Do not trust everything you see on LinkedIn. We've created a fake LinkedIn profile with a fake job in a real business. Our fake profile has caught the eye of a Google recruiter and received over 1
Everyone talks about fake accounts on Facebook and fake followers on Twitter. LinkedIn was not involved in the conversation, but Microsoft's social network also has a big problem.
LinkedIn checks nothing
We created a wrong profile and associated it with a real company. Unfortunately it is not difficult. LinkedIn does not require proof or confirmation of anything. Instead, LinkedIn works with a kind of honor system.
You can say that you work for a big company and get an impressive job title. It worked for us. Our bad profile (John) "works for HP" as an innovation technologist. You may think that this is a job title we invented locally, but it's a real position we found in HP job opportunities. We also gave John previous jobs with Exabeam and Salesforce to round off his CV.
You could imagine that HP or someone else would notice and stop us. But it does not work that way. LinkedIn does not notify companies about new employee profiles.
We did not steal people's identities or use a real photo for our fake profile. Do you see the photo of John? This is not a stock photo of a real person. Instead, the image comes from thispersondoesnotexist.com. Simply put, it is a fake photo of a non-existent person created using a computer algorithm. Here is a screenshot of the fake profile for posterity.
Businesses Can not Stop Fake Employees
Here's the kicker: LinkedIn adds this automatically Anyone who signs up as an employee on a business page. At the moment you can search and find our wrong profile in the list of HP employees. All you have to do is visit the company page, click on people, and then search the staff directory.
With our fake profile in HP's "official staff list" on LinkedIn, John looks like a pretty legitimate employee!  Even if a company notices a person listed as a co-worker, if it is not, it is difficult to remove. To remove a wrong employee, a real employee needs to log in to the company's LinkedIn profile, visit the contact page, and explain the situation to LinkedIn. From there, the company is at the mercy of the social network. Only LinkedIn can remove an employee from the side of a company. The probability of getting caught AND being removed is therefore incredibly low.
Only one yes is required to build your connections.
Of course there was a problem: John had no connections with HP. To solve this problem, we randomly tried to connect to an HP employee we could find.
Just like you do with your own LinkedIn account, you're inviting or accepting anyone in any way affiliated with you. We did not have a single legitimate connection to the invite, which was a problem. However, we only needed one person who said yes.
After the first person connected, the process began. Before we knew it, John had nearly 50 connections after an hour or two of work. People who never met him, never talked to him, and never e-mailed him wanted everyone to connect. This number continues to grow and we also received an invitation (as opposed to a request) from an HP representative.
A Google recruiter even contacted our fake profile
With a growing list of links and a job history in the technical field, it was only a matter of time before John drew some attention. But nobody noticed that John was not real. Instead, Google believed that he was well suited for a job.
And so a Google recruitment agency grabbed him. The recruiter said that John's work experience made him a potential candidate for a position the company had and he wanted to talk about options. For the Google employee there were no red flags at John.
We did not work through the chat – John is not real and his picture was generated by a computer algorithm. But if we tried to find a job somewhere, it would probably have been a great way to create a realistic-looking CV to get your foot in the door.
Incorrect links and endorsements are easy to buy
Our bad profile already had nearly 50 links to its name, and we could have continued using the same process to gain more. But that's too much work. We wanted many fast connections. So we used a shortcut.
We paid for a service that enabled John 100 connections. These connections then confirmed our top ten skills and gave us a total of 100 endorsements. Not surprisingly, our invitation requests were answered faster than the connection numbers got so big. Now John's profile looks impressive! A job at HP, 179 connections (many to HP employees) and countless endorsements – no matter that he does not exist.
You may be wondering if LinkedIn will find that we paid for connections. As far as we know, they are "valid". They have not disappeared, and in every profile we looked at, the US is listed for a home country.
That promised the service too. As the site puts it:
Each profile you invite will have a profile picture, an English name and a location in the United States. They have work experience and an educational background.
As far as we can see, this is an automated process. The 100 connection invitations went in almost simultaneously. The endorsement process used the existing connections for which we paid. The connection purchasing service keeps constant access to all these profiles.
You can not necessarily trust LinkedIn Connections.
LinkedIn shows when you're connected to another person about your connections and how your connections connect. If you're connected directly to someone, it's a first-degree connection. The connections you do not share are second-degree connections. And all the connections they have are third-degree connections.
As you establish personal connections, your extended network grows. Think about it: If you have ten friends and each one of them has ten friends you do not know, then you have 100 "friends of a friend" is somehow a "third" connection away from any of our real profiles. That is, our real profile has a connection to someone who has a connection to someone else who then has a connection to "John." It's a little world after all.
LinkedIn uses these links to show the legitimacy of a profile, but fake profiles get them easily. "This person knows a friend of a friend" should be reassuring. But you can not count on that. There's also no way to track your connections to this person.
LinkedIn provides an illusion of trustworthiness
LinkedIn has many problems. But most of these problems are small and forgivable on their own. Anyone can create a profile with any name. Everyone can register as an employee of a company. LinkedIn does not give companies an easy way to moderate and enforce their list of employees. Everyone can buy links and endorsements. People intuitively trust that a person's work history is real and accurate and that other people or companies have verified profiles.
All these statements are not a significant problem in themselves. However, taken together, the problem is much larger than the sum of the parts. Nobody checks the correctness; Everything depends on a system of honor.
When you receive a connection request, rate the person on multiple fronts. Do you recognize her? If not, do you work for your company or a frequently contacted company? Do you know someone you know? And so on. It's easy to turn most of those answers into "yes." And because LinkedIn works on the principles that "more connections are always better," most people are willing to overlook the fact that they do not know a person.
LinkedIn simplifies culling and cheating
The Google recruiter did not follow us. Google would quickly realize that our profile was fake. Finally, we used a photo of a person who does not exist!
However, you do not need a completely fake profile to benefit from LinkedIn policies. You could just add a company you've never worked for, a job title you've never had or additional information. You could pay for connections and endorsements. That could help you get an interview. Continuation padding is an old trick, and this is the digital version.
That's bad for everyone. When recruits are dismissed, they are less likely to trust LinkedIn, and they may be turning to other recruiting methods.
It's not always the case to get a job. When we were investigating a job recruiting scam, the scammers hired themselves out as corporate employees by showing us the true profile of a real person in a real business. There was some risk – what if the target was trying to connect to and contact the person on LinkedIn? The scammer could have simply created a fake LinkedIn profile. With a few hours of work, this fake profile would look just as good as an actual employee.
A company that found that its name was abused on LinkedIn could not stop a scammer from doing so immediately. Instead, the company would need to contact LinkedIn.
RELATED: Scam Alert: Fake Job Recruiters Have Tried to Fish Us, Here's What Happens
LinkedIn Could fix the problem
LinkedIn was able to address these issues remedy. For example, with LinkedIn, companies could review their employees and provide better tools to remove fraudulent employees. The social network, like Twitter, could check IDs and give some profiles a "verified" badge.
In order to stop fake connections, LinkedIn could even look for and detect signs of suspicious activity, such as: For example, if a profile receives 100 connection invitations at the same time. Then it could put an end to practice. Other social networks are already looking for fake accounts.
However, before LinkedIn takes action, you should take a closer look at each connection request. And if a recruiter mentions you on his LinkedIn profile, you should not use that information alone to help you decide on your career.