How To Stop Your LinkedIn Account Being Stolen

Consultants losing control of their LinkedIn account to a less than scrupulous employer is the closest thing recruitment has to a horror story. But what do you do if it happens to you?

I went through LI’s User Agreement and spoke to a few of The Din’s support team to find out.

I’ve also spoken to a number of Recruiters who’d been through it themselves. One guy was assured he was leaving his company on good terms after handing his notice in. As soon as he was out the door, his boss changed his password, locked his LinkedIn account, and stonewalled him on a tonne of overdue commission.

Financial hit aside, he had to rebuild his network from scratch.

Another Recruiter I spoke to – again after handing her notice in – had her boss log into her account via the saved passwords on her company laptop. This time, her job title was changed from Consultant to Trainee, a whole bunch of connections were deleted and messages pretending to be her were sent out.

These are examples of what could happen in some of the worse cases of Linkedentity theft. And while they might seem like extreme situations, ask if anyone you know’s experienced something similar. You’ll be surprised. 

Hacking someone’s online profile, manipulating it or impersonating them isn’t a criminal offence. Which is bonkers considering how much business Recruiters generate because of it, and how much money ultimately rests on us using the platform.

Although, if someone impersonates you to illegally obtain money, goods or a service – that could be fraud.

Either way, employers claiming ownership over an employee’s account is fundamentally against LinkedIn’s Terms Of Use. Because regardless of what they say, there’s only one person that’s in charge of your account.

That’s right buddy. It’s you.


Know Your Rights

It doesn’t matter what email address you use to register. Your account’s yours and no one elses.

When you created your account, you entered into a legally binding contract with LinkedIn. Which means you’re the account holder. Ergo, your account belongs to you.

This is true even if your employer pays for services you use. Like a Recruiter seat. Yes, they can control access to that service and get reports on your usage. But this doesn’t give them the right to access to your account. And any connections made by you during your use of the paid service belong to you.

According to LinkedIn, this is because contacts agree to connect with individuals, not their companies.

And while your employer would own any data or workflow created using the paid service only, it in no way means they can claim ownership over your profile or connections. In fact, the only thing they can do is stop you using the paid service if they’re paying for it. Which includes when you expense for it.


Be Wary Of What You Sign

Some companies ask Recruiters to sign waivers releasing ownership of their account to the employer. Usually this happens during the onboarding process. If your personal brand’s important to you, this will be something to have a close look at.

Otherwise, any violation of your account’s security is handled on a case by case basis by LinkedIn. The most relevant part of LinkedIn’s User Agreement (scroll down to section 3.4 “Limits”) states:

“LinkedIn reserves the right to restrict, suspend, or terminate your account if LinkedIn believes that you may be in breach of this Contract or law or are misusing the Services (e.g., violating any of the Dos and Don’ts or Professional Community Policies)”

Which means one outcome from escalating a case like this is that whoever’s hacked your account gets booted off LinkedIn. It’s also worth mentioning that sending a message or connection request to anyone you don’t know would also constitute a breach of this contract.

Not that you’d ever do anything so rogue, would you?

If your account’s been taken over by anyone – your employer or otherwise – fill out LinkedIn’s Reporting a Hacked Account Form ASAP. They’ll help you regain control of your account and you’ll be able to escalate the case from there.


Protect Your Account

Following these steps means you’ll hopefully never have an issue to deal with in the first place:

1) Change your password regularly – do that here

2) Set up two-step verificationdoing this stops anyone accessing your account, even if they know your password

3) Review your active sessions – remotely log out of any sessions you haven’t authorised

4) Check your contact details – make sure it’s your email and phone number attached to your account, and not anyone else’s

5) Keep an eye on your emails – you’ll be notified of any suspicious activity quite quickly, and time’s often of the essence to respond to these things, so make sure your spam filter isn’t keeping LinkedIn out of your inbox


Own Your Profile

As well as connecting with or messaging someone you don’t know, copy and pasting content from another user and publishing it without their consent is also considered a breach of LinkedIn’s User Agreement. I’ll repeat that for the influencers in the back:

Copy / pasting content from other users and publishing it without their consent is a breach of the User Agreement.

But what is LinkedIn without the plagiarism? What will the algorithm favour without the same made up stories shared multiple times by different people? Without humblebrags, What’s The Point Of Posting On LinkedIn?

The answer’s of course multiple choice, but in short it’s to engage, inspire and get noticed.

Your LinkedIn profile’s valuable. And looked after well, it’s a great tool for making placements. Whether you’re using it for branding, networking, instead of a job board or in place of a CRM. If you’re going to the trouble of protecting your account, you’ll make the most of it by learning how LinkedIn’s algorithm works and optimising your posts to be as Newsfeed friendly as possible.

If you invest any time at all in your LinkedIn profile, taking the steps to protect it’s well worth it. Particularly if you’re not intending to stay where you are for the rest of your career. You might want to switch markets or relocate to a different country at some point in your career.

Remember that most disputes on account ownership occur after good Recruiters hand in their notice.

If that’s something you’re thinking about doing yourself, we published How To Quit Your Job The Right Way last week to provide a step by step guide on how to get out of your current company with your dignity – and hopefully the security of your LinkedIn account – in tact.