you think the CEO of some big company will just send you a contact request from nowhere? Imagine Jeff Bezos sending a connection request out of the blues to a kid who just completed college. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
To improve your chances of connecting with other relevant professionals, LinkedIn encourages users to fill in as much information about themselves as possible.
LinkedIn uses the amount of information on your profile to come up with a profile strength level, with users being encouraged to go for 100% profile completeness.
In most cases, however, scammers will not take the time to fill all relevant information on their fake profiles.
Therefore, you will find that most fake accounts have scanty information filled out in their profile. If someone has too little information on their profile, treat this as a cause for suspicion.
Of course, there is no guarantee that fake profiles will have scanty information, since the scammer might steal or duplicate the information of a legitimate person.
Therefore, it is up to you to remain vigilant when connecting with people you don’t know personally.
If you notice that a profile has one or more of the red flags discussed above, you should proceed with caution, since there is a high likelihood that the profile is fake and the person behind it is a scammer.
SCAM 2: IDENTITY THEFT
This is another reason why you should be very careful about accepting connection requests from fake profiles.
Once you accept a connect request from a fake account, you have given them access to all of your information and there is little you can do to protect yourself.
The scammer can then steal your information and use the information to create a fake profile pretending to be you. Using this profile, they might then dupe your connections and scam them, leaving all the blame on you.
You will be left with the task of proving that you are not the scammer, and your trustworthiness will be impacted.
Sometimes, scammers might also approach you with exciting opportunities once you have accepted their connection request. They might ask you for personal information such as your name, email address and phone number.
These requests might not seem suspicious because of the opportunity attached to the request.
Once you provide the information, the scammer might then use your information to steal your identity and commit crimes, leaving you culpable to criminal charges.
Strangely enough, some users have gone ahead to even giving out their bank details to scammers they thought were legitimate connections.
SCAM 3: FAKE OPPORTUNITIES OR FAVORS
In some cases, a scammer might hide their malicious intents under the guise of being helpful. For instance, a scammer might study your profile, know what industry you work in, and know the kind of things you are interested in
For example, if you are a Machine Learning professional, the scammer might send you a link to some “new research about machine learning.” Unfortunately, the link does not lead to any machine learning research.
Once you click on the link, it will redirect you to another site that will download malware into your computer, giving the scammer access to your computer and allowing them to harvest your personal data.
SCAM 4: PHISHING
Phishing refers to a scam where scammers try to gain access to important information by pretending to be someone with authority or someone you trust.
In most cases, phishers dupe people by sending out emails that look like they came from a site or organization you trust.
For instance, in the case of LinkedIn, the scammers will send you an email that will appear to have been sent by the LinkedIn team. In the email, they will tell you something that is meant to spur you to take immediate action.
For instance, they might tell you that you have a message, or that someone tried to hack your account.
They will then ask you to login to LinkedIn to read the message or secure the account. Below the message will be a link you can use to login to your account.
Once you click on the link, you will be redirected to a page that looks exactly like the LinkedIn login page.
Unfortunately, this page is not the genuine LinkedIn login page, and any information you enter on this page (your login details) will become accessible to the scammers.
They can then log into your account and use it to perpetrate other scams.
The key to protect yourself from phishing attacks is to be very vigilant. If you receive an email that claims to be from LinkedIn, double check the email address it was sent from to confirm that it is actually from LinkedIn.
If you have any reason to be suspicious, instead of clicking on the link within the email, open LinkedIn on your browser or mobile app and log in from there. If you have already clicked on the link, check the URL and confirm that is it indeed the LinkedIn URL.
SCAM 5: FAKE JOB OFFERS
Everyone on LinkedIn is there to build their professional network and look for opportunities to advance their career. Therefore, scammers know that people are highly vulnerable to fake job offers.
They are always almost certain that people will fall for these offers.
The most common case is where a ‘job recruiter’ contacts you, outlining the details of a certain high paying job they have.
The ‘job recruiter’ goes ahead to assure you that with this type of work you can do it anywhere with an internet connection and that its 100% legitimate.
If you seem interested in the job, this is where the scam will come into play. For instance, they might either ask you to send a “registration fee” after which they will disappear.
Another common fake job offer is where they offer you a Financial Coordinator job where you role is to collect debts and get a 10% commission for every debt collected. In most cases, however, you will receive fake checks that will bounce after you have sent them 90% of the “debt collected.”
Therefore, if a job offer seems too good to be true, be careful and do some due diligence to ensure you are not being scammed.
SCAM 6: INHERITANCE SCAM
This is a very common scam that is also referred to as the Nigerian prince scam or the 419 scam.
This scam started since the early days of email and has now made its way to LinkedIn. With this scam, the scammer starts by befriending you and gaining your trust, and then they let you know that they a close relative left them some inheritance that they need your help accessing.
If you fall for it, they will then ask you to send some cash to help secure documents that will in turn help in the transfer of funds to your account.
You will keep being asked for small amounts to deal with various issues that will keep cropping up but the huge inheritance money will never arrive.
If you are gullible enough to provide your bank account details, your entire bank account might end up getting cleaned out.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM LINKEDIN SCAMS
We have already discussed how to protect yourself from most of the scams listed above.
However, below are some more tips that will keep you safe from most scamming attempts on LinkedIn.
- Be careful who you send your resume to and where it goes. When you are careless with your resume you make yourself an easy target. Yes, you might be desperate for a job but be careful about who you reach out to.
- Double check the sender address of any email that purports to have been sent by LinkedIn and ensure that it actually came from LinkedIn. Make sure that it has the LinkedIn domain.
- Avoid easy money. Most scammers prey on your greed and desire to make money quickly. If a job offer promises quick and easy money, it is most likely a scam.
- Do a background check of every profile that sends you a connection request, whether it is from someone you know or not, and especially those from people you don’t know. Go through their profiles and be on he look out for any telltale signs that we discussed above. This will save you a lot of trouble.
- If you click on any link from a LinkedIn email, ensure that the page it redirects you to has the LinkedIn domain. If it doesn’t, don’t enter any personal information on this page.
- Avoid giving out personal information. Anybody or any site that asks for anything beyond your email address is a scam. Say you forgot your LinkedIn password, you will be asked to enter your registered email address which will be used to send a link for resetting your password.
- Any email or Inmail message that asks you to open an attachment is most likely a scam. These attachments probably contain malware.
- With LinkedIn being a professional site, it’s unlikely that people will often make grammatical errors. When you come across a message or profile with many grammatical errors, do a background check to confirm whether it is a fake profile.
- Remember that LinkedIn is a professional networking site. When you come across flirtatious messages in your inbox from people you don’t know, run!
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU FALL VICTIM TO A SCAM OR DETECT A SCAMMER
- Report the scam email to LinkedIn to email@example.com
- Delete the scam email from your account
- If you have given any personal information to the scammer, go ahead and reset all your passwords. If they include bank details, contact your bank and notify them.
- If you have clicked any links from the scam email, run an antivirus software that will detect and remove any malicious software and cookies from your computer.
- If you stumble upon a fake profile, LinkedIn has instructions on how to report the fake profile.
With almost everything today being online, scammers are constantly looking for more platforms where they can dupe unsuspecting victims, and LinkedIn has not been spared.
Truth is, scammers are on almost every digital platform, and the best you can do to protect yourself is to be aware of common scams and how to identify them.
Having read this article, you are now aware of some of the most common LinkedIn scams and how to protect yourself from them.
If you keep them in mind, you are unlikely to end up falling prey to LinkedIn scammers.
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