Investigation Reveals Some Military Honors Claims are Bogus

Have you ever had an applicant claim on a resume that he or she was the recipient of a Medal of Honor?  If so, you were probably pretty impressed.  I would be.  But did you ever think of verifying that fact?  If not, maybe you should.  Some individuals have reached a new low and started fudging either their military experience and/or the accolades they received during their time of service.  This is a complete disservice to those who have so bravely served our country and rightfully earned those awards.

What this story says to me is that people will lie about anything and everything.  For every piece of information provided on a resume, I could give you a handful of reasons why a person would lie about it.  The importance of a thorough background check cannot be stressed enough.

Claims of medals amount to stolen valor

Tribune investigation reveals hundreds of unsupported claims regarding veterans with war medals

By John Crewdson, Chicago Tribune Correspondent – October 26, 2008

WASHINGTON – Scores of Americans, from clergymen to lawyers to CEOs, are claiming medals of valor they never earned.

A Tribune investigation has found that the fabrication of heroic war records is far more extensive than you might think.

Take the online edition of Who’s Who, long the nation’s premier biographical reference. Of the 333 people whose profiles state they earned one of the nation’s most esteemed military medals, fully a third of those claims cannot be supported by military records.

Even in death, these stories live on. A look at 273 obituaries published in the past decade alone found that in more than four of five cases, official records didn’t support decorations for bravery attributed to the deceased.

The Tribune also found bogus decorations, including at least two Medals of Honor, engraved on headstones in military cemeteries across the country.

In all, more than half the medals for bravery examined, including the exalted Medal of Honor, are unsupported by official military records obtained by the Tribune from federal archives under the Freedom of Information Act.

The men whose obituaries or profiles in Who’s Who make these claims are mainly individuals of note and accomplishment: lawyers, physicians, clergymen, CEOs, business executives, company presidents, university professors, career military officers, teachers, policemen, elected officials, even a psychiatrist.


Live from Exhibit Hall of ERE Fall Expo

Greetings from the booth #219 at ERE Fall Expo in sunny, but not so warm Hollywood Beach, Florida.  There appear to be a number of attendees at this conference, which leads me to my first question: Why is everyone waiting in line for food when they could be talking to us about background checks?  C’mon people, we’re raffling off a Nintendo Wii, and you know conference food usually stinks.

On a serious note, ERE decided to broadcast a live feed of the conference on their website.  Very innovative, but I wonder if doing so both now and in the future will discourage people from attending.  Why spend the money or the time at the conference, when you can just tune in for the sessions that interest you?  Of course, a live feed can’t replicate perhaps the most important part of any conference, networking.

I attended a great panel discussion about cutting technology in staffing, moderated by Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler of CareerXRoads and featuring Cheezhead’s Joel Cheesman.  They most technologies they mentioned most were Twitter, SMS messaging, and IM.  Wouldn’t it be great if background checks could be done that way?  Maybe in the future!

Anyway, back to the conference.  Things picked up since I started this post.  We’re going to be doing a podcast with Steve Curtis from iCIMS’ in a little bit.  I’ll keep you posted.

Conscience Gets the Better of Resume Fraudster

Many who lie on their resume do so in good conscience.  There are some who feel guilty about their deception, but not guilty enough to turn themselves in.  Every now and then, however, there will be someone riddled with shame over the lies they have told and own up to it.  Such is the case with Andrea Stanfield, a woman whose lies obtained her a yearly income topping six figures.  Ms. Stanfield wrote a book about her experience dealing with resume fraud and the new-found honesty she obtained.

Faking it can work, but…

By Dalia Colon, St. Petersburg Times – October 27, 2008

For Andrea Stanfield, there’s no such thing as a little white lie. In 1998, Stanfield exaggerated her resume to include a bachelor’s degree from Akron University when she actually held only a high school diploma. The fact that the northeast Ohio school’s real name is the University of Akron should have been a dead giveaway, but this detail slipped passed HR — and nearly everyone else in Stanfield’s life. The fib led to jobs in the financial sectors of three Tampa Bay companies, where her salary with bonuses topped six figures.

To keep the lie going, the Coquina Key resident had to invent more falsehoods: funny stories about college, a fake diploma. She even deceived her husband and mother. By the time she was 33, a decade after she’d first lied, Stanfield was having anxiety attacks. She felt guilty for encouraging her subordinates and her daughter, now 11, to go to college when she hadn’t. Figuring she’d get fired as soon as the truth came out, Stanfield resigned without saying why.

She recounts her tale, including whether her marriage survived, in Phony! How I Faked My Way Through Life, which the publisher assured us has been vetted.


Ugandan University Unknowingly Certifies Fake Transcripts

The Daily Monitor, a Ugandan newspaper, has exposed a con taking place at the country’s largest and oldest university.  Makerere University has become the target of a degree fraud scam most likely perpetrated by members of its own staff and a contractor hired to speed up the degree issuance process.  The newspaper was able obtain a fake transcript from the university and then receive verification from the Academic Registrar that the transcript was genuine.

This is a trend that I think will definitely increase over the next few years and criminals get smarter and technology becomes more advanced.  Schools should conduct background checks on employees that will have access to confidential student information and important tasks such as issuing degrees and awarding financial aid.  There are numerous opportunities to commit fraud in these areas.  Schools need to recognize this and protect themselves as much as possible.

