If You Receive This LinkedIn Request, Delete It Immediately

Beware: even a trustworthy social networking site isn't always safe!

friend-requestDitty_about_summer/ShutterstockProtecting yourself from scammers comes with a whole lot of rules. Sure, you avoid answering calls from unknown numbers and delete e-mails that contain suspicious links. You would never, ever accept a friend request from a perfect stranger on Facebook, either. But in the interest of building professional contacts, it might be easy to throw caution to the wind and accept practically anyone who lands in your “Requests” folder on LinkedIn. Besides, the site is perfectly safe, right?

Not so fast! That’s exactly what hackers want you to think. As USA TODAY reports, “LinkedIn can pose dangers to unsuspecting users because people have come to have confidence in it and by extension, implicit faith that all accounts on the platform are legitimate.”

Experts say that hackers have recently started creating fake professional accounts on the popular networking site. After you accept their request, your phony LinkedIn contact can access your email address. From there, they can send you spam or lure you into opening an email that contains malware, which compromises your computer and any connected networks, too. Learn to recognize the most common Internet security tricks that hackers use.

And thanks to the personal details displayed on your LinkedIn profile, recognizing the bogus emails can be tricky. “They can really tailor the phishing email to the person’s profile, based on what they do for a living, what type of job they have, all of which makes it so much easier to trick them into clicking a link,” Allison Wikoff, a senior researcher with the counter threat unit at SecureWorks, an Atlanta-based security company, told USA TODAY.

LinkedIn is currently working to weed out the scammers, which it says make up only a small fraction of its 500 million accounts. The company has also created a website for users to report fake or co-opted accounts.

“The most important thing LinkedIn members can do to protect themselves is to only accept requests from people they know or recommended contacts from a trusted connection,” Paul Rockwell, head of LinkedIn’s trust and safety unit, told USA TODAY.

Before you accept an invitation from a strange account, take a few minutes to look into that person’s background and profile. And be particularly wary of accounts that appear light on background and work history, or don’t have a head shot. Don’t miss even more ways to protect yourself online.

Don’t have a LinkedIn? You could still be a victim of a virtual scam. Know how to recognize these online scams, too—and how to avoid them.

[Source: USA TODAY]

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Brooke Nelson
Brooke Nelson is a researcher at PBS FRONTLINE in Boston, Massachusetts, and writes regularly about travel, health, and culture news for Reader’s Digest. Previously she was a staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her articles have also appeared on MSN, Business Insider, and Yahoo Finance, among other sites. She earned a BA in international relations from Hendrix College. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeTNelson.