Detecting Fake LinkedIn Profiles

On Good Morning America yesterday, they ran a story on how scammers are targeting job search sites (LinkedIn, Indeed, etc.).  After watching that clip, you might wonder how someone could fall victim to such a scam.  It’s easy to be skeptical of email scams because they’ve been in existence almost as long as email itself.  But when it comes to social media scams, it’s sometimes a little harder to  discern.  After all, you have a level of trust with your connections and they couldn’t possibly share something false or harmful.  Right?  Wrong!

I regularly receive LinkedIn requests from people I do not know or have never met.  Since I’m not a LION (LinkedIn Open Networker), I tend to be selective when determining whether or not to accept the request.  I’ve been a member of LinkedIn since October 2007 and I’d like to think my “scam detector” is pretty accurate after all of these years.

A few weeks ago, I received a LinkedIn connection request that immediately had several red flags.  The top 3 concerns I had were:

LinkedIn, LinkedIn Invitation, LinkedIn Scam, Emily Blunt

  1. The first thing I noticed was that this person claimed to be a professional in my industry.  While I have an extensive established network, especially in the marketing field, I do not know everyone.  Yet, we had at least 10 connections in common.  Supposedly.
  2. The second thing that caught my eye was the use of ALL CAPS for her first name.  That’s certainly not a guarantee of a fake profile since some people intentionally do little tricks with how their name is displayed to stand out.  And, stand out she did.
  3. The third thing I noticed was how glamorous her profile picture was.  This wasn’t just a picture of an attractive person – she looked like a movie star!  And surprise, surprise, the picture IS of a movie star.  Emily Blunt, meet your alias, NAOMI Thomas.  How did I figure that out?  By using a reverse image search on Google!  This page from Google Support explains how to do that.

So now that you know how to conduct a reverse image search, I suggest you search for your own profile picture to make sure a scammer isn’t using your image for dishonest purposes.  After all, images of regular users are less likely to raise suspicion than a movie star.  If you find your image being used by a scam account, report it to that website immediately.  And as for NAOMI Thomas?  LinkedIn has removed her profile.  🙂

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Opposites Attract

There’s an old saying that opposites attract and that’s often true.  There was a story in the local paper recently about the decline of greeting cards due to the increasing popularity and usage of electronic versions and social media.

Stats back up this trend.  A U.S. Postal Service study which shows correspondence (like greet­ing cards) fell 24% between 2002 and 2010.  Hallmark estimates the number of greeting cards sold in the U.S. has fallen by 20% in the past decade.

It’s certainly great to log onto Facebook on your birthday and read dozens of birthday wishes from friends and family (most of whom probably would not have mailed you a physical card).  But, isn’t there something special about opening the mailbox to find an envelope with your name on it, written by hand?  That’s a great example of the opposite (of the norm) having a positive effect.

The same principle applies to business or job searching.  Most job applications are filed electronically and many of the larger companies have their own applicant tracking system in place.  Conventional job search wisdom is to send a thank you following an interview.  What if, instead of emailing that note, you mailed a physical thank you card and wrote your note by hand?  Don’t you think it would stand out (in a positive way) in this ever-increasingly electronic age?

With business, when everyone sends an email, why not pick up the phone?  Don’t forget the power of a sincere “thank you” in business – and to do something to make that thank you memorable.  At the end of the day, if you want to stand out from the crowd, sometimes you zig when others zag.  It may not always be true, but very often opposites do indeed attract.

Natural Disasters and Marketing

Companies need to tread lightly when it comes to marketing around a natural disaster.  With Superstorm Sandy, 100+ people died worldwide and damage estimates are at $20 Billion and growing.  That doesn’t make for a great marketing opportunity in most instances, but it can, if done correctly.

American Apparel caused a Twitter firestorm when they offered a Hurricane Sandy Sale.  As if that wasn’t tasteless enough, their headline read “In case you’re bored during the storm.”  Seriously.  The company was slammed on social media with outrage and rightly so, in my humble opinion.

Closer to (my) home, and with much less publicity, a local winery committed a similar marketing faux pas.  Glenora Wine Cellars offered customers a Hurricane Sandy Sale.

While not as egregious, I still thought it was in very poor taste (especially the picture).  I made my opinion known on their Facebook page, commenting on their post about the promotion.  Within hours, their post (along with my comment) was removed.  Their website still offered the promotion, and I called them out on Twitter for it.

Within hours, their web page promotion was removed too.  What couldn’t be removed were the emails the winery sent out to their list.

So what’s a “good” way to market around a natural disaster?  How about showing some compassion?  How about figuring out how to help the victims through a donation of time, talent, product or service?  Duracell brought charging stations to Lower Manhattan so that those without power could charge their cell phones.  They’re helping victims of Hurricane Sandy and garnering positive publicity and public relations in the process.

It’s such a simple concept when you compare the positive example to the negative ones, isn’t it?  Yet so many companies get it wrong.  One would hope that marketers would learn from these mistakes.  Sadly, history will likely repeat itself and some company will damage their image and reputation by running a tasteless promotion during the next natural disaster.  Hopefully, they have a public relations department or company at their disposal.  Even better would be to employ some common sense.

