Lately I’ve spotted a trending scam on LinkedIn: graphic artists claiming other people’s work as their own in a bid to solicit work.
It’s not exactly the most original of schemes: plagiarizing the work of other creators to secure a paycheck for yourself. But to see this type of fraud trending on LinkedIn, a platform that prides itself as a social network for “professionals” is disappointing.
The posts look innocent enough. Usually they take the form of an aspiring graphic artist — usually a young woman — displaying a sample of their work accompanied by an innocuous request to rate their work.
Typically this invites an outpouring of support from the LinkedIn community. After all, who wouldn’t want to encourage an emerging young talent? Comments typically praise the work and egg on the artist to produce more.
I first started suspecting these profiles when I scanned their body of work. Comparing posts across several weeks, the illustration styles seemed to suspiciously vary. In some cases, not only did the artist show work in one medium, for example, pencil sketch as shown here, but also watercolor, oil, airbrush or even vector art in logo design. As a marketer who has worked with a wide variety of agencies, freelancers and creators for years, I know that a single person displaying such a myriad of talents is extremely rare.
So being the distrustful person that I am, I conducted a series of Google Lens searches. It didn’t take long to find some hits.
It turns out these LinkedIn accounts were simply downloading work by other artists from their Instagram or Blogspot pages. Sometimes, they would take a photo (usually of a celebrity) and use software to re-render the image as a pencil sketch.
It’s hard to understand what the endgame is here. After all, if they weren’t qualified to make these sketches themselves, it would be immediately apparent after the first commission. So is the plan to scam as many people as they can and then abandon their account and start again?
My suspicion is that these accounts are elaborate phishing scams. If you have Liked or commented on one of these images, a connection request likely follows. From there they can start building a database of information on connections, especially if they succeed in engaging other users in two-way conversations.
Plagiarism has existed ever since art could first be reproduced. I find it to be a real shame that it can now be performed at scale with the help of social networks like LinkedIn. Worse, it sours the network for legitimate artists trying to promote their work.
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