It wasn’t a good day for chicken Sales Manager Pat Gomez last July when he discovered someone had created a fake LinkedIn profile of him.
Gomez says he quickly learned the fake Pat Gomez was also using his profile to reach out to customers and set up deals. The Gomez imposter was trying to scam one customer in Italy, another in the United States.
We’re not talking chicken feed here. Wayne Farms is one of the largest poultry companies in the world processing - over 2.5 billion pounds of chicken annually. Business reports estimate the company generates annual revenues of $2.85 billion in sales.
“LinkedIn was used to make more credible some scams that were basically to buy a container load of product. It was a great deal, but you had to submit twenty percent down,” said Chicago attorney David Brezina who represents Wayne Farms. “The fraudster was looking to collect $5,000 or $10,000 from potential customers of my client upfront. LinkedIn was a valuable tool to make the scam more credible.”
The real Pat Gomez acted swiftly.
Gomez says he immediately reported the fake profile to LinkedIn. He contacted Wayne Farms management and said he posted on his own LinkedIn account that there was a fake Pat Gomez operating on the platform.
LinkedIn took down the account.
But suddenly, one month later in August, the fake Pat Gomez profile popped back up on LinkedIn. Wayne Farms submitted two notifications to LinkedIn asking for the account to be taken down again.
This time, there was no response from LinkedIn. It was only when Wayne Farms filed a federal lawsuit against LinkedIn, did the fake Pat Gomez profile get immediately taken down.
“You need to be responsible. You need to have procedures where if fraud is being committed, that victims can contact you, “ said attorney Brezina adding that the lawsuit against LinkedIn is seeking damages for federal trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting, damage to Wayne Farms’ reputation and other violations.
NBC 5 Investigates contacted LinkedIn for a response, but the company declined, saying it could not comment on a pending lawsuit. LinkedIn did say that they restricted more than two million fake accounts before members reported them in just six months last year.
Security researchers say that digital users need to be cautious about how much information they put online.
“Don’t put anything on the internet that you wouldn’t be okay handing to stranger. You know, that’s the golden rule of the internet," said security researcher Matt Jakubowski. “We have to really just be vigilant and focused.”