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Our partner in the UK, Verifile has released their second annual Accredibase™ report into diploma and accreditation mill activity has revealed an astounding 48% increase worldwide in the number of known diploma and accreditation mills in the last year. As the Internet is the primary home for these bogus education and accreditation providers, little action is taken to stop them from helping unscrupulous candidates deceive unsuspecting employers.

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Our U.K. strategic partner, Verifile Ltd. has published their 2011 report on diploma and accreditation mill activity and reveals an astounding 48% increase worldwide in the number of known diploma and accreditation mills in the past year alone. As the Internet is the primary home for these bogus education and accreditation providers, little action is taken to stop them from helping unscrupulous candidates deceive unsuspecting employers. This year’s Accredibase™ report examines the current status of the diploma mill situation and considers what can be done to protect the public and businesses.

The Accredibase™ report identifies the following red flags that may help in the identification of diploma mills*:

  • The institution does not have authority to operate or grant degrees from the education authorities where it claims to be based.
  • Degrees are delivered in a very short space of time – sometimes just a few days.
  • Degrees are granted based entirely on work or life experience.
  • Contact details are limited to an email address and the institution is vague about its location.
  • The institution will allow the student to choose his/her own course title and specify the graduation year to appear on the certificate.
  • Sample certificates, transcripts or verification letters are available to view on the website.
  • Institutions make over-complicated or misleading claims about accreditation or recognition.
  • The institution’s name is similar to that of a recognised and respected education institution.
  • Internet domain names are misleading – such as ‘.ac’ instead of the regulated ‘.ac.uk’ used by higher education institutions in the United Kingdom.
  • The website is poorly designed, has poor spelling and grammar or it plagiarises copy from other institutions.

Verifile’s proprietary database of diploma and accreditation mills, Accredibase™, keeps track of the credential fraud industry. Verifile’s Accredibase™ has identified approximately 5000 suspect educational institutions and accreditors, including 2,615 known bogus education and accreditation providers. In addition to the huge number of confirmed mills known to Accredibase™, new suspect institutions are discovered on a daily basis – more than 2,000 are currently under investigation by Accredibase™ for inclusion in the database.

Download the full report

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Con Man Gets Job as Bank CEO

Published on 03 February 2011 by in Resume Verifications

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Somebody didn’t do their homework…

A London man was able to gain employment as the Deputy CEO of a Middle Eastern bank after a headhunting firm located his fictitious resume online.  His resume claimed degrees from both Harvard and Oxford as well as long term employment at one of the world’s top financial institutions – J.P. Morgan.  The headhunters forwarded the resume to their client who promptly interviewed and hired the fraudster.  It was only after they had flown him to the Middle East to meet their wealthiest clients that they discovered his lies.

A few simple inquiries into this person’s past prior to a job offer would have saved this bank a little bit of money and a lot of embarrassment.

Fraudster conned his way to top bank job

A conman used a fake CV to trick his way into becoming the £165,000-a-year deputy chief executive of a City investment bank, a court heard.

By Paul Cheston, Courts Correspondent – London Evening Standard – 1/31/2011

Peter Gwinnell, 49, posted a résumé online which claimed he had degrees from Oxford and Harvard and had worked for JP Morgan for 20 years.

The fake was enough to convince City headhunters Connaught Partners to put him in touch with Ahli United Bank, which was looking for a new deputy chief executive, in the autumn of 2009. Gwinnell played the role of senior banker so well that after two interviews he was appointed to the job.

He worked for a month, flying out to the Middle East several times to meet wealthy clients and collecting £14,500 in salary. It was only when Ahli ran extra checks that it realised Gwinnell’s story was a lie.

In reality he was a convicted conman who had served six months in prison in the Nineties and had not attended either university, or worked at JP Morgan. Gwinnell, of Harrow, admitted a single count of fraud and was handed a 50-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, at Southwark crown court. Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC spared him an immediate jail term after hearing he had already spent 12 weeks in custody on remand, and was suffering from serious depression.

The judge instead ordered Gwinnell to complete 100 hours of unpaid work, 18 months of supervision with a probation officer and to continue to undergo treatment for his depression.

He also banned him from uploading a CV onto the internet without the court’s permission. Sentencing, he told Gwinnell: “Somehow or other you managed to convince Connaught Partners that you were a suitable candidate for employment by the bank.

“This offence was deliberately planned, and it caused loss, but also no doubt much trouble and aggravation, and quite obviously embarrassment to the bank who determined that you were suitable for employment.”

The court heard that even after Gwinnell was questioned by police, he sent a fraudulent CV to a Swiss bank before withdrawing the job application.

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Bragging to your buddies about your days in the trenches doesn’t hurt anyone or anything, unless of course they find out you’re a big fat liar and your ego gets bruised.  Masquerading these lies as expertise and profiting from it, on the other hand, has a tremendously adverse effect on those supposed to benefit from your instruction – especially when those people are federal, state and local law enforcement agencies who need this knowledge in the event of an attack or disaster. 

