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Helping hirers spot the signs of false qualifications on CVs

3 April 2024

As the seasons change, this time of the year could prove to be the moment that many individuals have a ‘spring’ in their step and decide to switch careers. For those in charge of hiring too, a fresh financial quarter could spark newfound opportunities to find their next ideal recruit. 

However, what happens when you discover that your much sought after new addition to the team has in fact exaggerated their qualifications to land their dream job?  

If this has happened to you, you won’t be alone. 

Having surveyed 2,000 UK people to better understand their attitudes to fraud in 2023, we discovered that 16% of respondents felt it was ‘reasonable’ to falsify their qualifications on an application for employment, with 21% admitting they had done so – or knew someone who had – within the last 12 months. 

For the job seekers who do not see being dishonest on their CVs as an issue, it is in fact first party fraud and therefore a criminal offence. While the penalties are severe for applicants, the consequences for those in charge of hiring mean they must respond swiftly before a rogue recruit poses a real risk to their organisation, customers and other staff and shareholders. 

Staying one step ahead 

Most organisations and their hirers will be acutely aware of the serious repercussions of a fraudulent hire, including data theft, financial losses, reputational damage, and regulatory penalties. However, when the world of work has changed so considerably over the last few years, it is becoming increasingly difficult for hirers to combat the insider threat. With many organisations shifting away from traditional office working to provide a more flexible, hybrid pattern of working, unsurprisingly, this has opened up fresh opportunities for fraudsters to target organisations, as well as employees to commit fraud. 

Additionally, as a result of people falsifying their experience and qualifications when applying for positions, we’ve seen a sharp increase in cases filed to the Cifas Insider Threat Database, with around a quarter of these relating to the concealment of employment history.  

The rise in insider threat, and especially hiring fraud, has also been fuelled by the growth of ‘Reference Houses’. Often operated by organised criminal groups, fraudulent Reference Houses continue to be popular among applicants, with these enterprises even going to lengths as to provide crash courses to job seekers so they can bolster certain skill sets, as well as supply fake employment references and documents. These are now so sophisticated that it’s getting increasingly difficult for hirers to spot them during the pre-employment screening process. 

With hiring fraud widespread and far-reaching, Keith Rosser, Chair of The Better Hiring Institute and Director of Reed Screening, provides some ways to help hirers spot falsified qualifications before rogue recruits become engrained in organisations: 

  • Establish any claims within a person’s CV and be curious if something doesn’t seem right, and consider using data, such as HMRC, to cross-check work histories 

  • Work with a vetting specialist to ensure a person’s qualifications and timelines are genuine and can be checked/evidenced 

  • Carry out rigorous checks throughout the employee lifecycle to identify any potential fraud risks – not just at the onboarding stage 

  • Invest in your fraud prevention training so you and your organisation are better equipped to spot fake applications or falsified CVs 

  • While exploring someone’s application with a fine-tooth comb, don’t underestimate fake references either, and use the latest technology to flag any Reference Houses 

  • Look out for the common signs of fake references such as validity of email addresses and referee position. Also, check against the company’s online presence 

A collaborative approach to stopping fake applications at the source 

Fraud cannot be fought in isolation. That’s why it is so important we all embrace cross-industry collaboration and data intelligence sharing to combat the growing risk of insider threat. 

Additionally, it’s vital we all provide the correct, specialist fraud prevention training to our workforces so they’re in a powerful position to both accurately detect and report any signs of insider threat, as well as feel safe to do so anonymously. Referring back to our fraud behaviours research, we found that 37% of people said they wouldn’t report their colleagues if they discovered they had lied on their CVs. 

Highlighting one organisation doing exceptional work to raise awareness of the potential impact of hiring fraud, The Better Hiring Institute not only provides readily available and free toolkits to organisations to support them in their hiring processes, it has also launched a free guide to help employers tackle hiring fraud, supported by the Prime Minister’s Anti-Fraud Champion, Simon Fell, and MPs. 

The not-for-profit social enterprise’s guide includes critical insights on key topics such as fraudulent Reference Houses, CV and qualifications fraud, fake applications and rogue job adverts, alongside relevant case studies which bring many of these fraud types to life. Download your free guide here

Often underestimated and yet still regarded as the most common crime, fraud is far-reaching and creates long-lasting consequences for any organisation, its existing employees and wider stakeholders. From financial and reputational losses to a lack of customer confidence and increasing investor distrust, tackling the insider threat is no longer a problem solely for one person, organisation or industry – it’s everyone’s business. 

Many thanks to The Better Hiring Institute for contributing to this blog created following our recent Cifas Insider Threat Week (held 4-8 March 2024) – an event dedicated to helping members understand and identify the growing concern of insider threat. 

Posted by: Tracey Carpenter

Tracey is Cifas' Insider Threat Manager


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Posted by: Tracey Carpenter

Tracey is Cifas' Insider Threat Manager