If you didn’t catch this week’s Panorama exposé on application fraud click here to see how faked qualifications are enabling bogus students to enrol on degree courses, paid for by taxpayer-funded student loans.
The undercover BBC investigation showed fake references and certificates being used to gain places on degree level courses at a number of universities and colleges. Having gained the places, the students then had access to student loans worth thousands of pounds. The rogue intermediaries and agents took their cut of the loans. But this is just the start of it.
The undercover students were then offered additional services to provide their assignments by using essay mills and cover their attendance requirements while they were at work. Now we’re talking about academic fraud.
With their bought-in assignments and fake certificates the students were able to get a genuine degree or diploma, albeit fraudulently obtained*.
Fraudulently obtained degrees could then be used to enter postgraduate study or the workplace putting the reputations of businesses and universities at risk from unqualified candidates. This also jeopardises the prospects for genuine students and graduates seeking jobs or further study if they lose out to fraudsters.
We must cut this off at the pass and stop bogus students enrolling in the first place and exploiting the system.
Unscrupulous agents will look for weak points in the system and colleges without clearly defined policies will be ripe for exploitation. Colleges and universities need to have robust and clearly visible fraud guidelines as part of their admissions policies and they must be prepared to take action against what is criminal activity.
Download our free Toolkit with advice and guidance on preventing fraud. In the meantime here are our top tips.
- Have a published policy on application fraud for your college or university
- Tell applicants you always check qualifications. This can be a deterrent.
- Don’t take certificates at face value. Verify the claims directly with the awarding body and trust the data, not the paper.
- Take action against fraud – zero tolerance.
*Known as FOG documents. Fraudulently Obtained Genuine documents
Our friends at Risk Advisory have just published their annual report on CV Lies for 2017 analysing 5000 CVs from job applicants as part of their professional screening services. Please take a moment to go over to their website and read it.
Last year their report showed that lying on CVs was up 7% on the previous year at 70%.
This year’s figures are up 10% overall on last year which shows that despite our best efforts and high profile cases of fraud from people lying about qualifications, people are still prepared to cheat their way into work. Making proper background checks on your potential employees is vital.
Here are the headlines:
- 80% of CVs contain discrepancies*
- 57% of those discrepancies are about academic background
- 12% of candidates falsify their grades
*Personally I think discrepancies is a little polite. Let’s call them lies.
Risk Advisory have kindly broken that down for us to look specifically at HE qualifications.
- 44% of the academic background discrepancies were at degree level or above
- 7% of candidates falsify their grades at degree level and above
To put it in real terms – if you receive 200 CV applications for a job 40 of them will have lies about degree qualifications. 14 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:
- Tell candidates you will check all qualifications.
- Ask to see certificates – don’t rely on CVs or application forms.
- Check the certificates with the awarding institutions – beware fakes.
Thankfully more employers are sitting up and taking notice. Checks on Hedd are up 10% on last year so our messages are getting through. You can download our free toolkit for employers here.
Mohammed Dar claims he was offering fake university IDs for students to help them get into student union bars to buy cheap beer.
Searching his home in Stretford Manchester, police recovered:
- 152 completed forgeries of Manchester Metropolitan University ID cards
- 42 fake Brunel University cards
- 7 fake University of Manchester cards
- 6 fake University of Liverpool cards
- 4 fake University of Leeds cards.
It reads like a present list on the 12 Days of Fraudmass, but in sentencing Dar to prison the judge nailed it with his comments:
‘You can open a false bank account with a photo ID and an electricity bill….This country and its institutions operate on the basis of trust – trust in documents. Organisations don’t have the time or the resources to go and check whether every document is genuine.’
Fun fact: Prospects verification service Hedd allows enquirers to verify current university students as well as certificates and transcripts from graduates. As an employer if an applicant uses student ID to prove their identity you can quickly establish the truth online at www.hedd.ac.uk. Already covering 2/3 of graduates from UK institutions and expanding all the time Hedd is the UK’s official HE verification service with over 75 universities available on the system.
