As with most of you, I am continually asked to connect on LinkedIn with people whom I have never met. This I rarely do as I have a LinkedIn golden rule: never connect unless I have held a conversation with them, either by LinkedIn, email, phone or in person.
Cyber-crime continues to increase at an alarming rate and you have to remain vigilant at all times. Not only for the obvious and predictable problems such as viruses, malware and spyware but the less obvious low level crime which may not register with you.
In 2016, I received a standard LinkedIn invitation email asking me to connect to a young man whom I didn’t know. As always, I read the individual’s profile. You never know who is emailing you and they may not be aware of LinkedIn etiquette, in that you should at least personalise the message if you are going to connect with a complete stranger. What is also on my mind is that I do not want this to be my Banksy moment. For those who do not know, Banksy left a paste table in downtown New York full of his paintings, saying “Yours for $60”. As they were not labelled as Banksy, only three people brought them. Since then, I am always on the lookout for any paste tables where they shouldn’t be – to read more, visit https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-24526403.
On this occasion I was very glad to be reading his profile. Apparently he worked for my company. As a founder and part owner I know every current and past employee, so this was a something of a surprise. I had no idea who he was.
If I had connected with him, I would have immediately legitimised his employment history. To my astonishment, many of my colleagues had done just that! To me, this is no different to someone lying on their CV or making up a qualification.
When events such as this happen, I always start to think about the wider picture and you do not have to have much of an imagination to realise this is how people get to places they shouldn’t be. Of course I reported this to LinkedIn support. Two support tickets later, nothing had happened and this individual continued to masquerade as a past employee.
LinkedIn's response was seriously lacking, closing both support tickets without even advising me and this was after they ignored the initial requests for assistance. They have now removed the references from the profile after receiving a very blunt email from me, suggesting they were being complicit in assisting identity fraud.
So even if you don’t adopt my golden rule, when reviewing contacts on LinkedIn, treat what you are reading with a due cynicism. I would even go as far as to check some of the history by contacting the companies or individuals listed directly.
You only have to read about targeted phishing attacks (please see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35250678) to understand how criminal gangs are using these tools against us to commit massive fraud on a daily basis.
What is also clear to me that the tech industry is only interested in itself and does very little to prevent problems (please see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-35263503) as it could undermine the only measure they care about, which is the amount of users they attract.
P.S. Any time I visit a major city, I’m still looking for paste tables, as I would love a Banksy on the wall....