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Human ResourcesRecruitmentSourcing

What Are The LinkedIn Fakers Looking For?

By July 24, 20142 Comments

What’s going on with the recent surge in fake LinkedIn accounts? A few weeks ago I got three “invitations to connect” from the profiles of people purporting to be senior ranking recruitment managers within large New Zealand businesses.

The third one was from someone (I forget the name, but it was a deliberately generic Euro kind of moniker like Jonathan Brown or something), who had bestowed themselves the title of “Recruitment Director – Telecom”. It didn’t bear much scrutiny really. Looking at the profile there hadn’t been much effort to dress the impression of authenticity up much beyond that. No work history prior to Telecom, no relevant Groups joined, no recommendations. I mean if had been someone in HR then maybe I wouldn’t have been so suspicious…but this was supposedly a recruiter!

So I ignored it. I then got an email from a Whiteboard reader telling me about it and that he had called Telecom to ask if this person existed. They didn’t, of course.

But that is what got my attention when last week I got another one. This time from a Nicola Hardy, purporting to be Managing Director of Datacom.  A quick look at the profile made it clear that this was unlikely to be genuine:

Nicola Hardy fake

Because of a pattern emerging I looked in a bit further and found there is actually a Nicola Hardy who is a Project Manager at Datacom, and has a more genuine looking presence on LinkedIn.  I sent her a message and she confirmed the other one was fake and had LinkedIn take it down.

What I don’t understand is: Why? What are the creators of these fake profiles looking to achieve? But perhaps more importantly, how are these fake profiles able to so quickly amass 500+ connections?  Do so many people out there really just click “accept” to LinkedIn invites based purely upon the impression generated from a name and title?

I must admit that my stance on this has changed somewhat over the years.  When I created my LinkedIn profile back in 2007 I made it a policy of mine to only connect with people I had met in person.  In more recent times I relaxed this to accepting the invitations from people in the HR and Recruitment community, even if I hadn’t met them.  But I would always check their profile out, send them a “thanks” for the connect, and try and get some kind of dialogue going.  LinkedIn is supposedly a “social network” after all (haha – that’s a joke), and hey, I do recruit recruiters, and sometimes this is a recruiter’s way of saying “hey, look at me, I’m keen on a new opportunity but haven’t got the balls to actually send you my CV or pick up the phone”.

Perhaps it’s just a way the fake profile can spam you messages without having to pay for InMails.  I don’t know but if anyone has more insight, or can highlight some more nefarious motives behind this annoying trend, please do make a comment below.

Looking further into this I came across this interesting blog post from James Mayes, a UK recruitment blogger, about a quick method to identify fake LinkedIn profiles.  By downloading a Google Image Search plugin you can right click on the LinkedIn profile photo to see if it’s a real person with other photos on the web, or a stock photo that would alert you as to the profile’s likely veracity.  It’s quite clever really, but whether it’s the most surefire way of avoiding getting duped, I’m unsure.

Although Google did do a pretty good job of finding my Doppelgänger, it has to be said:



It’s uncanny…

Jonathan Rice

Director of New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice & Co, co-founder of freelance recruiter platform JOYN, and people-centric technology firm superHUMAN Software. Recruitment innovator, agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Kevin C says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Interesting… I discovered recently that I had a new job as GM HR of a large NZ company. Only thing is that I wasn’t on the payroll! I did try for back-pay, but to no avail!!

    Not quite sure what’s up but assume it’s to do with scamming. For me though it established a dialogue I could not have achieved, so there was a positive outcome!

  • Michelle B says:

    Hi Jonathan

    A few of my colleagues got these also. We did a quick bit of detective work before the profiles were deleted and traced the email addresses back to India. We suspect it was something to do with Web Scraping or Data Scraping and the ‘perps’ were scraping all the connections information from those who accepted.

    I’m guessing it’s a quick way of getting a lot of people onto a database that can be onsold.