In addition, employers should always conduct education verifications on prospective employees whose position requires a certain level of education and/or a primary course of study.  There is no question that fake degrees are being sold worldwide.  The question is:  Who’s buying?  Could it be your applicant?

Makerere certifies fake transcripts

By Edwin Nuwagaba – October 27, 2008


A criminal gang in Kampala is selling fake degree transcripts from Makerere University at Shs250,000, a Daily Monitor investigation can reveal.

While the trade in fake transcripts has been going on for many months, the forgery has become so sophisticated that the university cannot distinguish the fake transcripts they issue from genuine ones.

Following earlier reports of its transcripts being forged, Makerere set up an office earlier in the year to help employers vet documents submitted by prospective employees. However, the racket, which has contacts within the university, issues ‘fool-proof’ transcripts that the office cannot identify as being forged, leaving thousands of employers vulnerable to applicants getting jobs for which they are not qualified.

In an effort to expose the loopholes in the verification process, Daily Monitor paid a racket member Shs250,000 for a fake transcript which came with a certified copy. When Daily Monitor submitted the fake transcript to the university for verification, it was certified as a genuine transcript.


Be sure to check out our Internal Resource for Identifying Known Diploma Mills.  It can be downloaded at

Interesting Resume Fraud Case: Employers Learn Expensive Lesson

The folks over at just published a fascinating story entitled, Court Ponders Implications of Deceitful Resume.  A company employee was terminated when fellow employees alleged sexual harassment.  This gentleman was on an employment contract which included a severance provision.  The employer then investigated the employee and found that he had committed resume fraud to get the job and that he was not entitled to the severance package.

The court ruled that the employer had an opportunity to discover the resume fraud before they extended a job offer and therefore was liable for the severance.  This should serve as a lesson to employers that background checks which include Employment Verifications are vital to ensuring you hire the best candidate for the job.

Court Ponders Implications of Deceitful Resume

What the court said.

The question was whether the man’s alleged fraud was sufficient basis for NMHC to rescind his contract. The appellate court pointed out that the testimony at trial showed that NMHC, its recruiter, and its interviewers failed to ascertain the truth about his employment history, though it appeared to have been readily available via background checks and calls to former employers. The recruiter testified that NMHC had not authorized him to check prior employers. He was only authorized to check references.

Due diligence would have revealed the falsities, the court said, because after the firing, NMHC looked more closely at the  résumé in the hope of showing that the man was terminated for cause and bolstering its claim that he was not entitled to the severance benefits. Based on NMHC’s failure of due diligence, the court agreed that the action to rescind the contract should be dismissed. National Medical Health Card Systems v. Fallarino, Supreme Court of New York, Nassau County, No. 12519/05 (8/25/08).

Point to remember:

This ruling suggests that when employers don’t thoroughly investigate applicants’ backgrounds, they’re in a weak position to try to rescind an employment contract based on a misleading and inaccurate résumé.

Read more

10/17/2008 Screening via social media sites may leave employers exposed

[Screening via social media sites may leave employers exposed
(10/17/2008) (^1717359)

*San Jose Business Journal (subscription) – CA,USA*

… a law requiring written consent to conduct background checks and full disclosure of whether or not a decision relied upon that information. …

[Read the full story here . . .](^1717359)

What does the “No Fly List” have in common with your background checks?

The TSA recently announced new requirements for flyers. It is aimed at reducing the number of passengers inadvertently delayed or unable to fly just because their name is the same as someone on the list. Name, date of birth, gender, etc. will be collected by airlines and submitted to the TSA. This will speed up the process and ideally limit the number of people incorrectly stopped.

But how does this compare to your criminal records check? Faithful readers of our blog, newsletter, or podcast listeners know we often talk about identifiers and obligations to ensure the information we share is accurate and up to date. State and federal law, not to mention good ethics and overall business sense, demand it.

So how do we do it? We compare these identifiers to information on file in the courthouse. When we find a criminal record for John Smith, we use the date of birth, the SSN, the Driver’s License, etc., to confirm if it’s the John Smith you’re hiring to be your next latex salesman. Just like the TSA. Similar processes and safeguards designed to serve the same purpose. More information ensures accuracy and reduces risk.

How do we think this will be perceived? Privacy advocates, likely unhappy. More information collected and stored in databases. Security advocates, probably happy. Families traveling with small children anticipating a shorter security line? Definitely happy.  

FTC Delay Does Not Apply to Employers

Yesterday, the FTC announced a 6 month delay in enforcing their “Red Flags” Identity Theft Guidelines.  In reading through the release, it was unclear as to how this would affect employers.  Well, we’ve been in touch with the FTC and we now know that this delay only pertains to Financial Institutions and Creditors.  Employers still must be in compliance with the these guidelines as they relate to developing and implementing a policy to handle “Red Flag” Address Discrepancy Notifications from National Consumer Reporting Agencies (primarily credit bureaus) when conducting background checks.

For more information about these guidelines, please refer to the articles listed below.

Users of Consumer Reports Have New Responsibilities as of November 1, 2008

employeescreenIQ Offers Free Webinar on New FTC Identity Theft Guidelines

FTC Enforcement Policy: Identity Theft Red Flags Rule