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.


  1. Yuuri December 5th, 2014

    About profiles that are empty, abandoned, dormant, etc.:
    I suspect your figure is WAY too low. Just check, for example, the 59 profiles of people registered as “Vince Lee” in the US and see how many non-working profiles you get. Or the 82 profiles of people registered as “Hazel Jones” in the UK. Or the 93 results for “Kayla Green” in the US. And so on… LinkedIn is strewn with garbage.

    About fake profiles:
    Other obvious tell-tale signs, aside from stock photos, are
    – generic company names for present and pas employers (here a search engine is your friend again)
    – lack of connections within their present and past employment situations and fields of expertise (or, on the odd occasion, obviously faked connections)
    – the person contacts you out of the blue and with no apparent connection (person or group) and requests that you send your CV (to an address outside of LinkedIn that cannot be traced to a recognisable company)

    More subtle signs, that (these can only be used as indicators if they coincide with other elements of fake):
    – straight career paths
    – smooth text; few idiosyncrasies
    – no evidence about the person on the web outside of LinkedIn

    Why I don’t report fake profiles or other problems any longer: every time you send a report, staff checks your profile. When I was new to LinkedIn and thought that reporting scams would help, I tried that once and was deterred by the amount of personal information I had to send with such a report. So, no reports from me.
    On two occasions I sent a report about in consistencies of the interface (the most counterproductive one of those is that in certain contexts the “Connect” button sends a stock invitation right away, without letting you personalise the text). On both occasions LinkedIn staff deleted my profile image and sent me a message telling me that my photo was not within the guidelines. I don’t need this kind of nannying, so no more reports.

  2. Larry Zinn December 21st, 2014

    About fake accounts

    A few days ago someone working at a small country’s national bank invited me to their network. Today they sent me a message indicating they had a business proposal and requesting that I contact them at a Hotmail address. Is that how banks usually go about soliciting new clients? (LOL)

    I checked the bank in question, and LinkedIn reports over 20000 profiles of people who supposedly work there right now. Very impressive, to say the least. But it sounds entirely reasonable: if you solicit new clients via Hotmail you better had many employees, since the attrition rate will be extremely high.

    What a scam!

    I’d say, LinkedIn needs to do some serious house cleaning!

  3. Yuuri January 6th, 2015

    I, too, continue to get invited into this exciting world of fake social networking: today it was a (purported) women with a fake profile claiming to work at a non-existing university (that has its own – also fake – website and even a youtube advertisement). This lady has a few endorsement, all from the same person. Checking the profile of the endorser I found a LION who claims to have over 5000 contacts and who writes in his profile, “True Open Networker and Open Endorser!!”

    I openly endorse Larry Zinn’s house cleaning comment. ;-)

  4. Chris Legget April 22nd, 2015

    The social networking giant has 1.23 billion monthly active users (MAUs), meaning that between 67.65 million and 137.76 million accounts are either duplicates or false — a rather gaping range of 70.11 million. The Next Web first spotted this nugget in Facebook’s lengthy 10-K filing with the SEC.Feb 3, 2014

  5. Bob Na July 13th, 2016

    linkedin is annoying with all their spam, and I hope fake accounts kill it.

    Fake accounts are the only good use of linkedin. Having one helps people get the emails of CEOs and other managment not listed on company websites – highly useful when their “customer service” is $hi+.

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Andy Foote
I’ve been a Teacher, Lawyer and Stay-at-home Father. I coach professionals how to use LinkedIn for professional success. A few personal traits: endless curiosity, a desire to share, attention to detail and well-honed communication and networking skills. Named LinkedIn’s Q&A “Expert of the Week”. Less than 500 people in the world can make that claim today. Founder and Manager of 6 popular LinkedIn Groups with over 30,000 members combined. Consistently rated a “Top Contributor” in many LinkedIn Groups in terms of the contribution I have made to discussions. Author of a LinkedIn-centric Blog ( with 1,000+ unique daily visitors. One of my blog posts is the top Google search result for “LinkedIn Summary” or “LinkedIn Summary Examples."