Facepalm

Comments on this blog are most welcome and means someone is reading and engaging with our messages. Thank you commenters all.

Today’s commenter deserves a special prize.

moderation

moderation-blown-up

Let’s see who our new number one fan is…..

custom-diploma

Are they filled with remorse? Turning themselves in?

No.

The folks over at Custom Diploma think this is a site endorsing fake diplomas and want us to advertise their wares!*

Thanks to WordPress we have their IP address and email clearly displayed, so our fraud team will be reporting them immediately.

We just couldn’t resist sharing. Happy Tuesday everyone.

*Other fake certificate websites are available**

**But not for long.

A Question of Trust

It’s good to see the NHS taking a strong position on application fraud right up to senior levels and prosecuting offenders.

This month sees two men who lied about their qualifications – including possessing fake degree certificates to obtain senior positions in the NHS, back in court.

Conrad de Souza had already been imprisoned for 27 months in 2011 for faking medical qualifications in order to hold clinical guidance roles and was also ordered to repay the NHS £270,000. After his release he repeatedly lied about his qualifications on applications for a number of senior positions in the NHS and was convicted of 6 counts of fraud in December. This week he has been sent back to prison for 17 months.

Dr. Jon Andrewes is a former NHS trust chairman who lied spectacularly about his qualifications to get two top NHS jobs as chairman of the Torbay NHS Care Trust and later the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust. According to his online biography he is Dr. Jon Andrewes with a PhD from Heriot-Watt University where he specialised in researching leadership, management and success attributes in the commercial sector. His first degree is in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and he also has an MBA with a finance specialism from the University of Bristol. All these claims are false. He pleaded guilty at Exeter Crown Court recently and will be sentenced on the 1st March. At the time of recruiting him into these senior roles the NHS checked his references, but not his degrees.

The advice here is simple. Check qualifications for everyone you hire – regardless of seniority, fine CVs and track records. Fraudsters come in all guises.

Think Before You Tweet

It’s that time of year when mothers wear big hats and graduates don caps and gowns to shake hands with their university Chancellors.

The temptation to pose for photos with that certificate in hand, then share share share on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat is overwhelming and understandable.

Last year we warned against posting certificate selfies as they give fraudsters perfect templates to produce fake degree certificates. Google Images scoops them up and parades them online for eternity. We have issued a press release today to remind people, which media platforms are thankfully picking up.

We’re contacting all university social media teams to ask them to get the message out to their students and also not to re-tweet pictures of their graduates holding certificates.

It’s not just about fake certificates.There’s a serious, personal risk here too. As CIFAS reported today social media platforms are hunting grounds for identity thieves and there has been a 52% increase in identity fraud against under 30’s in the last 12 months alone.

Degree certificates contain personal information – full names, dates of birth (in some cases), places of study, titles, year of graduation. Information like this can be used to piece together someone’s identity for fraud and is as precious and private as a passport, a driving licence or bank details. None of us would put our passports online and we should treat certificates in the same way.

Post smiles, not certificates and stay safe.

Congratulations and appropriate emoticons, by the way.

7 Up

Employment screening professionals, the Risk Advisory Group published their annual report into CV fraud last week. It’s a sobering read and demonstrates that there is a long way to go to eliminate this, despite the work we have been doing at HEDD for the past 4 years. The report is available to download from their website.

After analysing 5,500 CVs submitted by jobseekers, 70% were found to contain some form of inaccuracy – a rise of 7% on last year.

2/3 of the discrepancies were about academic background – by far the most common lies. 10% of candidates falsify their grades.

The report includes case studies showing candidates who had been expelled from their university, but claimed the degree anyway and MBAs from bogus universities. All too familiar.

To put it in real terms – if you receive 200 CV applications for a job 88 of them will have lies about education qualifications. 20 of them will have false grades.

The need to make checks has never been greater. 3 simple steps in your recruitment practices can make all the difference:

  1. Tell candidates you will check all qualifications.
  2. Ask to see certificates – don’t rely on CVs or application forms.
  3. Check the certificates with the awarding institutions – beware fakes.

Risk Advisory report that the message is getting through with more employers introducing verification measures when hiring. The more we can highlight the levels of fraud, the higher that number will be.

Take Adecco At This

The jury has been out for some time on the prudence of using the social networks like Facebook as hunting grounds for staff recruitment – whereas LinkedIn has built its reputation as a professional network. 

Adecco, the global recruitment organisation has recently released the results of some research into CV fraud which discovered that one in ten users has lied on CVs listed publicly on LinkedIn. So even in a reputable, professional and public environment, people are still prepared to commit fraud. LinkedIn, of course, cannot control nor police what its users post on their profiles.

In line with other research in this area, the biggest lie, just like our big city lawyer Dennis O’Riordan, is around qualifications.

The research also found other interesting discrepancies:

  • 9% lied about job titles;
  • 9% lied about their age;
  • 7% lied about their university;
  • 7% lied about their school;
  • and 5% about the length of time at a particular job or their experience.

 Alex Fleming, Operations Director at Adecco has the following advice.

