The surprising way you might connect with scammers: LinkedIn

Even if you’re a guard dog about your online social media privacy, there’s one place you might have overlooked. It’s a site where you tend to accept new connections from people you don’t know, where you share a lot of information about yourself and your personal history, and anyone on the site can see your entire profile.

Did you figure it out? It’s LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is all about building a business network, showing off your expertise, and finding new opportunities. The trouble is, this social media offers similar advantages to scammers, too.

By creating a fake profile or sending you real-looking phishing emails, con artists can gain access to a whole pool of successful adults (read: people with money, not resource-less kids or teens) who are, at least on some level, connected. There’s also a psychological advantage for scammers who use LinkedIn—we tend not to question business connections as hard as personal ones. In fact, latest job scams count on it.

The scams

A “recruiter” contacts you via a LinkedIn message and invites you to apply for a job. The message includes a link to an online application where you are asked to upload your resume and provide personal information (perhaps even your address and social security number). You could also be contacted over LinkedIn and told you’ve been hired for a job…and asked to pay up front for training.

In both cases, the job never materializes—but scammers make off with your information and/or your money.

What you can do

  1. Tune your privacy settings. For example, under LinkedIn’s Privacy Settings, take a peek in the Communications area. You can choose ‘who can send you invitations’ to have a bit more control over who can contact you. Also, if you uncheck ‘career opportunities’ and ‘new ventures’ could help eliminate some messages.
  2. Look carefully at each connect request. As someone in the business world, your urge is probably to accept invitations to grow your network—but do so with caution. Before you hit “accept.”
    • Check out the profile of the person making the request. Is it complete? Is the grammar correct? If something seems fishy, it might be “phishy” and you should just say no.
    • Make sure the request is coming from LinkedIn and is not a phishing scam. Phishing emails can look very, very real. Check the “from” link to make sure it’s from and/or log into the social media to do a little investigating before you say yes.
  3. Have them give you a call. If a recruiter contacts you over LinkedIn, talk with them personally before giving them any information. A scammer will avoid speaking in person by giving you excuses. A real recruiter will jump at the chance to talk (and won’t ask you to give out personal information, either).
  4. Don’t fork over cash. Even if you really need a new job, just remember: if the opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t pay for training without lots added information (and conversations [see above]) so you know the opportunity is legit.
  5. Report it! If you spot a job scam on LinkedIn, report it. Be sure to include any and all details you can provide—including a copy of the message—to help prevent someone else from falling victim.

About Missy Kellor

Missy works on the Corporate Communications team and reports stories to TDS employees and customers. This is right up her alley because she’s an extrovert and also a big fan of research (really, she’ll look up just about anything that strikes her interest). Missy is a native of Madison, Wis. with an undergraduate in Anthropology and a master’s degree in Life Sciences Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interest in the Internet as a mass media shaped her work towards a PhD in Journalism and Mass Communications. She’s also worked as an editorial assistant, copywriter, and production artist. In her off hours, Missy is a crafter, Pinterest addict, reader, wife, and mom of two kids.

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