We all get them. Those connection requests from LinkedIn (especially after you have polished your LinkedIn profile) and those new people who follow you on Twitter. But what do you do with the requests? Should you automatically connect or follow back? What’s the social media etiquette? After all, they like you!

Hold your horses pilgrim. We need to have a chat about stranger danger. You know those lectures you give your kids about chatting to strangers on the net? You need to sit yourself down and have a serious talk to yourself about chatting to strangers.

Now, this may surprise you, but not everything and everyone you see on the internet is true. People can pretend to be other people with just a few clicks – and the good looking twenty something female web designer you think you are connecting with in the UK suddenly turns out to be a middle aged bloke in India.

Why Fakers Are Bad Friends

Before we explore how to spot the baddies, let’s start with why they do it in the first place.

The most common reason is that they harvest your personal details. LinkedIn has the richest source of information – your email addresses and phone numbers. These can be on-sold to scammers and phishing sites to access more of your financial details or leveraged to get access to your company’s IT systems.

With Twitter, either they are trying to get you to buy their services, or the most likely is to take you through a cloaked link to a malware or virus infested site where they can then take control of your computer (and all of your details stored on it).

Fake Twitter followers also drop your engagement and interaction, and if you have too many of them, you are in breach of Twitter’s terms of trade (it is considered as faking your follower count).

Read more about the impact of fake followers: https://www.weidert.com/whole_brain_marketing_blog/bid/118003/What-Fake-Twitter-Followers-Do-To-Credibility

Allowing fake friends to connect on social media is akin to going down to the local pub at the wrong end of the night and shouting “Here’s my PIN number for my credit card – I trust you guys not to use it.” It is not a wise move.

How to Spot & Reject Dodgy Friends

Let’s start with a quick guide on how to spot obvious scammers and fakers. If any of your requests match these DNA profiles, then they should get the automatic bin and block treatment.

How to Spot a Fake LinkedIn Profile

Step 1: Pictures. 

Fake profile pictures come in three kinds

  • Photos of famous and semi-famous people: Unfortunately George Clooney is never likely to be sending you a LinkedIn request.
  • Stock photos: If the person has super white teeth and is carrying a piece of technology or is wearing a headset, they are possibly a stock photo and not a real breathing human being.
  • Photos of realistic looking people like this lady (who has her face blurred because it was a fake profile of a real person).

Linkedin requests
Before you accept any request, right click the photo and click “Search Google for this image” if you are using Chrome.

If you are using other browsers, then follow the instructions from Google https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808?hl=en

You should then be able to see where else the image can be found around the net. Often you will find the photo appears in hundreds of stock libraries or newspapers, or across many websites as their call centre operator. You can safely assume these are not real connections.

But what if the photo is of a real person? This is where you do a bit more digging. Scammers rarely set up the same profile on multiple accounts – so check out any photos of the person on Twitter or Facebook. Check out their website.  If anything looks suss – reject the request.

Only if the image and name match and check out, do you go to step 2. Otherwise the scammer does not get to pass go and collect $200 from your bank account.

Step 2: Connections

If the person only has a small handful of connections – then keep digging. They may be legitimate, but be cautious. If they have 500+ connections, then they MAY be legitimate.

Check out their shared connections. If the friends you know are ones who say yes to everyone, then you may want to keep digging.

Step 3: Background & Job History

Most LinkedIn profiles will not win Pulitzer prizes with their writing, but zero details are a red flag. Just say no!

If you want to improve your own LinkedIn profile – this may help: https://www.heartcomms.com.au/linkedin-profile-tips/

The other red flag is where they have copied and pasted generic typical role descriptions for the role they are impersonating. The spammers are doing this to get through any automated scanning software. Often they copy the text into multiple sections. Continue to just say no!

how to spot fake linkedin profiles

Step 4: Education

Check if the qualifications look legitimate. Copying and pasting information from a prospectus is a danger sign. It shows they know how to cut and paste – but probably does not show that they actually did that course at Uni (particularly as in this case they copied a graduate program and the profile had no undergraduate qualifications).

how to spot fake linkedin profiles

Step 5: Skills & Endorsements

Love them or loathe them, endorsements for skills do give clues about a person. If someone has 100+ connections and only 3 endorsements, you can bet your house that the endorsements came from other scam profiles.

Step 6: Location

If you are a local business with a local presence, then it is unlikely that someone from Pakistan or Estonia will want to connect with you on LinkedIn.

What Do You Do When You Spot A Fake LinkedIn Profile?

Click the down arrow right next to Send an Inmail and then click “Block or Report.” Do everyone a favour and help weed out the scammers.

Which Twitter Followers Should You Block?

When you get a new notification that someone is following you, don’t auto follow back. Review each connection to work out if you genuinely do want to follow them.

Yes, there are paid programs that can automatically do this vetting for you, but for most small businesses, the old one-by-one method works just as well.

Red Twitter Flags

  • Anyone who has “I can buy you 10000 genuine Twitter followers for only $x” in their profile or photo.
  • Anyone whose tweets only comprise of ads.
  • Egg heads – anyone without a profile photo or background photo.
  • Anyone following loads of people but only has 100 or so followers.
  • Anyone who randomly mentions you in a comment that also contains a link in it. Always check out their account and you will often find hundreds of identical tweets to a whole host of people, so you are not special.
  • Anyone whose Twitter handle is a random combination of letters and numbers.
  • Generic bios – You are not looking for anything meaningful here, but bios that just talk about “Searching for happiness” are definitely suss.
  • A Twitter stream that is nothing but retweets.

Fake Twitter profiles

What To Do If You Spot A Fake Or Scam Twitter Profile

The fastest option is to Block their account. Click on the cog next to their name on their Twitter profile page and block them and then move on with your life.

Staying Safe

Do NOT under any circumstances click on any links in a suspect Twitter or LinkedIn bio, especially if the links are shortened and you can’t see where they are going. Scammers often cloak their links and take you through fields of malware-infested sites.

One of the best things you can do to help you stay safe and to protect your brand is to set up a free Google alert for your name.

Set up an as it happens alert for mentions of “your name” (add the inverted commas for more accurate results), and have the alert sent to your email address. That way, you will get a heads up of people using your name in vain.

What If You Find Yourself?

One of the most surreal experiences you can have is to discover that someone is impersonating you on Twitter or LinkedIn.

These need more direct action.

Report the impersonation … and DON’T click on any links in their/your bio in a mad panic to find out who they really are!

Twitter: https://support.twitter.com/forms/impersonation

LinkedIn: https://help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/61664

What About Other Social Media Platforms?

If you build it, they will come. The same rules apply on Google+, Pinterest, Blab, Periscope, Instagram and all of the other platforms. If you are there, you can assume the scammers will also be there. Use the same protocols for spotting fake profiles and trust your gut. If the person looks dodgy, chances are they are dodgy.

Want a hand with your online presence?

Ingrid Moyle

Ingrid Moyle (BA - Psych/Industrial Relations) is the Chief Web Wizard at Heart Harmony Communications. A self-confessed multipotentialite, Ingrid shamelessly blends her passions of human resources, psychology, web design and copywriting. When not hardwired to her computer, she quests for the perfect coffee while chasing virtual reality creatures across the backstreets of Brisbane.