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Victims of Impersonation: certificates and degrees

11 August 2022

We’ve all been there – we are so proud of what we have achieved, we want to remember this moment forever and shout it from the rooftops to anybody who will listen.

In current times, this usually means a selfie or two on our social media accounts when we have achieved something amazing, like passing a professional qualification or graduating.

It is harmless and the photo will only be viewed by people who want to congratulate us, right? Wrong. Posting a full copy of your qualification or exam certificate online is not really any different to posting a photo of your passport or driving licence. Criminals can use the information on your social media selfies to either impersonate you to obtain a facility such as a bank account or loan, or they can replicate your certificate to pretend they have the same qualification.

In 2021 alone, Cifas members reported 226,000 instances of Identity Fraud to the National Fraud Database and 39% of filings made to the Internal Fraud Database were for false employment applications where the applicant had falsified their application which can include false qualifications.

Imagine all that studying and expense, your dream job within touching distance, but you narrowly miss out to somebody who ticks all the boxes on paper, someone who in reality didn’t graduate, they didn’t even study, they just paid for a replica of a graduation certificate. A certificate which could be easily replicated because there were so many copies available it online. Now they get the same opportunities as you but without the hard work – hardly fair is it?

Certificates change on a regular basis in an attempt to thwart criminal activity such as this, but that does not fully eradicate the issue. There is also the fact that fake documents are readily available on the dark web, which can be matched to the name on a qualification as the first steps to a criminal stealing your professional identity.

I’m not saying don’t celebrate and don’t take a selfie, I’m just asking you to think about what information is visible on your certificate. Blur out any personal information such as name, date of birth and candidate numbers, and also be sure to blur out the qualification and any QR codes too. That way your information can remain as safe as possible, and you can celebrate confident in the knowledge that you are not giving criminals a head start.

Posted by: Rachael Tiffen

Rachael is Director of Cifas Learning & Public Sector.


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Posted by: Rachael Tiffen

Rachael is Director of Cifas Learning & Public Sector.