Social Media’s Next Era: Attack of the Robin Sages

Today I got two more Linked In requests from fake personas — Robin Sages. Named after the 2010 experiment by Thomas Ryan, these are fake social media profiles designed to encourage linking and divulging valuable information.

The version on Linked In solicits connections from pretty, young females in the “appointment setter service and sales calling for lead generation” business.

You may not hire them… but by linking to them you make your own contact information visible to the person on the other side, hiding behind the fake persona.

In other cases, confidential company information is leaked, often to competitors.

Here’s a typical one:

Invitation from fake persona Aisha Choi

Invitation from fake persona Aisha Choi

 Yu BingyaoYu Bingyao from the Guangzhou Institute of Physical Education

The underlying company, “InsideSalesWiz Inc.” appears to be every bit as fake. Its 800 number shows up on several other Linked In profiles with similar patterns — young women’s pictures are given, along with sales pitches for “appointment setter service and sales calling for lead generation” or the like.

Here’s another:

"Anisa Dela Torre" fake LinkedIn persona

“Anisa Dela Torre” fake LinkedIn persona

Cherry Belle photo from Indonesian celebrity website

Cherry Belle photo from Indonesian celebrity website

There are perhaps a dozen such “companies” at any given time, each with a few dozen fake personas. Once these are discovered and shut down, new ones take their place.

Indicators:

  • A bare-bones profile and a scattered network — very few mutual contacts
  • Pretty younger woman’s photo, maybe out of business context
  • Los Angeles area business location (expect this to change)
  • A GMail or Yahoo email address rather than a corporate address (persona-name.insidesaleswiz@gmail.com)

As programmers get better at automating the generation of fake personas, and the harvesting of personal information from those foolish enough to link, expect an arms race.

Your best counter-measures are:

  • Use the “Search Google for This Image” feature, as I did above
  • Don’t link to people you don’t know
  • Don’t share your contact info with people you aren’t linked to
  • Do report these profiles as violators

If you get one of these on Linked In, pick the downward pointing triangle next to the “Send InMail” button and select “Block or Report”:

LinkedIn - Block or Report

The Internet continues to evolve. Security is in its infancy. Practice safe linking.

And as my mama told me, be a bit skeptical of pretty women who solicit you.

 

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