Fake LinkedIn Accounts

As an open networker I tend to receive anywhere from 100 to 150 invitation requests each week. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve noticed some suspicious items about many of these invitations:

  1. Either no profile photo or a stock photo
  2. Use of the words “Independent” or “Student”
  3. Or no title at all

As I began looking at the profiles it was clear that these were basic accounts with little more than name and title. On about 50% of the questionable account there were three urls included but not much else.

I can’t say with 100% certainty that these are fake accounts but they look suspect. In the video I show about 8 of these accounts, and since I’ve screen captured these I’ve noticed another twenty or thirty similar accounts that I received invitations from.

What this means

If you are a closed networker, not much. If you are an open networker though you’re going to need to look a little more closely at the people you connect to. I currently look at every profile that I receive a request from. Its time consuming but if I want to continue to be an open networker than I need to avoid connecting to as many suspicious accounts as possible

Why do people create fake accounts?

I can think of two immediate reasons:

  1. To connect and then spam their connections through the messaging system
  2. To build links back to a site (for those that include the three url’s)

I’m sure there are many other reasons.

Watch the video and be sure to keep your eye on the people that you accept connection requests from.


Social Media Sonar provides the following four resources for FREE… 1.  The Blog, 2. The Online Marketing/Social Media Blueprint, 3.  Conversion Rate Optimization Guide, 4.  Resource Center.  If these help you implement your own online marketing program, great. We love helping people. If you decide you need some help, great. We love new clients.  Contact Us if we can help you.

Published by

Sean Nelson

Sean has been a Keynote speaker at Norvax University, conducts social media workshops and webinars, and has released three books on LinkedIn and written several social media guides. Sean currently runs Social Media Sonar, which in addition to providing free resources, manages social media strategies and tactics for companies. He is also a partner in Surge Labs, a conversion rate optimization company, helping companies improve conversions and profitability through scientific testing of Landing Pages, Websites, Email communications, and Shopping Carts.

20 thoughts on “Fake LinkedIn Accounts”

  1. Sean, I have noticed the same trends. While I am an open networker, I do not accept the high likelyhood spam accounts. For those that are questionable, I keep in the invitation queue for a couple weeks, to see if the profile has filled in. Some of the stock photo’s I have seen on LinkedIn are the same ones on some of the Spam twitter accounts.

    I also have noticed a one-time large reduction in my total LinkedIn reach a couple weeks ago and wonder if LinkedIn had removed some of those accounts.

  2. Sean,

    Although I am an Open Networker I scan through the profile of any new invite prior to accepting. I have set some hard rules on what I’ll accept; it must have both a first and a last name of a person, it must not come only in a company name, it must not contain a fake or photoshop.com photo, it must have a location and it must not be a started profile. I want to see some sort of summary or person’s history. I am twice as carefull on accepting an invite from those using a company logo, something other or no photo at all.

    I have received some that have come in different names using same photo, one where his groups were all Alumni Associations but to different universities all over the world yet now showed as attending in his profile. You’de think that evan a SPAMMER would be more careful that that, wouldn’t you?

    To Steve Cassady I also noticed a reduction like that when I hit 3000 connections. I have heard that at 3000 that LinkedIn does a realignment of your connections. What that means I have no idea though.


  3. It just goes to show you: Have clearly defined rules of engagement and carefully vet those who would connect to you. I, too, receive these suspicious invitations. I will Google the individual or company to see if anything else exists on them off of social media. I am always wary of the 500+ LIONs with no content (it always comes down to content!), no recommendations, no head shot (or an avatar), maybe one position in Experience (no start dates or end dates for past positions) and nothing filled out at the lower end of the profile, I have also E-mailed these people to gauge their intent for wanting to connect with me. Never a reply ~ what a shock!

  4. Steve,

    Not sure if LinkedIn is removing accounts or not. I think the reach number fluctuate for some reason but I’ve yet to figure it out.

    Thanks for the comment.

  5. Sean – this is why I’ve stopped being an Open Networker. I make sure the person actually exists (somehow) and if the connection makes sense.

    I’ve also been telling people I know who are joining LinkedIn (finally!) to have a picture because people need to see a face.

  6. The best way to avoid fake accounts is to build your network on the premise of which LinkedIn was founded — you only connect with people you know and trust. If you get an invite from someone you don’t know or haven’t met – just delete the invite.

  7. I agree with you, I am an open networked and see more and more of these…
    Especially coming from emerging markets, with India, Vietnam, and African countries on top (which I could also spot in the profiles you have used for your presentation).

    Most of them are harmless, they create a profile with basic information and link, hoping someone will take the initial step of asking them about their activities, etc… many look for a job… few are spammers and some are scammers.

    What scares me and annoys me more is stolen profiles – meaning someone creating usurping a real person identity, usually famous, and creating a fake profile to fish for information or scam people. Look at the Warren Buffet, Prince AlWaleed, etc… many many fake profiles out there, claiming to be the right person. And sometimes linking to the real websites, with real info, etc… just a fake email add.
    One need to be careful and aware of this.

  8. Richard,]

    Thanks for the comment. I know that a lot of fake accounts are coming out of the Phillipines courtesy of one person. No telling how many others are doing similar activity.

    As far as celebrities avoid them like the plague. Best advice is to look before you accept. I no longer accept connection requests from people without photos, with out detailed info, without customized profile urls, etc.

    Most fake accounts will have minimal info because the accounts are created by hand and less info equal ability to create more accounts.


  9. Hi Sean,

    yours is a very interesting topic especially because I recently dealt with fake accounts.

    I’ve been contacted by a former VP of a very important US company who seemed interested in networking at first and in investing in the company I work with later on.

    I didn’t know her but I read something online and everything was matching with her Linkedin and FB profiles—she really seemed interested in doing business and I didn’t care at begin that her English was worst then mine (but I am not English mother tongue)as well as her consultant ones.

    I am ever curious to discover things (maybe I am a detective inside:) and I started googling the emails and the phone numbers she gave me and quickly discovered that everything was fake and related to fake investment companies—email addresses were hotmail and you will undertand my surprise when putting her consultant email address on FB I found out another famous woman profile.

    This guy seems to like famous women profiles so that’s my opinion: there is somebody using famous women profiles to fraud or at least to attempt frauding other women so my post’s reason is to alert women , I am still an open networker but I try to pay more attention in accepting people.

    Just FYI I reported the fake profiles but they are still there increasing their contacts, so I suppose nobody cares!



  10. You definitely have to be careful. Great work on researching this person deeper.

    As far as LinkedIn is concerned, not sure to what degree they are bothering with addressing fake accounts. Maybe now that the IPO is completed they can get back to cleaning up and protecting the membership.


  11. I’m surprised that there aren’t more blogs/articles about this. Lately I’ve been up to 30 views in the past week or so. When I click on the viewers, I see that the person has 0 connections. I suspect Linkedin allows this, so people are enticed to join or increase usage etc, thus trying to justify their ridiculous IPO. Its another bubble/wall street scam or something to that effect.

Leave a Reply