Faking it…the fight against fibs and forgeries

Faking it…the fight against fibs and forgeries

It’s a busy time of year for recruiters, as 20% of employees cast their eye over the postings on job boards once the trimmings are away for another year. The thought of another 12 months in their current position can prove, for many people, the motivation to seek out another opportunity.

With an increase in enquiries, paperwork is bound to pile up for any recruitment agency. Though there may be a stack of applications, a list of references to chase, and a considerable amount of time spent checking ID documents and the like, it’s not worth cutting corners to clear desks or in-trays.

According to BBC Radio 4’s File on Four programme, there’s been a huge rise in falsified documents and fake degrees. Predominantly dodgy outfits from overseas, the BBC learned that more than 30,000 fake credentials were sold to UK workers, such as PHDs and doctorates. Buyers include health professionals, and even contractors working for the Royal Family!

Bogus websites are the gateway to fake qualifications. Most sites are eventually found and closed down; however, as soon as one shuts, another opens, which is a constant challenge for the authorities.

Recruiters will be able to cover their backs if they’re vigilant, even when things become unbearably busy. Says Jayne Rowley, chief executive of Prospects, ‘The root of the problem is that people don’t make proper checks; they don’t confirm with universities. If they did, all the cheats and frauds would be found out.’

The General Medical Council (GMC) are adamant that they do not employ insufficiently-qualified professionals, claiming that they always check doctors’ university degrees. They suggest, however, that it is the responsibility of the recruiter and/or employer to check any additional qualifications applicants may declare in support of their application.

It’s not just fake qualifications that job-seekers lie about. For example, applicants may exaggerate the amount of responsibility they had in a previous role, or omit ‘that job that was a pain in the rear and which only lasted three months’…easily forgotten and smoothed out by adjusting the from/to dates that relate to the previous/subsequent position. Voila! It never happened! It’s only a little fib…who am I hurting? It may be unsettling for any recruiter to learn that around 10% of CVs contain a fake degree, whilst up to 40% inflate the grade they actually received.

Surely such dishonesty has some sort of consequence? Don’t worry, it does. In 2016, AXELOS Global Best Practice found that almost half of all UK companies spent between £10,000 and £40,000 re-hiring staff after employing someone who wasn’t properly qualified – and that was just over a three-year period.
If caught lying on your C.V. punishment is severe: up to ten years in prison, and/or a large fine, under the Fraud Act 2006. And it’s not an empty threat… Rhiannon McKay, in 2010, was the first woman to be convicted of C.V. fraud. She was given six months for claiming to have two A-levels, and because she forged a letter of recommendation supporting her application. It was long after she accepted the job that everything she’d claimed was verified and followed through. Had these been checked at the outset, the situation would never have happened.

Some certificates have proved convincing forgeries; the certificates are real, with the correct serial numbers, and when the qualification is queried, it appears consistent with student records. This is due to more sophisticated fraud, where the educational institution’s data is hacked and altered to requirements. In some extreme cases, fake websites have been created, that mirror the university’s layout and branding, and which confirm the fake details.

Best practice would be a good, old-fashioned phone call to check out an applicant’s credentials, whether this is to a previous employer or place of learning. And if you do catch someone out, it doesn’t bode well for their future. How can you expect any employer to trust an employee whose CV turns out to be more fiction than fact?

The lesson here, of course, is not to lie. The consequences are a deterrent, sure, but another factor is that there’s simply no need. In a recent survey, 43% of the 2,500 employers surveyed said that they’d consider a candidate even if he or she only had three of five qualifications they wanted. A win/win…and certainly one way to keep the prison population down.

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