This story can be added to our ever growing list of why you have to background check before you let someone in the front door.

Maryland Man Arrested for Allegedly Lying About Military Service

By Edmund DeMarche, FoxNews.com – 01/26/2011

A Maryland man who the FBI says posed for years as a retired army special forces colonel and made a career lecturing law enforcement agencies about global terrorism and human trafficking across the country has been arrested.

William G. Hillar, 66, was arrested at his home Tuesday and faces a federal count of mail fraud for payment he received for lectures he gave at Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, according to court papers.

Hillar’s former website, which has since been taken down, claimed that he is a retired Colonel of the U.S Army Special Forces and served in Asia, the Middle East and Central and South America, according to court papers.

Sporting this resume, Hillar apparently had no problem finding work.

His client list included dozens of schools and agencies across the country, ranging from FBI and Army units to local and state police agencies from Idaho to Georgia, reported the Herald.

The investigation found that Hillar was never a Green Beret nor did he serve in the U.S. Army. The highest rank he reached was radarman in the Coast Guard, serving from 1962 to 1970. Court papers go on to say Hillar was never deployed to the locations he stated in his biography and never underwent any documented training to support claims of knowledge in counter-terrorism, explosive ordinance, emergency medicine or psychological warfare.

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My wife and I saw an unbelievable movie last night called The King’s Speech which was based on the true story of British King George the VI’s (played by Colin Firth) determination to overcome a speech impediment.  Okay, that didn’t do the movie justice, but trust me it was a great movie that will likely sweep the Academy Awards this year.

Anyway, the main character has struggled with a debilitating stutter for his entire life and finally finds a speech therapist who is able to help cure his condition.  Immediately, Dr. Lionel Logue insists on being called “Lionel”.  After years of therapy, the prince is annointed to king and is to accept the throne in front of the public at Westminster Abbey.  The Arch-Bishop responsible for the ceremony is introduced to Dr. Logue and decides to look into his credentials.  Upon completion of the background check, he informs the king that Dr. Logue is not,  in fact a doctor.  Now, he explains that he never claimed that he was a doctor and that regardless of whether he was or not, he had successfully treated the king.  And of course, this being a movie everything ends happily.

While the movie is based on a true story, I am not sure if there was ever a controversy over Lionel Logue’s credentials.  However, true or not it does raise the issue of how important it is to know the qualifications of those we choose to employ.  It also depicts what reference credentialing might have looked like in the late 1930′s.

Pretty interesting stuff.  And in my maiden voyage as a film critic, I give it two thumbs up!

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Question: What do United Airlines Pilot, Dr. William Hamman and I have in common?

Answer: We are both not cardiologists or any other type of doctor for that matter.  However, one of us pretended to be. And that person is not your favorite background screening blogger.  Stop me if you’ve seen this movie.

A.P.: Pilot Duped AMA with Fake M.D. Claim

He seemed like Superman, able to guide jumbo jets through perilous skies and tiny tubes through blocked arteries. As a cardiologist and United Airlines captain, William Hamman taught doctors and pilots ways to keep hearts and planes from crashing.

He shared millions in grants, had university and hospital posts, and bragged of work for prestigious medical groups. An Associated Press story featured him leading a teamwork training session at an American College of Cardiology convention last spring.

But it turns out Hamman isn’t a cardiologist or even a doctor. The AP found he had no medical residency, fellowship, doctoral degree or the 15 years of clinical experience he claimed. He attended medical school for a few years but withdrew and didn’t graduate.

His pilot qualifications do not appear to be in question — he holds the highest type of license a pilot can have, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said. However, United grounded him in August after his medical and doctoral degrees evaporated like contrails of the jets he flew. He resigned in June as an educator and researcher at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich., after a credentials check revealed discrepancies, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Doctors who worked with the 58-year-old pilot are stunned, not just at the ruse and how long it lasted, but also because many of them valued his work and were sad to see it end.

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Just asking, but wouldn’t a thorough employment background check have uncovered this charade?  I imagine that performing an Education Verification with the medical school or performing a Professional License Check might have done the trick.

Note to United.  I hope that this post in no way, shape or form compromises my frequent flier status or upgrade request I recently made with your airline.  I love to fly the friendly skies!

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Canterbury Degree

The use of fake academic degrees is becoming epidemic.  There are now an estimated 5,000 diploma mills throughout the world selling bogus academic credentials in exchange for money and little or no coursework (see my phony PhD above).  In just the last decade alone, this industry has accounted for over $1 billion in sales.

And our UK-based strategic partner, Verifile Ltd. has an interesting take on why the industry continues to grow. Check out this excerpt from their latest release.

