Surfing the Web is increasingly a risky activity, with harmful consequences for users and companies that do not respect security rules or that overlook the dangers of this increasingly hostile "environment". A real SharkWeb!
This text comes about a danger, which is not new, but which has been gaining an increasing impact on the Internet: " false or erroneous profiles that support fraudulent or illegal schemes" . Anyway, a whole world of lies in which we never know who is hiding behind, whether a goldfish or a shark!
If until recently the champion of fake profiles was Facebook (with more than 80 million), Linkedin (still without known numbers) is in fashion for hackers , doubtful people, fraudulent companies, etc.
There are no professions immune to risk, because our dependence on this fantastic tool is growing, but like any other tool, it can be used for illicit or dangerous purposes. In my case, as a real estate consultant, I was approached by individuals who, through Facebook and Linkedin, proposed the purchase of very high-value properties, in their own name or from investors in the luxury segment.
In my case there was no damage, but there are plenty of examples of other colleagues who were circumvented (see https://goo.gl/tSIfDz ) and it is known that they do not always reveal it in public, out of shame, out of fear, or to preserve the professional image.
Since this " is not my thing" , I asked for specialized technical help and these experiences resulted in some knowledge that I would like to share with you.
Who hides behind a fake profile?
There are several motivations, with varying degrees of dishonesty:
- In the case of Linkedin, to recruit and employ people for purposes that are less lawful or different from those advertised;
- To hide his identity , his personal and professional contacts, thus avoiding being recognized while looking for a new job opportunity, or he intends to take on a facet / activity that he does not want to be known about (love relationships, pedophilia, eg) ;
- To improperly appropriate the identity of some public figure, usually an artist, for recreational or other less ethical purposes.
- To improve through a "fake or manipulated" profile, the chances of attracting a greater number of fans and connections , thus achieving a better performance for the intended purpose.
- To support fraudulent deals or qualified scams by harming people and organizations.
- To spread false news or tarnish the reputation of people / organizations.
What to do to find out if we are facing a false profile?
There is no 100% effective formula. We are always talking about signs and suspicions, however these are some clues that may help you in this task:
- The name of the suspected person, being too exclusive, unusual, or unusually banal. Names that point to a nationality other than the native language are also a good indication.
- Very incomplete profile, or produced according to a unique, commercial or similar perspective, as if that person had no professional experiences and experiences outside that area.
- Fake profile picture. The first action should be to find out if the photo is used elsewhere. Often used for the profile of the account, photos originating in image banks, or taken from the Internet, often related to actors or models in the fashion world. If the photo seems very well produced or of an unusual beauty, it is a good indication of this practice. You can drag the photo of the suspect profile onto your desktop and then drag it to Google Images and search.This Google service will find other places on the Internet where that photo is used and you will be able to check the veracity of it.
- One of the practices used in this type of Linkedin accounts is to join a large number of groups, which greatly exceeds the number of contacts in the account itself.
- Another clue has to do with the lack of recommendations on Linkedin. Or when they appear in small numbers, or come from other profiles themselves suspected.
- When the scheme set up by these individuals is complex, it is usual to find not one but several fake profiles collaborating with each other (on various social networks), or even "facade websites" . Now, one way to find out who is behind these sites is to interrogate an appropriate search service, in order to obtain the registration data for that domain. What is a domain? E.g. linkedin.com is a domain.Thus, among others, you can enter the site http://www.betterwhois.com , enter the domain of the doubtful site and after filling out the captcha, search. Various information about that domain will appear, just consult the data of the website owner in the fields starting with Registrant (Registrant Organization, etc.). If that information is missing, it is a suspicious sign, as this only happens when whoever registered that domain, explicitly asked to hide such data.
- Read the comments and posts on that account, looking for discrepancies, inconsistencies or facts that help to corroborate or demystify the impostor's profile.
- Search Google for the name of that person or company, or for the email address if provided, trying to get more data.
What to do in case of suspicion?
The first step will be to confront the suspicious identity directly, through a message, asking him about the doubts resulting from his previous investigation.
In my personal case, in one of the situations the individual did not even respond and this is the most common behavior. In the other, he responded in a hostile way but then left, disconnecting from my profile.
You can report the suspicious profile using the Linkedin website ( https://goo.gl/RW0RGQ ) or Facebook.
It is also advisable to notify your contact network of the event, in case of common links with the suspect profile.
Remember, in case of doubt it is better to disconnect the connection with this profile and thus avoid greater evils. If the practices involved in the relationship with this entity point to some type of fraud, you can report that person or entity to the DCIAP - Central Department of Investigation and Criminal Action of the Public Ministry, in an anonymous or identified way.
I end with a short text from someone who, being a professional security specialist in this area, referred to me:
Unfortunately there is not much to do. Raising awareness of these phenomena remains the best form of combat. People are in fact the best "firewall" we can have. The dissemination of the forms of approach remains essential for the creation of a collective conscience.