 “Your CV is your opportunity to communicate to prospective employers your career history and strengths. It should be as accurate as possible. Although the temptation may be there to smooth out areas of your experience and qualifications that aren’t quite perfect, we would always advise candidates not to outright lie. It’s often said that the truth will always come out in the end and so it’s much safer to concentrate on your real achievements than investing in fictitious ones.”

Wise words.

You’re Barred!

It’s good to know that the Bar metes out justice to members breaking its code; like Barrister Dennis ‘Tom’ O’Riordan who committed degree fraud in the most spectacular fashion and was found out. The full outcome of his tribunal before the Bar Tribunals and Disciplinary Service is here.

Suspicions were raised because he claimed to be an Eldon Scholar from the same year as one of the partners in the chambers to which he was applying. He was subsequently outed on legal news and gossip site RollonFriday. He’s been suspended for 3 years. Let’s hope that with their inside knowledge of the law, they will also push for criminal proceedings against him under the Fraud Act.

To quote one of my favourite movies, The Cannonball Run “If you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly!” For years, O’Riordan had been claiming the following false educational qualifications and attainments:

  • Bachelor of Arts (First Class) Oxford University.
  • Bachelor of Civil Law (First Class) Oxford University,
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Oxford University,
  • LLB (Hons) (First Class) University of East Anglia
  • Master’s degree, Faculty of Law, Harvard University
  • Eldon Scholar, Oxford University
  • Member of the New York Bar
  • Member of the Irish Bar

All completely untrue or embellished. He did study Law at East Anglia – but didn’t get a First.  

The pity of it is that he appears to have been an extremely competent litigator, well-liked and respected with a proven track record. He was a legitimate member of the Bar with his real qualifications. He worked for a top firm with an excellent reputation, who must now be counting the cost to their brand and reputation in large multiples of billable hours.

They have so far declined to comment on their recruitment practices, but I suspect they will be currently under review.

Update 16th October.

I’m bemused by the subsequent reaction in the legal media to the case above. His employers have defended themselves saying that they recruit on reputation, not qualifications, and would not check up on senior hires. They argue that his competency is the most important factor and that he was a genuinely qualified barrister who gave a high quality service to clients.

Here’s an analogy that might make them rethink their views. Essentially we’re talking about counterfeit goods. If I buy a Hermès handbag, I want it to be Hermès, not a George at Asda lookalike*. Yes, the lookalike is a perfectly good quality handbag and fulfils its function, but I thought I was getting Hermès, and that’s what I paid for. In those terms, wouldn’t we all be straight down to Trading Standards to complain?

*George is a fantastic brand in its own right, but a supermarket own-brand nevertheless.

HEDDlines

Over the summer we repeated a survey of students and graduates that we did last year, asking about degree fraud and fake certificates. Here’s the press release we put out this week. The results are even more worrying than they were last year. 2/3 of the respondents know someone who has committed CV fraud. We’ve also got some detail on what they’re lying about, which backs up some of the fraud we’ve seen on HEDD.

The story has been picked up well in the media, which should make recruiters sit up and take notice. Here’s the piece from the Times Higher. I hope this doesn’t make too depressing a read. The vast majority of graduates are genuine, hardworking individuals who have invested heavily in their degrees. Our main concern is to ensure that they are not disadvantaged in what is already an incredibly tough jobs market.

Graduates report increasing numbers lying on CVs, reports Graduate Prospects

Almost two-thirds (61%) of students and graduates have reported that the increase in tuition fees is putting people off university and making them more likely to lie about their qualifications on their CV to get work, which is an 18% increase since last year, reports Graduate Prospects.

As part of the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) initiative – a government-backed online degree verification system launched to tackle degree fraud – Graduate Prospects surveyed 559 UK students and graduates about their views on fraud in light of the £9,000 tuition fees introduced last year.

Two thirds of respondents said they know someone who has lied or exaggerated about their qualifications. The most commonly reported CV lies are:
• Grade – give a higher class than they actually achieved (46%)
• Course completion – say they completed a course when only part was finished (28%)
• Qualification – say they have a degree when they don’t (15%)
• Subject – give a different course subject to suit a job’s requirements (11%)

Students and graduates were also asked for their opinions on fake degree certificates. Two-thirds reported that the increase in tuition fees is making buying fake degree certificates more tempting and 14% confirmed they knew someone who had bought one or were considering it. Thirty eight per cent stated that it is very likely or likely that someone would buy a fake degree certificate over going through university.

Jayne Rowley leads HEDD at Graduate Prospects. She said: “A tough jobs market coupled with high tuition fees may be making it more tempting for people to make false claims on their CVs, but organisations need to routinely verify qualifications as part of their recruitment process; if candidates knew that they would be checked it would make lies less likely.

“One of the biggest problems we face at detriment to the hundreds of thousands of genuine, hard-working students who have invested in a UK degree programme is the number of bogus universities – of which the UK remains their favourite domicile in Europe. We alone have identified more than 130 degree mills since we launched HEDD, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”