Friday 21 July 2023

My LinkedIn Profile Was Stolen, a Cautionary Tale



I went to log onto my LinkedIn profile, to post a link to my latest blog, but I was locked out of it. There was a message saying my account had been locked because of “suspicious activity”. But all I had been posting on it were links to my writing.

I checked my emails and found ones from LinkedIn, several of the many emails from them telling me someone had messaged me, someone had viewed my profile, someone had posted another notification, but the recent ones weren’t addressed to me, they were addressed to someone called “Erin Smith”. It was her name at the top of the email, her face in the message’s profile picture, but the email had been sent to me. The email address contained my full name, which certainly couldn’t be mistaken for Erin Smith. My profile had been stolen by this Erin Smith person.

I had no email address with which I could contact LinkedIn. All their emails to me were non-reply ones. It looked as if the only way I could contact them was if I could log onto my profile, but I couldn’t because it was locked. It looked as if I mightn’t get my profile back. It felt like it did when I was a child and another child at school stole my work book, scratched out my name, and wrote their name over it. It was my profile; I had created it and I wanted it back. It wasn’t fair.

When I tried to log on to my profile, I got a message asking me to confirm my identity. They required me to upload a photo of the information page of my passport. At first, I just wouldn’t do it. LinkedIn had let my profile be stolen right out from under me, how could I trust them with such personal information? But as the week stretched on my will weakened. This was mainly because I kept receiving emails from LinkedIn, all addressed to Erin Smith, congratulating her on all the connections she was making and notifying her she had yet another message. She was using my profile and I was still locked out of it. A week later I uploaded a photo of my passport to LinkedIn.

I heard nothing from LinkedIn for over a fortnight, except for all those emails addressed to Erin Smith. It was as if they were ignoring me.

Then, two weeks later, I received an email from LinkedIn actually addressed to me, by name. It had a time sensitive link to change the password to my account, which I used, straight away. I changed my password to a three-word phrase that also contained a date (not related to my birth or marriage dates). When I finally logged onto my profile, I received a message saying that LinkedIn did not keep old information from profiles. I thought nothing of it, I was too concerned to get to my profile and didn’t pay it much attention. In retrospect, this should have warned me to LinkedIn’s poor security. It they don’t keep a copy of a profile; they can’t observe that a profile has been hijacked and how can they protect their members?

My profile had been completely hijacked by this Erin Smith. She had changed everything but my contact details, that was why I was still receiving LinkedIn’s emails. I set about repairing her vandalism and returning the profile back to being my own. As I reversed her damage, I noticed something very obvious, Erin Smith was a fake persona.

She claimed to have been to university in both America and China, she had lived in both countries and gained separate degrees. She now claimed to live in France. She claimed to have worked for, first Microsoft and then L’OrĂ©al, a strange work profile, and now she said she was running her own “Beauty Consultancy”, whatever that was. She mainly seemed to have been using my account to send out messages.

These messages all seemed to run along the same lines. She always messaged men who had their own companies, she certainly seemed to have a type, saying she didn’t know why LinkedIn had recommended them to her as a contact (??). If they replied to her, she’d flirt with them and then asked where they lived. Wherever the man lived, and they seemed scattered across Europe and America, she would tell them that she would be visiting their home city in the next month and would “love” to meet them.

This was obviously a fake persona and she was trying to catfish and con those men, but why did she need to steal my profile to do this? Why didn’t she just create a new one for this?

I spent a long time replying to all the men she had contacted, telling them that she stole my profile and she was fake and probably trying to con them. When she originally contacted them, she had control of my profile and her picture and name was at the top of the message. Once I had control of my profile back, my name and picture were returned to the top of the message, so hopefully it was obvious that she was trying to con them.