Want to help the victims?  Below are links to various organizations assisting in the relief efforts (list not to be considered an endorsement):

Red Cross

Salvation Army

New York Blood Center

Feeding America

AmeriCares

World Vision

Save The Children

Before you donate in a time of crisis, make sure you do your homework on the charitable organization.  Here are some tips by Charity Navigator.

6 Ways To A More Contact-Friendly LinkedIn Profile (Part 2)

In the first part to this post, I covered three areas you can and should update to make it easier for people to contact you on LinkedIn.  If you haven’t read that post yet, I encourage you to do so now, as it contains an important overview on where to check/change your various profile settings and preferences.

The first three are in the prior post, so let’s jump right into areas four, five and six of your profile that you can change to make it easier for others to contact you on LinkedIn:

4)  Do you have groups displayed?  You don’t need to display all groups that you belong to, but you should display a few core groups.  Select settings in the drop-down menu next to your name in the upper right part of your home page.  Then go to Profile.  To the right you’ll see “Helpful Links:  Edit Your Profile.”  Scroll down to the groups section on your profile.  Next to each of the groups you belong to should be a link for “change visibility.”  If you click on that link, it will bring you to the “your settings” page for that group.  The first setting is visibility (the red highlighted box in the screen capture below).  Select or deselect accordingly.

5)  Do you allow group members to contact you?  If groups are moderated well, spam shouldn’t be an issue.  If it is, notify the group manager or leave the group.  If you’re open to being contacted for the opportunities you’ve specified, this is the easiest way to facilitate that.  Follow the steps outlined in the previous point and review the settings in the green highlighted box of the screen capture above.

6)  You can always add contact information to your summary.  Select settings in the drop-down menu next to your name in the upper right part of your home page.  Then go to Profile.  To the right you’ll see “Helpful Links:  Edit Your Profile.”  Scroll down to the Summary Section of your profile and click the edit link.  You can add contact information as part of your summary should you so choose.  The advantage is someone will still have your contact information even if they don’t share group membership with you.  However, depending on your personal preference, that could be a disadvantage.  Adding contact information here is somewhat controversial among LinkedIn “experts.”

What sections of your LinkedIn profile have you improved as a result of this post or Part 1?  What other areas of your profile have you utilized to make it easier for others to contact you?

6 Ways To A More Contact-Friendly LinkedIn Profile (Part 1)

I’m actively recruiting LinkedIn members for a LinkedIn Group I created and manage.  It’s been an interesting endeavor, as some people have made it easy to be contacted and others have made it so challenging that I question their motives for having a LinkedIn profile.

Why do you have a LinkedIn profile?  Whatever your reason, do you hope to be contacted if someone finds your profile?  Do you make it easy for others to contact you, or have you created a challenge that will frustrate some and possibly risk missing a golden opportunity?

I’ve identified six areas of your profile that can be used to make it easier to be contacted by others.  To provide the necessary detail on where these areas are located and how you can change them, I’ll split this post into two parts.  Part 2 will be posted next week.

Before I explain the six areas to review, you need to be familiar with where you can change your account settings on LinkedIn.  There’s often more than one way to find the settings you need to check/change, but we’ll focus on this one method.  It’s in the pull-down menu next to your name in the upper right corner of your LinkedIn home page (see the red highlighted box in the screen capture below):

After selecting Settings in the drop-down menu, you’ll want to investigate each of the tabs in the red highlighted box (in the screen capture below) as the options appearing in the green highlighted box will change accordingly:

1.  Have you selected the types of messages you’re willing to receive?  You’ll find this by selecting Email Preferences (red highlighted box in the screen capture above), then select the first choice under the column for email.  It will give you a window that looks like this:

In the above screenshot, you’ll notice there are three areas that you can (and should) complete:  messages, opportunities, and advice.  Give some thought as to why you’re on LinkedIn and the opportunities you’re interested in being contacted for.  I recommend that you complete all three areas.  Under the advice section, you can put contact information if you so choose.

2)  Do you have websites listed?  Select settings in the drop-down menu next to your name in the upper right part of your home page.  Then go to Profile.  To the right you’ll see “Helpful Links:  Edit Your Profile.”  Scroll down and make sure you include at least one website listed, especially if it will help someone find you (assuming you’re on LinkedIn to be found).  You can include up to three websites, so take advantage!

3)  Are you on Twitter?  If so, and as long as it’s appropriate to include on your professional LinkedIn profile, be sure to add your Twitter account and display it on your profile.  Once again, select settings in the drop-down menu next to your name in the upper right part of your home page.  Then go to Profile.  To the right you’ll see “Settings:  Manage Your Twitter Settings.”

In the second part to this post, I’ll cover groups and your profile summary.  Until then, how did you do on the first three areas?  Do you currently utilize them to make your profile more contact friendly?

Social Media Abandonment

Most people involved with social media, even casual users, have likely come across an account that’s been inactive for weeks, months or even years.  I’m sure they were originally created with the best of intentions yet for one or more reasons, they’ve been abandoned or forgotten about.