Ahead of tomorrow’s House of Commons vote on tuition fees, CV verification and background screening expert, Verifile Limited, is concerned that an increase in tuition fees will lead to an increase in bogus universities and push more people to buy fake degrees from the criminals who run these organisations.

Verifile Limited owns Accredibase™, the world’s largest database of fake universities, or “degree mills”. Since the release of the company’s comprehensive report in January*, the number of confirmed bogus institutions** claiming to operate from the UK, has risen by an alarming 24%, taking the number of degree mills to 337 in the UK alone. In addition, a further 219 institutions are suspected mills and are currently under investigation. The majority of suspected mills are later confirmed as bogus upon completion of the investigation.

“It is hard to believe that candidates are not aware of what they are doing when they originally purchase their ‘degrees’ without taking classes or sitting in exams, yet tens of thousands of individuals are using degrees purchased from degree mills over the internet. And you find them from all walks of life from IT to security, health, education, management, government and more. If tuition fees are to increase, we must expect the incidence of fake degrees to also rise. Where the Government is not prepared to fight this problem effectively, it would be advisable for organisations to be more thorough when they carry out background checks” concluded Ben Cohen.

View Full Release

Of course, employers can limit the possibility of this happening by taking the following steps:

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Move over Marilee Jones, you have some company.  For those of you who don’t remember, Marilee Jones was the Director of Admissions at M.I.T. and was caught lying on her resume a few years back.  Colleges and Universities have long been known for their lax approach to screening employees, fortunately in the last few years many of them have stepped up their efforts.  The latest blunder has Texas A&M University reviewing its current hiring practices after an administrator now admits lying on his resume.

Ex-A&M administrator admits lying on resume

BRYAN, Texas — A former Texas A&M University administrator who quit in June amid questions about padding his resume has pleaded guilty and been fined $2,000.

Alexander Kemos on Wednesday pleaded guilty in Bryan to a misdemeanor charge of using a fraudulent, substandard or fictitious degree. He also must pay court costs.

Kemos attorney Jim James says his client admits adding to his resume in violation of the law and regrets the incident. James says the 50-year-old Kemos also says no one at A&M knew of the false portions of his resume.

Kemos, who was hired in 2009, was senior vice president for administration. He falsely claimed to be a former Navy SEAL with advanced degrees from Tufts University.

A&M is auditing its hiring practices.

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EmployeeScreenIQ’s Nick Fishman will be speaking at the Wisconsin State SHRM Conference in Appleton, WI at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel and Conference Center on October 7, 2010 at 10:30am.

Technology has dramatically changed the way we compete for talent and screen prospective employees, but nothing approaches the impact of social networking.  With the widespread use of Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites comes a new wave of legal liabilities for both recruiters and screeners. Other emerging technology threats include online diploma fraud, employment mills that manufacture work experience, screen scraping, and more.  Employers need to develop best practices and policies in order to successfully manage Web 2.0 technologies.

Join EmployeeScreenIQ’s Chief Marketing Office,  Nick Fishman for an informative session about how to protect your company in the age of Facebook.  You’ll learn which social networking sites are most popular with recruiters and applicants, and their impact on employment screening and the hiring process.  Attendees will also learn how to develop a social media policy and spot the warning signs of diploma and employment mills.  Finally, you’ll examine other Web 2.0 trends such as screen scraping and instant screening.

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Here’s an interesting take on how a company can use terminated employee’s resume lies as a defense against claims of discrimination and, or retaliation. Check out this post by labor and employment attorney Jeffrey T. Rosenberg. The only catch seems to be that if you knew about the resume fraud after conducting an employment background check and still hired this person, the defense probably goes out the window. Then again, if you knew about it, why would you hire them?

As an employment attorney practicing in New York City, I feel obligated to clarify the negative consequences that can occur as a result of lying on a resume. Most cases concerning falsified resumes arise from situations in which an employee has been terminated for reasons other than lying on his or her resume (ex. poor work performance). After being terminated, the employee commences a lawsuit for unlawful discrimination and/or retaliation, and during discovery, the employer discovers for the first time that the employee’s resume that was submitted with the original job application had been falsified and is fraudulent.
Because the evidence of the resume fraud was first discovered after the termination had already occurred, this new information is called “after-acquired evidence,” and can be used by the employer as a defense to the claims of discrimination and/or retaliation.

In fact, in Quinby v. WestLB AG (2007), the Southern District of New York (federal court covering Manhattan) held that a plaintiff will not be entitled to certain remedies, such as reinstatement and front pay, if the employer can show that it would have terminated the employee anyway based on information that was not acquired until after she was terminated. However, the party asserting the “after-acquired evidence” defense must establish that the wrongdoing was of such severity that the employee would have been terminated on those grounds alone if the employer had known of it at the time of the termination.

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