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Don’t you just hate it when people are fake? When they turn out to be someone different than you initially thought, someone you thought you knew? Wasting your time, making you feel like you’ve been duped? LinkedIn is fake Profile heaven.

Why? Because the stakes are high and the pickings are rich. It’s child’s play to build a fake Profile (takes 10 minutes, tops), and it’s really easy to fool the unsuspecting. You only need an email to set up a LinkedIn account. If LinkedIn intervenes at all, by the time they do, it’s too late.

Why do fakers do it? What’s the con? Mainly it’s mining for data that they can use or sell; your email is prized, but crooks love LinkedIn because the data is plentiful, contextual, correct, current, and easily nabbed. There are degrees of shady. Some fakers just want to increase their footprint and clone their sales team. Some fakers think that being blonde, blue eyed and a broad, makes them more likely to succeed at whatever they’re selling. Maybe they’re onto something; they wouldn’t be working this con if it didn’t work, right?

How to spot a fake image

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This version of Hazel Fisher doesn’t exist. Definitely fake. How do I know? Lots of reasons, but the most obvious one: her photograph looks too good to be true. It has a model-like quality that screams stock photo. I confirmed this when I ran the image by Google reverse image (you could also use Tin Eye, which has a handy Chrome extension).

How to recognize signs of a fake profile

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What are the other telltale signs of a fake LinkedIn Profile? They’re almost never premium members, they rarely have recommendations, they lack experience and education, they don’t follow companies, and they have few connections and fewer endorsements. Why? Because the faker does just enough to fill the Profile out to fool the unsuspecting user but doesn’t spend much time on managing the account or the real engagement side of things (connections, recommendations, endorsements). Hazel Phisher’s LinkedIn Profile has done just enough.

I reported Hazel to LinkedIn 2 weeks ago…

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…and she (or he), is still open for business. Frustrating, but there are a number of big forces at work. LinkedIn just doesn’t have the bandwidth to police and deal with fakers like Hazel. She is under the radar; nothing she does raises any flags with LinkedIn. She’s a 2-bit scammer when LinkedIn have got their hands full with the master crooks. In January LinkedIn sued scammers who created thousands of fake profiles in order to scrape data about existing LinkedIn members. LinkedIn doesn’t know who they’re suing. But they know that the scammers used Amazon Web Services, so LinkedIn have asked Amazon to turn over any data it has on those tied to the accounts identified by LinkedIn.

Kevin Lee wrote a post a few weeks ago entitled “Fake Profiles Are Killing LinkedIn’s Value” and makes several good points. While I agree that LinkedIn should authenticate all LinkedIn accounts, I also know that it’s never going to happen. LinkedIn boasts about having 330 million users, but it doesn’t advertise how active or involved those accounts and members are.

Let’s speculate that LinkedIn has roughly the same percentage of fake users as Facebook. Probably higher because of the fecundity of key, business relevant data, but let’s say a conservative 10% of LinkedIn users are not who they say they are. That’s a whopping 33 million imaginary professionals. Add another 10% to account for orphan accounts, those accidental, password-forgotten, versions of you that many of us have and LinkedIn have a much smaller actual user base of 264 million. It’s simply not in LinkedIn’s commercial interests to reduce their customer number, real or imagined, by 66 million. That’s why we will be seeing more of Hazel and her duplicitous, fictional friends on LinkedIn.