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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A New Year’s Resolution For Facebook Users

Happy New YearIf you’re a regular user of Facebook, you’ve probably seen your fair share of scams and bogus stories on Facebook.  Perhaps you’ve even inadvertently shared and perpetuated some of them.  While many would think that “common sense” would prevail at all times, it’s easy to get tricked when a friend, family member or someone you trust shares such a post and your intentions are good.

Why not make a resolution for the new year to become a better “citizen” of the Facebook community by helping to stop the spread of these scams and rumors?  Here are 4 Facebook pages that I recommend you “like” immediately.  Most, if not all of these have searchable websites too.  So before you share that post that Disney World is giving away a free vacation for 4 people plus a Visa Gift Card worth $1,000 for spending money, or BMW is giving away a free sports car worth over $50,000, or that posting a legal disclaimer will somehow protect your privacy, please do a little homework using these sites:

  1. Facecrooks:  https://www.facebook.com/Facecrooks
  2. ThatsNonsense:  https://www.facebook.com/thatsnonsense
  3. Hoax Slayer:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hoax-Slayer/69502133435
  4. Snopes:  https://www.facebook.com/snopes

If you realize you’ve shared a post that’s bogus, the best thing you can do is delete the post from your timeline.  If the post was a give-away scam that required you to authorize a sweepstakes app, you should delete that app immediately.  If you want to be a good Facebook citizen, you can even private message your friends who might have shared the story from your timeline and encourage them to delete the post too.  Lastly, it couldn’t hurt to change your Facebook password, which you should do regularly anyway.

My best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015!

 

Follow Up To: LinkedIn Policy Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Despite my previous post “LinkedIn Policy Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent” being only three weeks old, it’s already climbed to be the third most viewed post I’ve written to date.  I guess the perceived injustice of LinkedIn’s policy on discussion posts and spam touched a nerve with many.  It should, if you actively post discussions to groups.

Many people asked me where on LinkedIn’s website they could read about this policy.  I tried to find it before I wrote that post and couldn’t.  All I had at the time was private correspondence between me and LinkedIn Support, as well as what other have shared (also correspondence).

You can read about other users’ experience with this policy in a LinkedIn forum:  http://community.linkedin.com/questions/573/why-are-my-updates-all-submitted-for-review-now.html

While the above link illustrates that users have been impacted by this policy, it’s still just a forum.  It’s not something “official” from LinkedIn.  Therefore, I’ve decided to share correspondence that I received from LinkedIn, because I feel it’s important to back up my criticism of their policy with something factual.

Correspondence One:

Here’s my polite request to LinkedIn support asking if they could provide me with a URL on their site that specifically talks about this policy:

LinkedIn, SPAM, LinkedIn Spam Policy, LinkedIn Group Discussion, LinkedIn Policy

Correspondence Two:

LinkedIn has a tendency to use canned responses.  I guess that’s understandable given the amount of messages they receive.  This didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know from their other correspondence.  It also didn’t give me a URL, which is all I wanted.  Here’s what they had to say:

LinkedIn, SPAM, LinkedIn Spam Policy, LinkedIn Group Discussion, LinkedIn Policy

Correspondence Three:

In a final attempt, I asked them once again for a link or URL they could point me towards which specifically details this new policy.  Sadly, they hide behind a generic user agreement and apparently do not address this specific policy on their site.

LinkedIn, SPAM, LinkedIn Spam Policy, LinkedIn Group Discussion, LinkedIn Policy

So at the end of the day, LinkedIn is a free site.  You’re not forced to participate.  They get to make the rules.  If you don’t like them, that’s your problem not theirs.

But, that doesn’t mean I have to be silent about an unfair policy that treats its users as guilty until proven innocent.  If you share these feelings, let LinkedIn know how you feel by contacting them directly through their site.  You can also help spread the word by sharing this post and the original post this links to.  And if you disagree, that’s fine too.  You’re still innocent until proven guilty in my eyes.  😉

LinkedIn Policy Is Guilty Until Proven Innocent

LinkedIn, LinkedIn Jury Box, LinkedIn Guilty Until Proven Innocent, LinkedIn Guilty“Guilty until proven innocent” is the message that LinkedIn is sending with one of their recent changes (and there have been many) that you probably have not heard about.  LinkedIn is making a concerted effort to reduce spam in groups.  That’s a good thing!  The problem is, they’ve created a new policy that’s an over-reaction along the lines of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Group managers in LinkedIn have a lot of power.  They can create rules for their group and decide if group membership should be open to all or closed (requiring approval).  As a closed group, they’re able to create criteria to join the group.  They have the ability to restrict the types of discussion posts that are allowed.  They could move a discussion to a promotions or jobs board instead of the main discussion board.  Group managers are able to delete a discussion they felt was inappropriate for whatever reason.  Further, should a group member be a repeat offender or have an egregious post, a group manager could place that member into a restrictive status where future posts would have to be moderated for approval.  As a final step, group managers have the ability to remove someone from a group and/or block them.

That’s a lot of power!  And as a Voltaire (allegedly) originally said (in French), “with great power comes great responsibility.”  If you belong to groups on LinkedIn, you undoubtedly belong to some groups that are managed well and some that do not.  That’s either the hard work and dedication of good group managers or the failure of poor ones.  Either way, it’s on the managers’ shoulders (and should be).

LinkedIn now has a policy that if one group manager or owner flags just one of your discussion threads as spam, your account is flagged as a spammer.  As a result, your account is flagged for moderation in every group you belong to, not just the group that originally flagged you.  It’s automatic.  There’s no review of your posting history.  There’s no investigation to see if what was posted was truly spam.  There’s no appeals process.  You’re guilty.  Period.

What constitutes “spam” becomes arbitrary and inconsistent.  If you want to be unrestricted, you have to ask the group owner/manager of every group you’re a member of to remove you from moderation.  It places additional administrative work on both the user and the group owner/manager.  Rather than letting managers manage the groups the way they want to, LinkedIn has become “Big Brother” and will paint its users with a broad brush, fairly or unfairly.

Yes, LinkedIn is a free site and they get to make their own rules.  But, with great power comes great responsibility.  Unfortunately, LinkedIn’s efforts to curtail spam by assuming guilty until proven innocent is lacking responsibility.  What’s your opinion of LinkedIn’s policy?  Is it appropriate?  Effective?  An over-reaction?

Update as of March 20, 2013:  Read my follow-up post here:  http://wp.me/p1LHj0-n7

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.