WARNING: EDNA PETTY would like to join your Linkedin network
It started out innocently enough. A simple friend request on Linkedin. Always looking to expand my professional network, I looked at the photo of the requester. The picture appeared to be a professional photo of a woman, with the name EDNA PETTY, written in capital letters, a self-described Portfolio Manager with Stanbic Bank in the Portland, Oregon area. The all capitals spelling was atypical, but not uncommon. I was not familiar with the bank name so I decided a quick search would be useful. My usual practice is to conduct a brief Internet search to learn a bit more about the person before adding them to my network, so that’s where I started. That’s when odd things surfaced. First, I plugged in Edna’s first and last name into the Google search bar. There were no relevant listings. None. That’s unusual, because if the individual uses Linkedin, the search results usually uncover that link in the top search results. I continued searching with no hits. I expanded the search parameters to include Stanbic Bank, and still no success for dear Edna. Next, I searched Stanbic Bank and up popped the results of a real bank in South Africa. Wikipedia described the bank’s operations in more than a half dozen African countries and a recent fraud scandal with money transfers. That was an immediate red flag.
I took a closer look at Edna’s profile. It appeared legitimate. She is currently already connected to at least two other people in my network, giving her some credibility as being connected to real people that I know. Her profile currently has 361connections, and describes positions at Wells Fargo, US Ag Bank and a degree from the University of Portland, all of which are recognizable names. Her business skills, languages and preferred causes are all filled in, just as you would expect from a real businessperson. However, there was something about that photo…mmm…so I ran it through the Google image search feature and bingo! It turns out the photo is a picture of a real TV and movie actress Emmanuelle Chriqui. In fact, the photo used on Linkedin was a cropped photo of the actress, obviously taken from a professional photoshoot or a still photo from a TV or movie scene.
So, a person has set up a fake profile, using a photo stolen from a popular movie actress and is searching for additional connections to legitimize this fake social media profile. I can only guess that the purpose is for some nefarious scheme of identity theft and/or to gather email addresses from which the user can to undertake some type of business con or a scheme of money transfer to a bank in Africa. Seen it before, but this takes it to a whole other level. At least I didn’t become victim number 361. Take a look and see what you think: https://www.linkedin.com/in/edna-petty-8b1599113.
Update: in less than 48 hours since I first received the request to join my network, 100 more people have been duped, bringing the total connections to 461 at last count.
Update: It appears that the fake profiles are widespread. Received another friend request from Bella Ryan: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ni392grxalqesii/Screenshot%202016-02-17%2011.17.16.png?dl=0 another non-existent person with over 200 connections.