By Fergal Parkinson, TMT Analysis
Paul Elliott must have seemed too good to be true when he applied to be head of RE at Yarm School in Yorkshire.
Not only was he a former Oxford don whose glittering academic career went all the way back to his own schooldays with six As at A Level and 12 at GCSE. But – amazingly exciting for a school where rugby was a big deal – he was a former teammate of England captain Will Carling who had been good enough to play professionally.
His interview for the job must have been a formality – of course he got it.
So it wasn’t until he’d started working at the school that things began to unravel.
Because it would turn out that Elliott was indeed too good to be true – none of it was true. He hadn’t been to Oxford, he hadn’t got those exam results, he hadn’t played pro rugby. And Will Carling had never heard of him.
Welcome to the world of CV fraud.
Of course, Elliott’s case is at the extreme end of the scale for this field but his story illustrates how easy it is to simply lie on a CV and get away with it because you appear plausible and few people bother to make anything more than cursory checks.
This may well be why employment cons represent a major and growing sector of the massive fraud economy.
And while lying about your accomplishments on a job application may be less strikingly callous than, say, stealing the life savings of a pensioner who has been naïve enough to believe that an incoming call really was from her bank, it still represents obtaining money – and frequently status and other advantages – by deception. It is still very much, therefore, fraud.
So it’s good news that the employment sector seems to be belatedly waking up to the fact that they’ve been too open to abuse for too long – and have let this problem burgeon.
There are a number or ways it can happen and similarly a number of motivations for doing it.
The most common one is simply bumping up one’s experience or qualifications in the hope of getting a higher salary. It can be just a mild embellishment – adding a few months to the time served in a relevant role – or it can get into the realm of out-and-out lies as in Elliott’s case, with all variations in between.
But there can be more nefarious causes than just a salary bump. Some may be trying to obscure criminal convictions or other red flags – people may have been banned from working in some sectors and are trying to avoid detection.
And because up until now there has not been a culture in the broad employment sector of applying much scrutiny to candidates beyond a reference check, it often hasn’t taken much effort or elaborate planning for people who are determined to lie to get away with it.
We are not talking about people faking their own disappearance by leaving a pile of clothes on a beach. They may simply style their name differently: perhaps using a middle name instead of their previous first name so that their old self doesn’t readily show up on a Google search.
And while they may move away from an area where whatever they’re trying to conceal may be well known to facilitate this form of changed identity, one thing they almost certainly won’t change is their phone number: it will be too much of an inconvenience when other things are changing too. It will keep things easier with the contacts that they don’t want to lose. And this can be an achilles heel for the CV scammer.
Because that phone number can – much more than they realise – link them back to their previous incarnation. Their old identity might not show up on Google but it will show up when a company like ours that has advanced data from the phone companies runs a check on their number.
In the case of Paul Elliott his employers eventually needed to engage private detectives to confirm their suspicions that they had been had – and give them the solid platform they would need to get rid of him.
This would necessarily have been extremely expensive and time consuming.
They would almost certainly have saved themselves both, as well as prevented the embarrassment of appointing him in the first place, if they had simply run checks on the phone number he supplied on that stellar but completely fictitious CV. A scan of that number’s history would have immediately suggested anomalies and discrepancies that would have been enough to halt the appointment in its tracks. Checks can be run in seconds and at negligible cost
Our industry has not yet got to the point where we can identify when someone has inflated their grade in a maths GCSE taken 20 years earlier – but you’d be amazed at what we can deduce from a single mobile phone number!
The likes of Elliott rely on employers not realising that they have this kind of protection available to them. Thankfully this is now beginning to change.
To find out more about how our Verify product can confirm someone’s identity from their mobile number drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org