Are You The Victim of Fake Linkedin Profiles?
“Thanks” to sites like ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com, spotting a fake profile picture is harder than before. Luckily there are articles like Which Face Is Real? or How to recognize fake AI-generated images that will help you to learn the difference and spot a fake profile photo within a few seconds.
And if you spend enough time on site WhichFaceIsReal.com, which lets you test your ability to distinguish AI-generated profile photos from genuine ones, you will be able to spot a fake profile in no time.
LinkedIn has a fake profile problem
Microsoft’s social network also has a big problem with fake LinkedIn profiles and it is not getting better. In 2019, I wrote the article “Top 11 Reasons Why Fake LinkedIn Profiles Exist” to cover the main reasons why individuals are creating fake profiles.
Why Would Companies Create a Fake LinkedIn Profile?
1. It Is All About Perception
New clients would rather start a business with a company that has 33 people, not just four. That is why some startups are creating the illusion that they are not a company run by a small team but they have a large team. This creates an illusion of trustworthiness and stability, and it also creates an impression that this company is successful and has enough clients or a strong foundation.
Other companies create fake employees that are reaching people to set up a meeting for their manager or salesperson via email. They even have LinkedIn profiles for those “employees” to improve trust with a potential customer. And when you ask to speak with that person directly, they become sick, leave the company, be on PTO or become an external employee without access to Zoom, etc.
2. Email Promotion
Fake people together with their fake LinkedIn profiles are used in email signatures of promotional emails. It is easier to blame an intern or external help for sending spam, rather than ruin your personal reputation.
3. Overcoming LinkedIn Limits
LinkedIn capped the weekly invitation limit for connection requests to 100 invitations per week. That created major issues for companies that use invitations for promotional spam or reaching out to candidates. Right after you accept their invitation you will receive a promotional message. By creating ten new fake profiles they now can send 1,000 invitations per week instead of 100.
And if LinkedIn were to block one of those profiles because people reported this illegal promotion, the people behind it would not lose their official profile that they have had for years as they can replace their fake profile with another one.
4. Catfishing Method
Catfishing is a deceptive activity wherein a person creates a fictional persona or fake identity on a social networking service, usually targeting a specific victim. (Source: Wikipedia)
Several companies and recruitment agencies are using these fake profiles (Good looking, young, highly accomplished people) to interact with their LinkedIn users (potential candidates). As they found out that people will accept connection requests from people they find attractive and it also raises their chances of getting the person interested in the job offer or some other proposal.
Similar tricks were used for centuries by spies and now, as everything has moved to the online world, this catfishing method is not only used by clandestine organizations and spy agencies but even some companies and recruitment agencies are using it.
5. Racial Bias
It is incredibly sad that in the 21st century racial bias is still a thing. That is why several recruitment companies/recruiters are creating fake LinkedIn profiles or using fake photos to create an impression that the candidate is communicating with somebody from the same part of the world, even though they are thousands of miles away.
Several recruiters behind these profiles told me that many of them are facing a lower response rate from candidates the farther they are from the location where their candidates are located. And their response rate grows even higher if they use an artificial profile photo and add the same location as their candidates.
6. Shared Profile
During the last few years, I spoke with dozens of people behind these fake profiles and a number of them were running profiles that were maintained by more than one person. One of the companies had three people sharing access to one LinkedIn profile. That is why this fake virtual HR person was able to contact candidates 24/7, and even if people maintaining this profile left the company, that profile still remained the same.
7. Collecting Information
The CEO of one of the scraping tools was bragging in one of the Recruitment Facebook groups that they have technology that could create dozens of fake LinkedIn profiles during a day and LinkedIn is unable to remove them quickly enough. And why they are doing that?
The answer is simple; they are doing that because some fields of profiles out of your network have limited visibility as described here. And as your LinkedIn profile is not accessible via Google (if you didn’t activate it) scraping companies need to get access to your profile information so they can update your information in their database. To get full access they ideally need to be your 1st-degree connection and not your ‘Out of Network’ connection.
Trust is a fragile thing — hard to earn, easy to lose.
Fake profiles are not going anywhere, they are here to stay! Even though LinkedIn will try to battle this issue, we should not expect any more serious steps from LinkedIn. They will have to remove millions or even dozens of millions of profiles from their network as it never looks good in the business reports that the user base is lower than a year ago.
Companies and individuals will continue to create fake LinkedIn profiles as the benefits outweigh the negatives. And the only risk here is that LinkedIn users will report their profiles, LinkedIn will block those fake profiles, and they will need to invest more time to create new ones.