In a tough job market, job searchers can become desperate and willing to do anything to get a job – including lying about their education with fake diplomas obtained from non-existent universities. To keep from getting duped and facing future consequences, employers need to conduct thorough background investigations on potential employees to detect the phonies before hiring and training them.
Unfortunately, fraud is rampant in the employment market with fake degrees on the rise. Google “fake degree” and hundreds of websites offering diplomas pop up. These “diploma mills” sell job applicants high school, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees, or professional certifications with transcripts for a flat fee. The diploma often requires little, if any, course work and awards a degree based solely on the person’s work or life experience, if that.
A 1986 congressional study found that about 500,000 Americans were using fake diplomas at that time. So one can only assume that this number has risen substantially in the past three decades. During a CNN exposé in 2010 on the multi-million dollar fake degree industry, George Gollin, a board member of the U.S.-based Council for Higher Education Accreditation, estimated that over 100,000 fake degrees are sold each year in the U.S. alone. Of these degrees, he said around one third are postgraduate degrees.
What can employers do to keep from getting duped from dishonest job applicants?
Employers should practice due diligence just as they would if they were starting any strategic business partnership. One of the reasons that employment fraud exists is because only a fraction of resumes are ever checked for discrepancies. Therefore, it’s important that your company spends the time up front conducting employment background checks to save you the grief later when you have to address issues from hiring unqualified employees. Because when companies hire employees with bogus credentials, they compromise their organization’s credibility, risk embarrassment or worse. For example, a dishonest employee could expose your company and employees to potential damage. Or, an unqualified person in a position of responsibility could act in a way that harms someone and opens your organization up to the liability.
Some things you can do when conducting an employee background check are:
- Carefully review resumes and employment applications. Don’t take any information at face value.
- Ask specific questions during the phone screen and subsequent interview about the applicant’s degree. Broad or vague answers should be a red flag to investigate into the issue further.
- Fact check all degrees, dates of degrees and degree majors. Ask the applicant for verification if something seems suspicious.
- Check the candidate’s educational history by conducting online searches to see if the applicant’s information on social media sites, like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., differ from what is listed on the resume or application. Ask the candidate for an explanation if you find differences.
works with many organizations and businesses to conduct due diligence in a number of areas – including hiring. In order to get to know potential employees better before you hire them, we suggest you conduct employee background checks in the following areas:
When an investigative firm like provides your company with background check services, you can rest assured that our findings will be thorough and double-checked for accuracy – saving you time, energy and potential anguish and money later.
-Brenda McGinley, CEO, All in Investigations, All in Investigations