A recent InMail from an HR professional asking to set up a call with his boss highlighted a growing problem on LinkedIn of fake profiles, using the platform to scam service providers and job seekers.
A few weeks ago, I received a Connection request on LinkedIn that, at first glance, seemed to come from an HR professional, Mohammed Abid, within a company called Temasek. We had three connections in common yet, despite working in Asset Management, it was not an organisation that I had heard of. A quick search showed that it was a $287bn Singapore-based sovereign wealth fund.
Excitingly, Mohammed said:
By coincidence, only a few days previously, I had read an interesting article in the New York Times about the rise of e-mail scams. The author wrote
“I put out a call on Instagram and was almost instantly flooded with peoples’ stories of being swindled through LinkedIn when applying for a job… Often, the targets were in vulnerable positions: desperate for work… or experiencing momentous life changes.”
The recent memory of this article, and the slightly too good to be true message made my spidey-senses tingle. I checked out his profile more closely. The career history seemed a bit odd: he apparently joined Temasek in December 2021 as an HR Specialist and, before that, had been an architect in the Ukraine and Algeria. Also, his name was all lower caps and, on closer scrutiny, the banner image seemed a bit odd. Not to mention the powerful dual enticement of his appeal to my vanity, and the promise of a new business relationship with a blue chip global investment house.
But, still, I thought, I must treat the message as if it were genuine. So, I wrote back:
To which, he replied:
This confirmed my suspicions. The odd language, and trying to move the conversation off LinkedIn to WhatsApp was clearly not normal for a genuine HR professional. I tried one more response:
Me: I’m afraid I don’t use WhatsApp for work. If you ask Laura to e-mail me I can set up a call. Regards, Rupert
Mohammed: Thanks. My boss doesn’t use email to make friends
At this point I stopped communications: it seemed almost certain that some sort of scam was playing out. I am not sure what the end game was, but insisting on moving the conversation to WhatsApp was a clear red flag.
I was curious and so decided to do some background research. To my surprise, I discovered many other similar profiles, all purporting to be HR professionals employed by Temasek.
When I filtered people with the Job Title “Human Resources”, based in the United States, currently working for Temasek, I found 54 profiles. Not all of these are scam profiles (I think there is at least one genuine HR employee listed in New York). However, I believe the vast majority are fakes.
Many use the same imaging, wording and methodology of reposting genuine Temasek posts to establish credibility; and many based in Los Angeles. To list a few, I feel the profiles below all have the hallmarks of fakes.
Many other profiles also have suspiciously little detail or incongruous career histories:
These profiles are also currently soliciting job applicants to Temasek on their profile pages, along the lines of the scam mentioned in the New York Times:
As the Times article said: “Every time a new technology comes along, the fraudsters are going to try to figure out how to use it”.
It seems that they are actively trying to reel in job seekers or service providers or a grand scale.
Based on half an hour’s research on only one company, this type of scam is clearly very widespread on LinkedIn.
So, let’s be careful out there, folks: if you get an offer on LinkedIn that seems too good to be true, do not be afraid to look the gift horse in the mouth.
Postscript: I reported the fake profiles to both LinkedIn and Temasek so it will be interesting to see how many of the profile links above get taken down.
If you think you too have encountered a fake profile, or someone on LinkedIn has tried to scam you, then you can find out how to report (and remove) them on the link below.