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Because LinkedIn is the most popular and professional networking system around, it makes sense to reach out to strangers (to you, they are valid LinkedIn members) there, because that can help you make new online friends and business leads. For almost a decade, I have been accepting all authentic incoming LinkedIn requests.
The economy has remained stagnant, and both jobs and wages are still down. This kind of situation causes lots of people to join and use LinkedIn, looking for employment leads or business leads. These days, it makes sense to accept LinkedIn invitations from strangers, because what have you got to lose?
As the economy has generally slid, I have noticed more strangers are asking me to endorse them, most often at LinkedIn. Every week, I get at least ten LinkedIn endorsement requests from strangers; and some even ask me to fill out survey links related to them at LinkedIn, or even on external sites. As much as I want to help people, it is best to not endorse people you do not know (or know of) on LinkedIn, or anywhere else.
Another interesting thing at LinkedIn, is the number of strangers there that endorse me for my skills. Perhaps they are endorsing me because of the uniqueness of the business I started and run. While the endorsements are almost always correct, and I sure do not mind them, those people do not really know me at all.
Phishing is a common problem on the internet, and there are spammers who send emails with fake LinkedIn-looking email addresses. Try to respond only to email invitations that are actually coming from where they should be coming from (e.g.) LinkedIn. Try to adjust your email program to view the full header information, when you are not sure about the authenticity of an email from LinkedIn or anywhere else.
LinkedIn rocks, and I really like them. They are great for any professional. Their free level is very good. If you want to increase your chances of networking with professionals, LinkedIn's paid levels seem very reasonably priced.
Whether you are using LinkedIn's free level or their paid level, make sure to fill out your profile. With old friends you find there, or new friends you make on LinkedIn; often it is a good idea to trade your email addresses with them there. That way, you do not have to use only LinkedIn, to communicate with your friends in the future.
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