For some, the account may have been abandoned because the goal was attained (perhaps he used social media to increase visibility with his job search and was hired).  For others, maintaining the account was possibly a sacrifice that was made due to time constraints.  Maybe others didn’t meet their objectives and decided to discontinue their social media efforts because it failed in their eyes.

There are a few problems abandoned accounts can cause the active user.  The first is having to determine whether or not an account you’re initially interested in following is active.  It’s an unfortunate part of the process.  Another is that some abandoned accounts have coveted user names.  Freeing coveted-yet-abandoned user names could be beneficial for marketing purposes (professional and/or personal).  Lastly there’s the image problem abandoned accounts create, but that’s a problem they’ve brought upon themselves. 

In the world of social media, what do you think can be done to clean up abandoned accounts?  Should accounts that have been inactive for a lengthy period of time be suspended or deleted in an effort to “protect” active accounts and improve the experience for active users?

But what if the account was abandoned for a more serious reason?  I read an article this past weekend which described a grieving mother whose son died in a motorcycle accident.  She wished to access his Facebook site in hopes of interacting with his friends to keep his memory alive.  The article raised a great question as to whether or not your digital footprint can be considered part of your estate.  I’ll be honest – I’ve never thought about what would happen to my social media sites and email accounts if something tragic should happen to me.

What are your thoughts on abandoned accounts?  Do you have a different opinion when the cause of abandonment is one of neglect versus one of tragedy?

Hackers and Scams and Spammers, Oh My!

A few months ago, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about the lame attempts email spammers had made to trick me into revealing personal information and/or downloading some virus-infected software program.  They haven’t improved much.

However, a friend of mine was recently hacked and had his email accounts compromised.  The hackers sent out an email to his address book that basically said, “I’m stranded overseas, please wire me a ton of money so I can get home.”  This is a common and known scam, but if you didn’t know any better, your first instinct might be to help a friend in need and wire him some money.  Obviously, your friend wouldn’t get the money, the scammers would.

This is someone who is very well-respected in the industry.  If it can happen to him, it can happen to any of us.  So what can you do?  The experts will tell you to avoid these common passwords, change your passwords often, have different passwords for different sites, use a mix of upper case and lower case as well as numbers and special characters, and the longer the password the better.  If you have an easy to remember password, why not tack-on just 2 more characters to strengthen it?

Scams are sometimes easy to spot but sometimes they’re very convincing.  Generally, if it’s too good to be true, it is.  Do yourself a favor and look at this visual post about a recent Starbucks scam on Pinterest.  Besides looking professional, the scammers programmed the site effectively enough to fool most.  It’s quite impressive.

It’s easy to forget that social media can be just as dangerous as websites when it comes to scams.  Perhaps, social media is even more dangerous because people tend to let their guard down when they’re interacting with friends, family & co-workers.  That should be repeated:  scams exist in social media and are perhaps easier to fall for than those you’d find on websites.

So before you inadvertently share false information (or worse, a scam) with someone you care about, do a little homework.  Here are 7 sites you can bookmark for future searches (plus there’s always Google):

  1. Urban Legends:  http://urbanlegends.about.com/
  2. Museum of Hoaxes:  http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/
  3. Snopes:  http://www.snopes.com/
  4. Hoax Slayer:  http://www.hoax-slayer.com/
  5. Facecrooks:  http://facecrooks.com/
  6. That’s Nonsense:  http://www.thatsnonsense.com
  7. Hoax Busters:  http://www.hoaxbusters.org/

So here’s your chance to make social media a better place for you and those you care about.  Bookmark the above sites.  Some even have social media accounts you can follow on Facebook and/or Twitter.  The next time you see something that’s suspicious and/or too good to be true, take 3-5 minutes to do a little research before you circulate it to your online network.

Are Spammers Good Marketers?

At the risk of fanning a flame I may not want to be stoked, I have to wonder if spammers are as dumb as my recent spam box would indicate.  In the past few weeks, one of my personal email addresses has received the following spam messages:

  • New York State Department of Motor Vehicles regarding a Uniform Traffic Ticket.  I got a chuckle out of police being spelled “polce.” 
  • The BBC Lottery.  Apparently I’m a big winner if I’ll only provide personal details and/or click on their sure-to-be-infected attachment.
  • Mr. John Adam of the FBI wants to speak with me about something.  Uh-oh.  I didn’t do it.  I swear!
  • The United Nations Exhibition 2011 has a grant donation they’d like to make to me.
  • A message from a “Dear Friend” whom I’ve never heard of before.
  • A message from a princess.  Yes, a real, live princess!  She needs my urgent help and trust!

Like any email marketer, their goal is to get me to open their email and take an action (click on a link, open an attachment, reply with details, etc.).  With subject lines like the above, how do you think they did?  Did they have a high open rate?  Did they achieve a high click rate?  What was their open-to-click ratio?  What was their conversion rate?

As “marketers” of their own spam content, when it comes to my personal email account, they fail miserably at marketing.