Whenever a good thing pops up, flocks of terrible people show up to exploit it. LinkedIn rose to immense value as a professional social media platform, so of course scammers showed up next.
The FBI says that scams on LinkedIn from cybercriminals now represents a serious threat to regular users of the platform. At the moment, they’re investigating a series of cryptocurrency frauds in which a new connection encourages a user to get into crypto through a legitimate site to start. After spending a bit of time gaining the victim’s trust, the scammer then convinces the victim to transfer their crypto investments to a site the scammer owns. Then, the money just vanishes.
This represents only one of the possible ways in which people could face criminals and scammers on LinkedIn. All of these would be bad actors, however, follow some patterns in terms of what their fake accounts look like. Since bad people won’t be vanishing any day soon, best to learn the flags that will show them as what they really are.
Identifying Fake LinkedIn Sales Connections
Honestly, there’s not a single social media platform without bad actors on it. People gather there, which means criminals gather there. Social media platforms are the 21st Century equivalent of a city’s central plaza and marketplace, where all the commerce, networking, gossip, and news happens. Those places have always attracted thieves, cutpurses, scammers, and snake oil salesmen for all of human history.
The trick today is to learn how they show up. Misdirection must conform to its environment, after all, in order to work in the first place. Once you know the signs of misdirection, avoiding it and keeping your money becomes a lot easier.
Incomplete Profiles and Generic Photos
One of the biggest consistent clues to a fake sales bot profile is an incomplete profile and generic or stock photos on the profile in question. Legitimate users may use stock photos for marketing, but not for their profile picture. They also won’t exclusively use stock or generic photos. You can use Google image search to see if a given profile pic is a stock photo. It will show up in the stock photo company’s inventory.
In addition, if someone is trying to use LinkedIn to connect with others, one would think they’d put the time in to complete the profile. It’s only polite, after all. Howevr, when it comes to making endless scam profiles, nobody puts in that kind of time. So look for quick, sloppy, and stock photos.
Impersonal and Generic Messages
Bland and generic messages do not work. Bots send mass messages with no personalization, no tailoring to the individual, no references to your profile or industry. They’re trying to hit several thousand people or hundred thousand people, while the scammer only interacts with those who respond. They know they’re selling poison, so it’s a pure numbers game.
People who legitimately want to connect with you do the courtesy of tailoring their message to you. They spend a minute looking over your profile. They’ll mention mutual connections, or bring up a recent post of yours. They might reference being in the same industry. They won’t just toss out a generic marketing script.
Even if there is a real person behind that generic marketing script, ignore them anyway. Either they’re a scammer or a bad marketer, and neither deserves the reward of your attention.
Excessive Promotional Content and Unrealistic Claims
Some things don’t change. One of those things is the idea that if someone’s trying too hard, there’s a reason. Another is the notion that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
LinkedIn sales bots from scammers are notorious for utterly bombarding users with promotional content in direct messages. Those promotions come aggressively for various products and services, but without providing much information or value. Again, this is a numbers game for them, pure and simple. Out of a massive volume of attempts, they’re bound to get at least a couple of victims.
If they’re promising overnight success, insane profit margins, or instant solutions to complicated problems, we’ve got bad news. First, none of those things exist. You’re better off playing the lottery, they’re at least upfront about your chances. Second, actual professionals on LinkedIn focus on building relationships and engaging in meaningful discussions. LinkedIn offers a place to establish oneself long term, not a sales billboard.
Drop any connections that focus solely on sell sell sell without ever acting like an actual adult human being.
Inconsistent or Poor Grammar and Spelling
Considering it’s a platform for professionals, most users on LinkedIn work very hard to come off as, well, professional. They’re showing off their communication skills, since that’s a huge piece of their resume. So, anyone that can’t spell or use grammar correctly raises all the red flags.
Yes, people on LinkedIn come from all over the world and from a variety of native languages. That being said, they still work pretty hard at writing well in whatever language they’re using. Bots, however, don’t care. They’re destined for deletion any way. So, be wary of any connection who shows poor communication skills.
Unusual Connection Requests and Unfamiliar Profiles
Fake LinkedIn sales bots send connection requests to individuals indiscriminately. That’s the whole reason they exist in the first place. So, they target users with little regard for relevance or shared professional interests. They’ll just blanket as many user profiles as they can find on any given day.
Real connections ought to show some kind of reason for reaching out. Be wary of all connection requests, and do your homework to make sure that’s a real human being. They ought to tell you why they want your particular connection in some kind of sensible fashion.
It’s dangerous out there in the digital wilds. Use sense, and stay safe.
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