A lesson in making sure you connect with real people!
August 11, 2014
I get, on average, a dozen LinkedIn requests per week from all sorts of people claiming to be all sorts of people working at all sorts of organisations. In the last fortnight I decided to unpack those connection requests in a little more detail and what I found won't probably shock you at all - more than two thirds were from people who were quite obviously fake. Why share the obvious? well, it would all be a little harmless had it not been for the latest person wanting to connect with me - Rear Admiral Michael van Balen - Deputy Chief of the Royal Australian Navy.
Now, when the connection request popped up my initial reaction was "how cool is this, an Admiral wanting to connect with little old me!" but, that was the first sign things were not as they appeared - I mean why would a Navy chief want to connect with me! I mean the last time I had anything to do with Defence was back in 2003 and since then, nothing. Now Michael only had 91 connections so I thought - maybe he's just new to this and I'm actually just a pretty cool cat he wanted to connect with right? So, if you take a look at the top part of the profile you can see how authentic it looks - the role titles are correct, the industry and even the photo:
So, I read on and that’s when it dawns on me - I’m not a cool cat it’s just a fake profile. In the background section that becomes obvious when you soon realise that the opening statement is not from the PR or communications section of Michaels staff - because let’s face it the real Rear Admiral Van Balen would hardly have time on his hands to play around on LinkedIn right? Anyway, it is that opening line that is yet another tell-tale sign of a faker: "To make a sound position in defence world and work enthusiastically in team to achieve goal of the organization of the Royal Australian Navy with devotion and hard work." - With no offence wanting to be caused to those from a non-English (first language) background - an eight year old could probably construct the sentence better! - and so, as you go the Background Summary pretty much closes the argument – it is a faker, faker than fake.
But – just in case I was really stupider than stupid (and I can be when it comes to picking Olympic gold medal winners) I read on. Under the Experience section the first role title is correct as is the date of appointment. Then, underneath that is simply “Navy” as the employer with what appears to be the correct date he started (or graduated from the Royal Australian Naval College). Where it comes unstuck again is in the opening sentence directly under the employer where it just loses all sense by having as the opening line: “Royal is used to indicate that something is connected with a King, Queen, or Emperor, or their family. A royal person is a King, Queen, or Emperor.”
I could go on but you get the picture right? But the truth is the vast many people out there click on a LinkedIn connection request without knowing anything about the person or if they are, in fact, the right person. In this case a lot of the information was probably drawn from Rear Admiral Van Balen’s own Defence biography and yet, had the writer of the fake profile just stuck to that instead of making up nonsense to make it appear even more legitimate then you would be none the wiser. The risk is of course, once you accept a fake profile connection they then are able to gain access to your networks and connections as well. This may leave you with the question “What are they hoping to get out of it?” or “how do they make money?”
Well, think about this – if someone can appear to hijack someone else’s profile they could also potentially use that information and data in any number of ways – selling through the credibility of a publicly respected figure right through to the solicitation of bank account information and data to wash stolen money through – in fact, the sky is the limit in a world where data rules.
In fact earlier this year LinkedIn said that hackers were using automated software to create thousands of fake member accounts and data that had been collected from legitimate profiles. Called “scraping” it is a violation of LinkedIn’s user agreements and can be a Federal offence in the United States so much so that the company decided to sue unknown hackers in Federal Court (San Francisco).
Jonathan Blavin, a lawyer for LinkedIn said in the complaint: “It undermines the integrity and effectiveness of LinkedIn’s professional network by polluting it with thousands of fake member profiles,”
According to Bloomberg: “Since May hackers have circumvented LinkedIn’s security programs and created thousands of new member accounts, which allows them to view hundreds of thousands of member profiles each day, the company said in the complaint. The defendants accessed LinkedIn using a cloud computer platform offered by Amazon Web Services, it said. LinkedIn expects to identify those who created the fake accounts by serving subpoenas on the Amazon service, it said. Amazon.com Inc. isn’t named as a defendant.”
LinkedIn is not alone – Facebook and Twitter have also been down this path before and it appears as if the problem is getting bigger. But, there is something all of you can do to combat this problem – don’t just accept a request for the sake of acceptance or to try and somehow get your network connection numbers up – take a few more minutes and check the profile and look for the very simple tell-tale signs embedded in all lies – sentences that make no sense, spelling and grammar (and yes mine is pretty bad at the best of times however!), fake photos or pictures – even ask yourself honestly “why on God’s green Earth would a Rear Admiral want to connect with me?”
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