Truth be told, some LinkedIn users have nefarious intentions
(Image Source: Unsplash)
I'm a huge fan of LinkedIn. Of the top social media platforms, it was exclusively created for business and professional purposes. The people and information that you find on the platform are generally more credible than what you would find on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, etc. LinkedIn users focus their content and activity on job searching or recruiting, generating sales leads, business development, being brand ambassadors for their companies, etc.
Nothing in life is absolute, not even on LinkedIn. Although I advocate on a daily basis for more people to leverage the platform, I also understand that it is susceptible to some of the same issues that exist on other platforms. Perhaps hacking is more prevalent on other sites. But as more people start to actively use the platform, hacking may become more problematic on LinkedIn. I've had some recent LinkedIn connection invites that reminded me of how hackers are creeping on it.
Just to make sure we all have the same understanding of what hacking means, here's a definition by The Economic Times.
Hacking is an attempt to exploit a computer system or a private network inside a computer. Simply put, it is the unauthorized access to or control over computer network security systems for some illicit purpose.
One recent connection invite that was immediately suspicious to me came from "Pastor Joel Osteen." I put the name in quotation marks because the profile is not legit.
It is always good practice to NEVER automatically 'Accept' a LinkedIn connection invite. LinkedIn recommends that you only add people you know to your network. I disagree with this. There are countless people in my network who I would have never known if it had not been for us discovering each other via LinkedIn. There is an extent to the amount of people who you can meet in person. For me, one of the great things about LinkedIn is that it allows you to build your network far beyond just your limited circle. I have LinkedIn connections all across the country and world who I have never met in-person, but I consider them to be valuable connections.
If you receive a connection invite from someone you don't know, it is very important that you ALWAYS check the person's profile to determine if the account is legit. Maybe the account is legit, but they don't meet the criteria of someone you want in your network (you do have criteria, right???)...remember your network reflects on your brand.
My faith is an integral part of my life. So the invite from "Pastor Joel Osteen" immediately got my attention. He is a renowned mega-pastor in Texas. BUT, why would he want to connect with me? 🤔 I'm not one who chases after the big influencers on LinkedIn. So I didn't get star struck by seeing the invite, I was more curious. A quick look at the profile told me it was someone impersonating Osteen. I quickly ignored the invite! Perhaps if I would've automatically accepted, someone then could have hacked my account. 🤦🏾♀️
I don't understand technology to the point of knowing what exactly happens in cyber land when a hacker gets into an account. But I do know putting a welcome mat, figuratively speaking, on your LinkedIn profile that you are open to all connections is not a safe practice.
Don't be so caught up in getting connections that you end up making it easy for the wrong people to have access to your information.
Another recent example of a suspicious LinkedIn connection invite I received was from someone who uses a photo of a dog as his profile photo.
Full disclosure, I don't have any pets. This does not mean I don't like animals. I just don't like them in my home and I think LinkedIn will agree with me saying they are NOT appropriate for profile photos. Maybe this person is a veterinarian or works with animals in some way. But there are other ways to showcase this within the LinkedIn profile.
As a reminder, LinkedIn is for professional and business purposes. The cute animal photos are more appropriate for profiles on other platforms. I hear pets are real big on Instagram.
Of course, the invite with the cute dog was another one I quickly hit the 'Ignore' button on. In addition to the inappropriate profile photo, there were other red flags with the profile.
With the ease of getting photos off the internet, anyone can use someone else's photo as if it is theirs. This scenario happened to me on Twitter. Someone used my photo and name for their profile information. So make sure you don't just assume a nice photo, as with the Osteen invite I received, is really that person.
(Image Source: Pexels)
(Image Source: Pexels)
Here are suggested steps you can take when you receive LinkedIn invites from people you don't know:
Stop! Don't automatically hit 'Accept.'
Does the Profile Image match up to other photos of them within their profile or if you do a Google search?
See how many mutual connections you may have. (This is not fool-proof because the connections may have randomly accepted their invite, but it may give you some clues.)
See how many connections the "person" has overall (Have they at least reached the 500+ benchmark that LinkedIn gives all users?)
Is the Banner Image customized?
Is the Headline customized?
Is the Experience section complete?
Google the person to see if their LinkedIn account comes up.
Do they have an Activity Section? Does it have consistent original content? (This is one of the best ways to get a sense of what makes people tick.)
Do they have any Recommendations?
The above tips are not 100% guarantees on keeping your LinkedIn account from being hacked, but they do provide you defensive strategies to guard your account. These are actually some of the steps I take to protect my account.
One of the biggest determining factors for me accepting a LinkedIn connection invite is if the person took the time to send me a personalized note. I teach the importance of this in my LinkedIn trainings. Usually the personalized note gives me an idea of who the person is and why they want to connect with me. I tend to prioritize these invites.
If you believe your LinkedIn account has been hacked, LinkedIn provides a form for you to report the circumstance and useful tips.
Keep in mind, even if you 'Accept' a connection invite you can always remove the connection and report them to LinkedIn.
Always be in the mindset of continually growing your LinkedIn network, but be strategic in the process and do all you can to keep your profile safe from predators.