LinkedIn plagued by rampant fraud

The world's largest social network for business professionals and rolodex-skimmers is banning hundreds of thousands of accounts a day, as it struggles with fake accounts and massive fraud. But is it too late? 

In a new BusinessInsider report today, researchers discovered that last week over half of newly-listed employees of Apple and Amazon - a staggering number of nearly 600,000 accounts for each employer - were purged. Jay Pinho, a developer specializing in data tracking, shared his findings on October 10 with Krebs on Security. The latest development is just the latest in a disastrous year for the platform, with the FBI warning that cryptocurrency schemes and investment fraud pose a "significant threat," for the platform. 

Amazon Employees on LinkedIn, Daily Trends. Source: Jay Pinho.

Fake accounts are not a new problem for LinkedIn. The platform previously reported that it has been deleting ~32 million fake accounts each year, but the increasing warnings from regulators and security officials combined with single-day spikes of fraudulent employees registering to work at big-name tech firms, foreshadow deeper challenges to come for the social media company. LinkedIn previously warned users to watch out for risky and fraudulent lures, like job postings that sound too good to be true or investment and/or franchise opportunities. 

"We ... encourage [users] to only connect with people [they] know and trust. If [they'd] like to keep up with someone [they] don't know, ... follow them instead." 

- LinkedIn's Oscar Rodriguez, Vice President for Product Management

Scammers who prey on victims when they are most vulnerable - namely, when they are looking for a new job - have been on the rise throughout the pandemic years, especially as layoffs and hiring freezes have intensified in the tech sector this year. Attacks typically range from fake emails and phishing scams to bogus job offers and get-rich-quick crypto-schemes. It's so significant a problem that just days ago, Forbes declared LinkedIn a "spam wasteland," lamenting that the platform seems to be failing in its effort to detect, delete, and disable cybercriminals from targeting job seekers and business professionals.

Though the impersonation scams are often not detected until almost the end of their plot, the risks to users remain high, especially if they stray from the best practices of connecting only with people they know or have met personally and securing their accounts with two-factor authentication. It is deeply problematic, considering LinkedIn built its value earlier this year on so-called "open networking," or encouraging people to maximize their reach by connecting with identities they have not yet met. The Microsoft-owned platform is under increasing scrutiny as the job market moves towards likely economic downturn early next year, but for now, users are best served restricting who they connect and communicate with.