I was annoyed at all the time I wasted over this, especially having to return everything on my profile back to the way it had been. The next day I logged onto my profile again and found another message from LinkedIn. A third-party program had accessed my profile and they had blocked it. Only now LinkedIn decided to practice some security to keep my profile safe(ish). When I got to my profile, I found Erin Smith had accessed it again, though only to send out a message from it. Obviously, she had a program that allowed her to remotely send messages from my profile. This one was typical of her messages, to a male company owner, all flirtatious and wondering why LinkedIn was recommending him to her, accept the message had my name and picture at the top of it. He hadn’t replied to it but I still sent him a message saying Erin Smith was probably trying to con him.

I’ve logged onto my LinkedIn profile daily since then but Erin Smith, in all her fakeness, has not tried to send anymore messages from it.

I don’t use my LinkedIn profile to network and find work, anymore, I mainly just post links to my writing on it, but it is still my profile, about me, another little corner of the internet that is solely about me. That might sound selfish but I’m not an important person with a big presence online. My online presence is very small but having my LinkedIn profile stolen away from me felt like another part of me had been taken away, I was cut off from people I once knew and worked with. I wanted it back and it was a relief to finally have it back.

I don’t know how she was able to steal my profile. I didn’t share my password and I only logged onto it from my home computer, which is protected by a reliable security program. How did she get hold of my password? Only I and LinkedIn knew it and I kept it secure.

I am still so angry at LinkedIn for letting this happen. Why didn’t they have systems in place to notice things like this. Erin Smith changed everything on my profile accept my contact details, why didn’t LinkedIn’s systems notice this and flag up what had happened? LinkedIn still doesn’t have two-step verification. I’ve created a password as strong as I can but that is all I can do; LinkedIn needs to step-up and start protecting their users.

I used to consider two-step verification an annoyance, especially if I’d left my phone away from my computer, but not anymore, not after this.

LinkedIn keeps promoting their premium membership to me, which is paid for, telling me how good it would be if I upgraded to it. If this is how they treat me as a basic member, I cannot trust them to treat me any better if I pay for a premium membership, and what good would that do for me anyway?




PS. Find my LinkedIn profile here.

Wednesday 12 July 2023

London Pride 2023: A Long Wait or Another Broken Promise?

They were dotted throughout the London Pride march. On all different types of banners and placards, some very professionally produced and others homemade but often more pithy. All of them demanding the same thing:


Every time I saw one, I would smile, partly to show my support and gratitude to the person carrying the banner, and partly to myself. To see the dangerous threat of conversion therapy so openly denounced by the LGBTQ community was so reassuring.

It was on the tube ride home, that the thought struck me, why the hell hasn’t it already been banned? Weren’t we promised that it would be?

Conversion therapy is described as “an attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity”. It has been deeply discredited and shown to be extremely dangerous and damaging to those who have experienced it. Back in July 2018, Theresa May promised to ban it. In July 2020, Boris Johnson said it was "absolutely abhorrent" and "[had] no place in this country". In May 2021, it was announced in the Queen’s Speech that the government planned to ban it, but only after consultation with “key stakeholders”. Then in March 2022, Johnson dropped any plans for a ban.  But the next month, April 2022, plans for a ban were back on. In June this year, we were told that all it needed was for Rishi Sunak to sign the bill and the ban would be law, but it is now July and he still hasn’t signed it. What is happening? Why is the government dragging its feet? Is it that difficult to ban conversion therapy?

Sasha Misra, associate director of communications at Stonewall, said: “Five years and four prime ministers later and we are still waiting for this ban to come to fruition. In the meantime, lives have continued to be ruined while these damaging attempts to ‘cure’ LGBTQ+ of being themselves remain legal."

But theban would only be a partial ban and a very weak one, under the government’s proposals. It wouldn’t cover trans people and wouldn’t apply to anyone who “consented” to it. These is such huge loopholes and render the ban useless. The person only has to agree to it and/or say they are confused about their gender and the conversion therapy is legal. Conversion therapy preys on people who are vulnerable, confused about their sexuality and/or their gender, and this ban will do nothing to protect them.

