Anatomy of a Fake LinkedIn Profile

Have you ever received a LinkedIn invitation from a beautiful woman or a seemingly successful entrepreneur that you’ve never even met? It is tempting to accept the invite — who knows, maybe there’s a good reason they’re wanting to connect. Unfortunately, there is a better than average chance that they are not a real person — you’re being phished.

This afternoon I noticed that someone by the name of Peter Bronfman had invited me to connect on LinkedIn. The family name sounded familiar so I did a little Googling. According to Wikipedia:

The Bronfman family is a Canadian Jewish family. It owes its initial fame to Samuel Bronfman (1889–1971), who made a fortune in the alcoholic distilled beverage business during the 20th century through the family’s Seagram Company.
The family is of Russian Jewish and Romanian Jewish ancestry; “they were originally tobacco farmers from Bessarabia”. According to New York Times staff reporter, Nathaniel Popper, the Bronfman family is “perhaps the single largest force in the Jewish charitable world.”

Looking at Peter’s profile the first thing that seemed weird was his first post. I enjoyed the movie, but something about the post bugged me.

Peter’s use of the English language is strange. This guy went to Wharton, Harvard, and Columbia and yet he can barely string a single sentence together? He’s interested in his “VC professionals and investor friends’ opinion…” The author is clearly a foreign speaker.

The second thing that I noticed was that his headshot seemed a lot like a photo of a professional male model in his mid to late thirties, but his bio suggests he’s been with Bronfman Private Investments for 31+ years. This guy really aged well.

The third thing I noticed was that he went to three different schools for relatively strange and unrelated degrees. First, he went to Columbia for his Bachelor in Business Administration (congrats). Second, he went to Harvard Business School for “economics”. Third, he went to Harvard University for a Bachelor of Commerce (congrats?). Fourth, he went to Harvard University for B.A. in Applied Mathematics (congrats). Fifth, he went to Wharton for his MBA (maybe he met my little sister there). None of that makes any sense.

Normally I might not dig into a LinkedIn profile this much — usually I can spot a fake profile using two key “tells”. First, the headshot is almost always a model (all fake profiles are of beautiful people). Second, they’re usually not connected to that many people (someone that good looking should have a lot more contacts). This guy has more than 500+ contacts — including my father. I reached out to my dad and he told me he had no idea who this guy was. Peter is connected to 26 of my connections — no one knows who he is.

So, no Peter, I’m not interested in connecting…