LinkedIn Shenanigans – Identity Theft, Business Fraud, and Lying About Work History

Pat’s email gave me a pause for concern.

What would I do if someone else setup a profile with my name?

How would I react if this pseudo-me had business dealings where I used to live?

Would I consider this an attempt at Identity Theft?

Let’s look at some of the issues…

Legal disclaimer

I am not an attorney, do not pretend to be one, and do not consider anything I’m about to write to be legal advice!

If you have odd things happening, you probably want to consult with a bona-fide attorney. My attempt here is to offer the equivalent of a band-aid – and tell you that for anything more serious, you probably want a professional involved.

Identity Theft

This is a real crime, has real victims, and from everything that I’ve read, is not a fun event.

On the positive side, when someone is doing this, they generally don’t want to let the victim know that it is happening, so they’re not creating pseudo-real LinkedIn profiles.

While your LinkedIn profile will contain information about your history that others could use to pretend to be you, it won’t have specific information like your social security number, financial institution information, driver’s license and so forth.

People with the same name

I happen to have a rather distinctive name, but there are lots of Browns, Jones, and Smiths in the world – it is entirely reasonable to believe that someone else has the same name that you have. (and they have a right to use it)

LinkedIn lists 5360 “John Smiths” and another 46 Smith Johns.

So the very first thing I would do is try to find out if someone else using my name actually had the same name…

Using someone else’s name

I’m not sure where the boundary is crossed – but using someone else’s name to take out a loan (for example) is definitely a crime.

Setting up a page that purports to be a famous celebrity as a prank may or may not be.

But in either case, the attempt clearly violates LinkedIn’s conditions of use – namely that each user provides accurate information.

If I found someone using my name, I might start with a simple complaint to LinkedIn about this activity.

Contacting LinkedIn

Yes – it is often rather difficult to find a way to contact LinkedIn.  As a tool that services millions, but does not receive funding from most of those users, they are not going to be terribly interested in fielding service calls from all of those millions of users.

I have had good results in finding an online submission form by checking around in the “Customer Service Center” and then finding a FAQ entry called “Contacting Customer Service Online” and then looking for the tab “Ask Customer Service”. [The Customer Service link can be found at the bottom of each LinkedIn page]

Additionally – the LinkedIn “User Agreement” includes a section describing what one should do for content / legal issues.  The Section “Notice and Procedure for Making Complaints Regarding Content” talks about how to communicate with LinkedIn’s Content Complaint Manager. [The User Agreement link is also found at the bottom of all LinkedIn pages]

It looks to me like they take these sorts of things seriously, so by all means follow their instructions. (And before firing off a letter, I’d verify that my own complaint was reasonable;-)

In searching for material on this article, I came across a guide / checklist from the state of California on Identity Theft – and it looks like a good set of advice that you may want to review.

Business fraud

We’ve probably all heard reports of those individuals that go door to door pretending to be representatives of the XYZ organization – and are not.

This has been, and continues to be a crime.

So if someone claimed in their LinkedIn profile that they were my employee, but were not, I’d have an issue.

One – I don’t want the public buying something from them and expecting me to deliver.

Two – I don’t want my good name damaged by whatever actions this poser may take.

Similar to identity theft – a lawyer may be a good first step, and reporting activities to LinkedIn may also have some success.

Lying on a resume

Now – claiming to have worked for an organization when not having done so…  That’s an interesting one.

It is a bit fraudulent, but probably doesn’t rise to the level of a crime.

It’s certainly frustrating to see, but not something that I’d expect police to handle. “Yes office, Tom Smith is lying on his resume – he never worked for me!”

If a job applicant does this, it is probably cause for termination, but only if/when it becomes known.

Your reaction should be appropriate for the situation.  I’m sure such a claim may be grounds for a lawsuit, but you probably have better things to spend your time and money on.

If it seemed reasonable, a note could be sent to the LinkedIn content manager as mentioned above, though I’m not at all confident it would be successful.

Outside LinkedIn

Sorry to be limited, but I have no good information about other social media sites or situations.  I’m sure they each have their own rules, policies, and notification processes.

If it looked like a concerted effort were being undertaken to “become me”, I’d seriously consider having a lawyer and PI figure out what’s going on and address it properly.

Not a common event

I’m going to have to say that in the three years I’ve been writing and speaking about LinkedIn, this situation hasn’t risen above a modest theoretical discussion.

And while Pat may have a specific incident that’s causing concern, I don’t have much else to go on.  Is this something that you’ve encountered or heard about?

To your continued success,


Steven Tylock

One Comment

  1. Identity Theft is so rampant these days because it is quite easy to harvest information from someone else.

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