Spot a bot on LinkedIn? Either you are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, or you know all too well. A “bot” on LinkedIn is a profile that has been created by an automated software program. It’s fake. Why would someone want to develop an army of not-real people on LinkedIn? To mine your data. Not a good thing. The problem has become so huge that LinkedIn has filed a lawsuit against an unknown “Doe-defendant” who is using Amazon Web Services to set up these profiles and scrape data for online recruiting purposes. In this case, they are trying to get out of paying LinkedIn to use LinkedIn’s proprietary recruiting software. While this might not seem so terrible, it really is cause for concern. First of all, because it compromises your privacy. You don’t know what this person or company collecting your data is going to do with it. Other LinkedIn bots may attempt to send spam e-mails to hook you into a scam, send you messages with questionable content (porn), or even steal your identity, equaling a LinkedIn code red! Plus, LinkedIn is spending vast sums detecting and deleting these profiles, boosting security, and paying attorneys to fight this lawsuit. (It’s a good time to be a lawyer!) This means the company has less money to put into making its platform secure and its business model profitable. Add damage to its reputation and LinkedIn has got some problems. But, all hope is not lost. If we are all a little savvier about who we connect with, I think we can defeat the bots. If no one connects with these zombie profiles, they can’t get our information as easily, and there will be no point to what they are doing. I declare guerrilla warfare on this evil empire! I used to connect with just about anybody. People would ask me if it was safe to connect with people they didn’t know and I would respond by saying that it was fine and a great way to build your network. How else are you going to get to know someone unless you connect with them and start the conversation? Now, I’m a lot more cautious.
How To Spot A Bot On LinkedInI still connect with people that I may not have met. But, only if they look like real people who could have a legitimate interest in connecting with me. If something seems off, I might just ignore them. And, if they look like a bot, I report it. Here are some indicators of fake profiles:
1. Stock profile photos.If the profile image looks like a knockout gorgeous model, be suspicious. These images are from stock photos. It is easy to figure out if they can be found online somewhere else. Simply drag the image into the Google image search box in another tab or window. The results should tell you whether the image has been purchased from a stock image site. (If you would like to know what makes a good profile photo, I have some tips in my post “How to Avoid a LinkedIn Profile Photo Epic Fail.”)
2. Incomplete profile.Proceed with caution when you see a profile that has no summary and few details in the professional experience section. I am always hesitant, myself, when there are no capital letters for the name, too. Many groups joined, but few details in the profile. Why would someone join a ton of groups, but not even fill out their employment? Because they are trying to gain access to large volumes of profiles quickly. That type of activity definitely is evidence of a bot that is scraping for data.
3. Few connections.These profiles usually have very few connections. Unless it is somebody I know, who is just getting started on LinkedIn, I don’t connect with anyone that has fewer than 50 connections. Why 50? It’s just a random number I picked.
4. No recommendations.How do I know if a person is real if there is no one vouching for them? If a profile has no recommendations and I have no idea who the person is, I don’t connect.
5. Stolen identities.I have read cases of people getting requests to connect with CEOs or bigwigs from prominent companies, only to find out that there is another profile belonging to the *real person* also on LinkedIn. After a Google search and some investigation, it was determined that the connection request belonged to impostor. Creepy. Going forward, I now recommend being more selective in who you connect with. If you suspect something is fishy, consider removing the connection and reporting the profile to LinkedIn. You can do this from the pull-down menu on the person’s profile. If you are uncertain, but interested in making the connection, use your network to find out more about the person. Send them a message back, asking to talk via phone. Job seekers are particularly vulnerable and should be wary of the following messages:
- Those that contain a link, requesting personal information in order to be contacted by a recruiter.
- Messages about job opportunities that you have to pay for.
- Promotions, get-rich-quick schemes, work-at-home opportunities.
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