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True Lies: My Run In with Fake LinkedIn Profiles

Posted by Amar Sheth on May 4, 2014 12:40:18 AM

Fake LinkedIn ProfilesWriting a blog is great; for one, it allows you to vent once in a while. This is one of those blogs.

I was debating not writing this blog but then thought it’d be better to talk about it openly than pretend this problem doesn’t exist. Before I start though, I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to malign anyone, their companies or their reputations.

And, a lot of information has been redacted because, quite plainly, I’m not here trying to cause a ruckus (well, maybe a little).

Let’s roll the dice.

My Story

I was contacted by someone at a company called Acme Events and asked to deliver a webinar on social selling (fake company name if you can’t tell, and funny enough, I’m still connected to this person on LinkedIn). I’m always happy to contribute to our sales and marketing community and didn’t think too much of it. The person told me they’d contact me with more info on my involvement as the date approached.

My stupidity: I didn’t do any research on this company thinking they’ll just call me when they’re ready. Let’s chalk this one up to naivete.

Meeting an Executive from "Acme Events"

The person I was speaking with asked me to connect with an executive from their company on LinkedIn. I’m still connected to this Executive. Here is his picture.

fake-linkedin-profile

The date of the webinar came and went and my e-mails leading up to the event for information went unanswered. That’s when I visited the Executive’s profile again and thought to myself that the picture looked too much like a stock photo.

These People Think We’re Really Stupid

And we are, but it’s because we expect most people on LinkedIn to be real, don’t we? Neal Schaffer has written a great piece on the subject here.

I tried to figure out how I could find out if the Executive was real and my assumptions were correct. I then stumbled on the Image Search Tool from Google.

google image search

You can upload pictures and Google Images will tell you which searches they closely match to. Pretty neat, eh?

Let’s take a look at the Executive’s picture and run it through this Google Image magic box, shall we?

Meet Mr. Acme Executive, Mr. “Hands Behind Neck” Stock Photo @ Inmagine.com

hands behind neck

Now unless the Executive is a bona fide “Hands behind neck” model, I think there’s something shady going on here!

FYI: the image is still for sale. Get it before it’s too late!

It Gets Better

The person who was e-mailing me initially also once contacted me using a different domain name. I thought this was rather odd. It got me to look up that organization. There seemed to be too many moving parts to this one small company!

I can’t tell you what that domain is, but it’s a worldwide association they claim to represent: a very legitimate-looking and sounding group, indeed, with proper work being done in the area of events (webinars, summits, and the whole bit).

While I can’t show you their LinkedIn Company Page, I will show you their employees here.

how you're connected

If you dig in further, you’ll see that they claim to have 5 employees on LinkedIn. I decided to try my theory out again. Maybe Mr. Acme Executive was just shy about using his photo and opted to use a better looking person as a stand-in.

First, I’ll take one of their employee’s profiles here.

employee photo

This very mild-mannered and pleasant person seems to be a Director and is based in New York City. Nothing crazy here, right?

Let’s take her picture and run it in Google Image Search.

google image search 2

And this is one of the results that Google found.

boise state student

FAKE PROFILE!

It turns out that the Director is actually Cindy McCrea who was a student at Boise State University. She probably doesn’t even know that her image is stolen by this group!

In fact, it turns out virtually all of the people associated with Acme Events are fake.

Again, maybe it was my naivete, but I really felt cheated. Then it made me laugh that there are people out there that take the time to do this.
Social selling

The Bottom Line

Be careful as you accept connect requests from people. Make sure you vet them. This is your digital rolodex, folks! Take some pride in it. Don’t be a rock star and accept every single connect request you get. Why dilute the power of your network?

This isn’t LinkedIn’s fault either. This is a reality for all online communications. I still choose to use social media for business because the benefits far outweigh the stupidity that some people like this try to scam us with.

As you begin or develop your social selling skills, remember that value is everything. Deliver value first, second, third and always. Those that try to scam us can only succeed if we let them. I almost got caught up in this but used my common sense and decided to do some fact-checking.

Make sure you focus on value. And please buy an image of Mr. “Hands Behind Neck” before it’s too late.

9-step-thumb10-step-book

Amar Sheth

About the Author

Amar Sheth has trained thousands of people worldwide on the topic of Social Selling, through a style that’s part storytelling and part motivational.