LinkedIn has a profile problem
Phishing and other scams pose an issue for creating genuine online connections
Those of us who use LinkedIn often have noticed a troubling trend recently: an increasing number of profiles, those displays which serve as defacto online resumes, are fake.
A growing number of profiles, which on first appearance look legitimate, turn out to not be at all. This took me by surprise when I first realized it was going on. Why bother creating fake LinkedIn profiles? What is to be gained? Well, scams are the reason, and they are keeping LinkedIn busy.
Salaria Sales Solutions reveals that over the first half of 2021, LinkedIn deleted 15 million of these fake profiles.
Personally, I have noticed them as a result of questionable connection invitations. One kind I see most commonly involves a profile picture of a beautiful young woman who holds an impressive job title for a well-known corporation or law firm or entrepreneurial venture, or whatever that seems almost too good to be true. The first few times I saw some of these I felt the need to scratch a curiosity itch, so I conducted some research to see if this person really held that job. I could never confirm that they did.
The other kind I see most often are profiles coming from African countries like Ghana, Kenya, Gambia and Uganda. Now, I like the idea of connecting with real workers from Africa and learning about the employment and economic challenges they face. But this is not what happens. Sooner or later the pitch for money comes.
It turns out that scammers, who are notorious for knowing how to fish where the fish are, realize that the valid users of LinkedIn, of which there are approximately 900 million, make up a relatively high-income user base. That alone incentivizes them to attempt exploitation.
The scams are varied. A common one is phishing, which is a con to get you to reveal personal data. Aura.com reports LinkedIn phishing attacks have jumped 232 percent since February 2022.
Related to phishing are employment scams in which fake job listings are posted. “Recruiters” ask for personal data like bank account or Social Security numbers and bang, they’ve got you! They disappear, and you are left critically exposed.
Catfishing is a romance scam in which the scammer tries to emotionally hook you into an online relationship, eventually leading to a money request.
Another one to look out for is the crypto investment scam. Here victims are persuaded by an apparent cryptosavvy con to invest in crypto currencies using an authentic-looking exchange, only to find out your “earnings” are just digital numbers on a screen that cannot be withdrawn while your initial investment is in their pockets.
Although LinkedIn is just the latest platform to be tainted by scams, this raises the question of how genuine online connections in general are. In our increasingly digitized and remotely connected lives, both personally and at work, we are becoming called upon to establish relationships with individuals who we may never meet in the flesh. Can we ever know that the person we are communicating with is really who they claim to be?
Clearly establishing and confirming online connections has become a new skill to master. Knowing how to avoid scammers is important enough, but basic social ethics compels us to want to know that the people we are communicating with are real. We need to be wary of deception in our online dealings. Unfortunately, this means we need to either learn how to conduct background checks or find services that can perform background checks for us. Perhaps this is an area where AI can become useful.
What a world! Loneliness is at epidemic levels and social media gives us the ability to connect with more people than we ever could in the physical world. And now we need to be concerned not only that people we communicate with are actually who they claim to be, but whether or not they mean to do us harm. Yes, what a world!
Bill Ryan writes about career, employment and economic topics from his home in North Sutton.