Finding people you can trust online is both personally and professionally difficult. This is because, unlike in our 4-D interpersonal lives–where we have been trained at birth to blindly trust people until they mess up–online we have been conditioned to be cautious…and with good reason!
Since the advent of the Internet, people have been using it to construct new identities for themselves. In many cases this is reasonable. People who are estranged from family or who are trying to avoid stalkers and other dangerous people often adopt pseudonyms for their online profiles and postings. In other cases, however, people are setting up and developing fake personas online for nefarious purposes. These people use their fake personas to manipulate and abuse others. Often this is to try to seduce someone, but it is also done to trash peoples’ reputations, demolish brands and destroy companies.
This practice of using fake personas for nefarious purposes is called catfishing and, if you aren’t careful, it isn’t a matter of if this could happen to you, it is a matter of when this will happen to you.
This is especially important for people who are starting up businesses and relying on freelancers and other remote workers to help get their companies up and running. Here are a few things that you can do to make sure that the people applying for positions within your company are who they say they are.
Don’t just skim a resume or portfolio and assume that the person pictured there is legitimate. Take time to check out the companies listed. Run any headshots or snapshots through a tool like the reverse image search from Social Catfish to make sure the person isn’t using stock photos or grabbing screen caps from other peoples’ social profiles. If you find anything that looks suspicious, look deeper to figure out whether you should cut and run.
Meet Face to Face
Whenever possible, meet an applicant in person. If you are hiring people remotely, schedule Skype calls or Google Hangouts with your prospect. If someone avoids all face to face contact, this is a bad sign. Even if, for example, someone works primarily from a Chromebook and can’t download Skype for video conferencing there are other apps and methods you can use. If the person refuses to budge, move on to your next prospect.
The closer you get to hiring someone, the further into their background you are going to have to dig. Don’t just use Google for these searches. Remember: pretty much anything can be faked online. Pick up the phone and call the businesses listed on a resume and ask to speak to people listed as references. Call an applicants alma matters and verify that they were a student there when they said they were. If you don’t recognize the name of the school, make sure it is legitimate by verifying them with accreditation boards, etc.
In addition to verifying what an applicant has told you, look them up through your own independent searches. Checkout WhoIs information for sites they list on their resumes as their own. Run the email they use through a social tool to find out where else that email has been used to set up profiles. Make sure all of those profiles match the person applying for employment with your startup.
Protect Your Company
Finally, it is important to also protect yourself and your company when you are exploring remote workers. Make sure your computers’ and servers’ security settings are turned all of the way up. Do not open responses with attachments. Keep your passwords protected. Don’t share personal information via email.
If you are careful and vigilant you should be able to avoid having your company catfished.