Before You Accept That Networking Invitation…

Before You Accept That Networking Invitation…

©2016 Research Solutions, Inc. (all rights reserved)

This year has been exceptionally hectic for all of us, especially with world events and one of the larger banking frauds rearing its ugly head effecting many throughout the United States. Unfortunately, Linkedin, along with many other contact management programs has not been immune to virtual frauds. As a matter of point, it has been increasing at an alarming rate.

When we think of those who we network with, we ask “why”? Common denominators are a good reason. Being able to develop a symbiotic relationship where both could profit information-wise as well as economically is another. Then there are those who just like to be able to claim the have a gazillion networked connections, which in reality, means absolutely nothing.

First, let us look at what a “Virtual Networking Contact” or “VNC” is supposed to be:

A “legitimate” individual or firm that represents itself in a “Virtual Networking Provider” or “NVP” with all types of information, historical background data and credentials of some type or another.

It usually contains a “mini-curriculum vitae” which incorporates employment background, experience, special skills and abilities, highlights of that person or company’s career, education, special qualifications and so-on.

That person or company will contain groups and other networked people/companies which are linked together, hence “networked”.

However there are tens of thousands of fake and fraudulent individuals and companies that used VNP companies to launch their schemes and frauds. NVC frauds are easier to launch and maintain since they are very inexpensive, blend in with millions of other VNC accounts, and easily acquire hundreds, if not thousands of other VNC individuals and companies just by hitting an “accept” button.

Have you ever thought of exactly what a person or company is saying to you when you see the “invite” you get in the email?

First, let us look at some of the “red flags” that should tell you something may/is wrong:

  1. A claim of a past or present position, title and experience that goes beyond what would be publically disclosed.

A person claims to be a CIA operative, or an SEAL, or a Black Ops should make you hit the “delete button almost immediately, or at least “block” the person.

Why? Because individuals who are “honestly” employed in such a position would never disclose the fact that is what they are. It would place them at risk, and it would break the confidentiality protocols that they are bound by.

The NSA (and I am speaking about the National Security Act) and those who enforce it take a very dim view of those in exceptionally sensitive positions disclosing information about what they do, let alone their position. You don’t see too many spies disclosing themselves on LinkedIn (as well as other contact management providers) as spies. Yet, I have seen it dozens of times.

When individuals complete and submit their SF-86 Application, whether it be for a Federal Government position, or Military position, passing it does not mean there are not less than a dozen forms that must be signed that address security, disclosure and how one operates in the public sector. There are exceptionally-strong restrictions that a person who IS in such a position are bound by, especially disclosure.

At the same time, why would someone want to disclose such information on CMP’s site except to “impress” the reader? Such information may be found on specific “internal “networks within law enforcement, or the agencies that such individuals are employed under, but in many cases even their information will NOT be transparent to other agencies, sometimes the ones they even work for.

Classified information is just that – classified. You won’t find it on a CMP site such as LinkedIn UNLESS it is fake.

Does that mean when a person says they are/were the Police Chief of a City, or a prosecutor of a town, it is fake? Not at all. Such information is not only public, it is “required” to be public since they are “public officials” or those with public positions, whether it be Local, State of Federal positions. However, specific positions, even within local government will not be disclosed due to the sensitivity of the position, who the person is, and what they do.

You will see retired or ex-military personnel listed as contacts. Are they breaking the law? Usually not, as long as they are not bound by specific non-disclosure agreements or the NSA restrictions. Even if a person was performing duties as a SEAL, as an example, almost “most” of the time, bound NOT to disclose anything that they did or were involved in, let alone where.

Those who were legitimately involved with such departments, agencies or the military can disclose their involvement one way or another without “crossing the line”, and get their information across in a correct appropriate manner.

A person claims to be a helicopter pilot for the military. It is most likely true, but only due diligence performed by you will be able to make a proper determination. If that same person states he flew Black Ops operations, something is wrong. The “flags” that are triggered usually are easy to identify. If the same person says they worked for “Blackwater”, many will be hard-pressed to be able to validate that information in the private sector.

A person claims to be a Silver Star recipient, yes, you CAN personally validate that information.

Not to digress too much, the areas which a “puffed up”, “falsified” or otherwise “virtually prefabricated” are employment backgrounds, education, accomplishments, and so on are common-place.

Again, the “flag” that is triggered should make you stand back a moment, and look at the BIG picture of all that is being claimed. If you see the person finished their Masters in college, and did a massive plethora of “accomplishments” within a few years, it should raise an eye brow.

A person’s “timeline” of employment and accomplishments is something that takes years. There are NO shortcuts. When it is a government position or military position, it is not something that accumulates amazing accomplishments overnight. More important, many of them cannot be disclosed in the first place.

Risk Assessment, Threat Assessment Fraud Assessment, Military Positions, Government Positions to name of few have many limitations to what can be disclosed, let alone gone into detail. The same applies in the private sector positions. Non-disclosures are just that. Non-disclosure of sensitive information.

When you look at a potential contact, what is it that he or she is attempting to get across in their write-up? Is it for information purposes only? Does it open the door to a product or service that can be sold or contracted for? I have seen many law enforcement individuals who claim to be on SWAT, or are under-cover agents. Think about it for a moment – why in the world would an undercover detective ever disclose themselves on a CMP site? Is their contact information a prelude to an investment of some kind or another? Is it trying to sell you something?

This is not to say that there are not legitimate VNC individuals and companies that do sell products that are listed in in CMP entities. However, there are many that are not. It is an issue of spending the time, if you are truly interested in what they claim they sell or provide, is in fact, true or not.

Finally, there is the virtual hunter that is looking for information that can be gleaned from your own write-ups used with CMP entities. It is very, very common that material, word-for-word is taken and plagiarized by such virtual hunters to create a totally good looking, but bogus profile. What the virtual hunter is counting on is first impressions and the fact the most individuals will not perform the due-diligence that is really required to validate if the profile is indeed true.

Identity Theft comes in many different flavors, and there are hundreds of thousands of profiles that are ripe for copying, whether it be in part or whole.

The best rule of thumb is when you are approached for a contact in ANY CMP site, before you accept that person or company, take a minute or two and really read their profile. There is no rush to accept them into your network.

In closing, there are many benefits to expanding one’s network with legitimate and beneficial contacts; however hitting that “accept” button can wait a while for you to perform the due diligence that should always be performed.

There are thousands of ways that information acquired from CMP sites can be used inappropriately or fraudulently.

CMP sites are far-from-immune from such virtual hunters.

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