A few months ago we received an enquiry from colleagues in Denmark who had concerns about a UK student applying to work for them. Here’s the ID she provided to them:
Her fake passport wasn’t much better quality, but the employer still needed to be sure.
As well as the student ID cards, Dar was using a specialist printer and editor to sell hundreds of items for as little as £20. His phone was full of evidence of customers buying a variety of documents.
Check job or course applicants every time or it could cost your business a lot more than the price of a cheap pint.
‘Dr’ Jon Andrewes – the ‘Walter Mitty’ character we flagged a couple of weeks ago has now been sentenced and will spend the next two years in prison.
The full extent of the lies about his qualifications has come to light and is staggering in its impudence. As Mad Dog says in The Cannonball Run – ‘If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly!’
- First Class degree from Bristol
- Masters degree from Bristol
- MBA from Edinburgh
- PhD from Heriot-Watt
- PhD from Plymouth
All completely untrue.
He lied about working for the Home Office and HMRC and being a partner in a technology firm, when in fact he started out as a builder.
Using his embellished CV he obtained a senior position in the NHS in 2004 and went on to earn over £1million in a 10 year period in other senior NHS roles before his bosses finally questioned him in 2016.
In court he also admitted to tinkering with his daughter’s degree certificate from the University of London.
It’s never too late to check the people working for you. HEDD’s Toolkit for Employers can be downloaded here.
Back in March we reported on Risk Advisory Group’s analysis of over 5,500 CVs revealing an astonishing level of discrepancies about education qualifications. In June we released a free toolkit for employers to help prevent and detect application fraud which is available to download here (shameless plug).
The messages are not filtering through yet as AXELOS Global have released a study of 500 HR professionals which showed that the majority of employers are still not making checks. So we’re going to spell it out.
40% of companies had spent more than £10,000 in the last three years rehiring staff after employing someone who wasn’t properly qualified.
We’ll just let that sink in……….. £10,000.
Data gathered by the UK’s Office for National Statistics reveal that, in the last three years, of 138,000 HR managers and directors in the UK 14% have dealt with at least five instances of employees not holding the certifications they claimed – the equivalent of about 100,000 job applicants. That number could be even higher if more employers made checks. In AXELOS’s study, nearly 50% didn’t. A third of employers didn’t make checks at all if the applicants had previous experience.
You can find details on how to check all UK graduates on the free university look-up service on HEDD. Don’t take the risk.
News of our work in dealing with bogus providers is spreading far and wide. We received a report from Iran that a UK university was selling fake diplomas for £200 via an office in Iran. At the same time Robert Gordon University reported a copycat website masquerading as them when the certificate above came through HEDD for verification. We joined up the dots.
Under our naming and shaming promise I give you International University Robert Gordon and the certificate for one of their latest ‘graduates’.
On the certificate is the name and student ID number – we have blanked it out. If you visit the website and key in the ID number you get an instant verification of the candidate’s credentials.
Unfortunately for the applicant the employer contacted the real Robert Gordon University to verify it and the deceit was uncovered. Had they gone to the webpage above they could easily have been fooled into employing a fraudster.
Like many bogus websites the copycat uses a lot of information stolen from the real Robert Gordon University website and other pages from a genuine UK university in Yorkshire.
HEDD has acted swiftly, adding International University Robert Gordon to the bogus providers on the university look up service on HEDD and reported the site to Trading Standards, the National Crime Agency and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. The website http://www.inturg.com has been suspended and the owners are being investigated.
As the Twitterverse wondered mischievously last week whether Andrea Leadsom would be adding Prime Minister and winning Euro 2016 goalscorer to her stated career achievements, she must be rueing the day the Times took a close look at the City credentials in her CV. The media were vicious in their taunting and once outed, this will haunt her forever.
Whether it’s inflating your grades, your salary, job title or level of responsibility it’s not worth the risk in the long run. Robust credential checking will uncover the truth and could cost you your job as well as your reputation.