I survived conversion therapy, as a late teenager, but it left me very damaged. My twenties were marred by PTSD, depression, suicide attempts and an inability to form relationships. I lost ten years of my life to the harm it caused me. Yet this ban would not have protected me because I contacted the ex-gay organisation and agreed to be “cured” by them, because I was so afraid of my sexuality back then. Therefore, it could be argued I consented to it. But my opinion alone, of the harm it does, should not be what policy is based on. It should be based on the evidence and the evidence against conversion therapy is huge.

D Haldeman identified that it causes poor self-esteem, depression, social withdrawal, and sexual dysfunction. Anna Forsythe’s research found that survivors of conversion therapy experienced 50% more mental health problems, twice as much depression, 25% more substance use, 50% higher rate of attempted suicide and 67% more experienced moderate to severe injury from those attempts, than someone who hasn’t been through it. But these are not the only, scientific evidence of the harm it does, and how useless it is. Here is a list of scientific and healthcare professional articles that identify the harm conversion therapy causes.

References that conversion therapy is harmful:

Beckstead & Morrow (2004)

Haldeman (2002)

Shidlo & Schroeder (2002) 

Forsythe, Pick, Tremblay, et al (2022)

Human Rights Campaign (2021)

American Psychological Association (2009)

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2018)

American Medical Association (2019)

American Psychiatric Association (2018)

Committee On Adolescence (2013)

American Counselling Association (2017) 

United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (2019)

Independent Forensic Expert Group (2020)

Higbee, Wright & Roemerman (2022)

Wolf & Platt (2022)

Campbell & Rodgers (2023)


References that conversion therapy doesn’t work:

Beckstead (2012)

Adelson (2012)

American Psychological Association (2009)

American Psychiatric Association (2000)

American Psychological Association (2013)

Jacob (2015)

Drescher, Schwartz, Casoy et al (2016)

Haldeman (1994)

Conine, Campau & Petronelli et al (2021)

Kinitz, Salway, Dromer E, et al (2021)


This is by no way a comprehensive list of the evidence. It is the result of only a brief literature search, of only a few databases, carried out on a Sunday afternoon, on my laptop. A much more in-depth literature search would produce a much more comprehensive and much longer list of evidence. All the above references are from peer reviewed publications or professional bodies.

Countries that have banned conversion therapy 

Brazil in 1999,

Samoa in 2007,  

Fiji in 2010,

Argentina in 2010,

Ecuador in 2014

Malta in 2016.

Uruguay in 2017,

Spain in 2017

Taiwan in 2018 

Germany in 2020,

Queensland State in Australia 2020, followed by Victoria State,

Chile, India and Canada in 2021, 

Since 2013, 20 states, two territories, and multiple local counties or municipalities in the United States.

If we have so much evidence and so many other countries before us have banned it, why hasn’t the British government already done so? I am sure someone will make the argument that legislating to ban conversion therapy isn’t easy. My reply would always be, it’s the government’s job to write and implement difficult legislation, and to do it well. They have all the resources to do it. But this government is now deliberately dragging their feet over this. I wonder if this is part of their “war on woke” attitude? This government’s strategy to blame and attack unpopular minorities, such as trans people, immigrants, and anyone else the Daily Mail newspaper doesn’t like, to try and appeal to their right-wing base voters. Whatever the reason, the government’s reluctance/refusal to ban conversion therapy speaks volumes about how little they value LGBTQ people.

I do know that if there was a quack therapy that tried to “cure” Evangelical Christians of their believes, but failed to do so and left its victims very damaged, or dead from suicide, then Evangelical Christians would be screaming for it to be banned. Would this government be so slow to ban it?


PS. I do not like the term “conversion therapy”. It gives this dangerous and completely unethical bullying a veneer of respectability, implying that it is somehow medical/clinical. I prefer to call it “ex-gay”, which tells us how impossible it is.