This is actually a follow-up to a post I did recently on Are There Fake Profiles on LinkedIn? At that time I found proof of a few users with fake profiles that I shared with everyone. And I mentioned that those with fake profiles would create new ways of making us believe that they are real. I wanted to report back to you on what I am seeing today.
First of all, the only benefit for being on social media is if you are real and genuine. I don’t trust anyone who isn’t. If you are on a site where everyone lists their profile and adds a photo, why would you not want to do the same? What is your reasoning for wanting to connect and interact with others without sharing a little about yourself? There may be reasons, but for many of us on LinkedIn, we are starting to get suspicious as to why people with fake profiles are on there to begin with and what their ultimate intention is.When I looked at how many invites I received today, I was surprised by the large number. Since I am a LION or LinkedIn open networker, I do receive a lot of invites. But today was especially huge, and there was no explanation. And when I looked at my invitations in my Inbox, one thing immediately caught my eye: THE NAMES OF MANY PEOPLE THAT WERE INVITING ME WERE IN CAPITAL LETTERS. I had on occassion seen some people with their names in capitals, but it is rare. Today a majority of people inviting me had their names capitalized, and that was already telling me that something fishy is going on.
It turns out that everyone with their names in capitals were working for the same company. Hmmm. The company just started to utilize LinkedIn. OK. I can accept that. I have seen that happen before, but not on a scale of this sort. I mean, if you are a professional, you already had a LinkedIn account to begin with by now, no? But let’s look further: they all represent a company claiming to be specialists in social media! And they all had about the same number of connections, literally everyone being within 20 or 30 connections away from the other person…but the numbers were very low for people that I would consider social media experts! And social media experts just started inviting contacts on LinkedIn recently?
The more I look at these people’s profiles, the more bizarre things become. Can you believe that all these people working for a company looking for business in social media consulting do not list the website of the company that they work for? If I wanted to contact their company, how could I? Or is this a company that doesn’t exist?
But what really bothered me was this: every person that invited me all graduated from a top notch university, but they were all distinctly different. Here is a partial list: Stanford University, USC, UC Berkeley, University of Notre Dame, University of Chicago, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Georgetown, Carnegie-Mellon… The amazing thing is that not only did no two people go to the same school, but they all list their address as being in the same major southeastern city! And they all graduated within a few years of each other! Quite a coincidence, or a fake, if you ask me.
The real give away here is that everyone worked at the same previous company at the same time (down to the month and year) as well as the same new company. And, according to their “profiles”, these are not new hires, either, but people who have been with a social media company for more than a year and then suddenly decided to start utilizing LinkedIn.
I have showed you how, through common sense, you can unearth a lot of fake profiles on your own thanks to the standard format that LinkedIn uses and its search capabilities. But this leads to a bigger question: why do people, or in this case with the sheer number of people involved I assume businesses, create these fake profiles to begin with?
In my previous blog post, all of these fake profiles were people stating that they worked at some famous company. This time it is people saying they graduated from top notch universities. The commonality here is that these people can now invite people who worked or went to school together with them into their own network without knowing email addresses. In this case, seeing that the graduation dates were all 6 to 10 years ago, this is a company that is trying to build a huge database of Gen Y professionals that graduated from the top schools. What they do with this information is anyone’s guess.
We always have to be on the lookout for being harmed by fake profiles, and LinkedIn is very cognizant of this. But if I could find these people easily, couldn’t LinkedIn themselves find them even easier? By looking at data trends or even through undercover profiles, LinkedIn can find and eradicate these fake people. It may be the right time for LinkedIn to hire one or two people to “police” themselves and make sure that fake profiles do not ruin the value of the “trusted network” that LinkedIn is trying to provide.
And to repeat what I previously wrote, if LinkedIn does not want to do this themselves, I am always interested in having a conversation with LinkedIn about how to better their service. I believe that us open networkers with large connections are in an ideal position to be able to monitor fake profiles by committee and report back to LinkedIn. I welcome the creation of such an “Open Networkers for LinkedIn Committee” and can nominate quite a few great connectors for this purpose. Just call me and consider it done.
The offer still stands.