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Determining Fake Credentials?

By jeffy124 in Culture
Wed Feb 06, 2002 at 10:54:08 AM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

For those readers in the Philadelphia area, this may sound familiar. Local news station WPVI did a story tonight on how it's possible to obtain college degrees, teacher certifications, etc using the Internet and other resources. As a demo, the reporter made his cat a biologist and a clergyman.

We've all heard of this before, often in the form of spam emails offering such. The story on the news failed to adequately cover something I'm a little concerned with - spotting a fake. How does one go about verifing the credentials that a person claims to hold, say when they're applying for a job? Or when I visit a doctor I've never heard of? Sure we could look at the actual paper certificate stating so, but that can only go so far - as the cat's biology degree was from the non-existant George Washington State College, what if it read "University of Delaware?" Is it necessary to call up the issuing institution and ask if a person holds the credential they claim? Or are there other techniques that don't require going behind a person's back?


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Determining Fake Credentials? | 12 comments (11 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Adequate background checks. (3.14 / 7) (#2)
by valeko on Tue Feb 05, 2002 at 11:58:14 PM EST

(Adequate mode on)

You can use borderline tyrranical methods such as invasive background checks to ensure that your applicant has the necessary credentials. If you have further doubts, contact your nearest consultancy.

(Adequate mode off)

"Hey, what's sanity got going for it anyways?" -- infinitera, on matters of the heart

Dropping the dime (4.20 / 5) (#3)
by webwench on Wed Feb 06, 2002 at 12:09:12 AM EST

It is typical when interviewing job seekers to verify their education history. If you've done this for more than a couple of people, you probably learned that many people lie about either their educational background or their legal history. There's really no other way to verify this kind of information, than by calling the issuing institution.

Moral Objection? (5.00 / 2) (#4)
by Blarney on Wed Feb 06, 2002 at 02:31:46 AM EST

Is it necessary to call up the issuing institution and ask if a person holds the credential they claim? Or are there other techniques that don't require going behind a person's back?

You make it sound like it's a nasty or evil thing, to actually call up a school and ask if somebody went there. In fact, it's the only thing that anybody can do. Of course the prospective employer could ask his interviewee to bring his original diploma to him, but there are several problems with that approach:

  • Lots of people lose their diplomas, or stash them in a closet in their parents home that they don't live in anymore. It's hard enough asking people (sorry for being US-centric) to keep their Social Security cards handy for starting a new job, as these cards are not used in daily life. Why add to the burden?
  • Many people obtain their degree during a fall or summer term - especially graduate students who don't really follow the term system closely. These people often get a job somewhere and return after some months to attend their graduation ceremony.
  • Any piece of paper can be forged. With ready access to color scanners and printers, counterfeiting is easier than ever. I have read in the news that such commonplace technology has helped some dishonest Eastern Michigan University students literally make a lot of money.
And in the general sense, the only way to determine somebody's personal situation without "going behind their back" is to get them to tell you the truth. This is an impossible task, unless you feel like spending years becoming acquainted with each applicant, or using a combination of polygraph tests, drugs, and torture, and do not mind the occasional wrong answer anyway.

You need your social security card anyway.... (none / 0) (#12)
by smileyy on Wed Feb 06, 2002 at 11:35:01 PM EST

You need your social security card anyway, or some other seriously government-issued a document (I assume a passport will do) for your...mmm...I-9(?) form, which demonstrates your legality to work in the US.

...alone in suicide, which is deeper than death...
[ Parent ]
Licensed Professionals (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by Bad Harmony on Wed Feb 06, 2002 at 04:38:36 AM EST

For people such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists and lawyers, you can contact the state licensing board to verify that they have a license to practice in the state. An old diploma, even if genuine and from an accredited institution, does not mean that the person is qualified to practice in your state. States often have qualifying exams, such as the bar exam, to obtain a license, and continuing education requirements to keep a license.

5440' or Fight!

Professional acreditations. (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Feb 06, 2002 at 05:01:04 AM EST

In most places professionals and workers of any kind whose job performance can affect other people's heelth or safety, there are ways to ensure in as much as possible, that these people have the right skills up to date.

It is not enough for a doctor, a civil engineer or a train driver to have the proper qualifications from an acreddited institution, somebody has to certify that those qualifications remain relevant and updated and one can normally check if that is the case.

WIth many other people (IT experts) most probably it is left to the good judgment of the hirer (based on references and some background checks) to decide if the person in front is qualified or not to perform a certain job.

I am all against professional bodies for professions that do not put people at risk because they become a source of influence paddling and corruption, but I think they are necessary evil for professions in which safety and security is a must.

Corolary: don't you ever trust a MSCE certificate (sorry, could not stop myself).
"At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look;
at forty-five they are caves in which we hide." F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Yup. (none / 0) (#11)
by rebelcool on Wed Feb 06, 2002 at 09:22:02 PM EST

This is one reason why licensed software engineers are beginning to become a more popular idea. States have minimum requirements for many kinds of engineers and other occupations.

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[ Parent ]

Background check (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by catseye on Wed Feb 06, 2002 at 09:41:51 AM EST

It's not going behind someone's back to do a background check. Just put it on the application and have them sign, giving their permission. Before I was in IT, I was a private investigator and did a lot of that sort of thing. A standard pre-employment background check included a criminal records search, past employment verification, education verification, SSN Header Check (running the Social Security # through a credit bureau just to get prior addresses and to see if multiple names were associated.. no credit information was returned), and in some states (where allowed) worker's compensation checks.

Educational institutions will verify that a person has a specific degree, as well as the graduation date. Sometimes you have to fax them the person's signature authorizing the check, though. It's harder to get a GPA, though. If that's important, you'll need to get your hands on a transcript.

Besides... if someone decides they don't want to work for you because you're going to verify their credentials... well... you probably don't want them working for you to begin with.

How can we fight Islamic Fundamentalism abroad if we do not fight Christian Fundamentalism at home?
Lying about credentials (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by PresJPolk on Wed Feb 06, 2002 at 11:17:40 AM EST

This was an even bigger story recently, in fact. Notre Dame hired a football coach, who turned out to have lied on two places in his biography: He claimed to have been a four-year letter in college football when he was never on the team, and he claimed a master's degree from a school where only took 3-4 classes toward the degree.

This guy, and the school, were humiliated nationally because one reporter from one small town newspaper did a little checking around. The reporter originally wanted to get some quotes from local people about the guy, for the local angle to the national story, but then when people started telling the reporter they didn't remember the guy, there was obviously a big story.

thought about that actually.. (none / 0) (#9)
by jeffy124 on Wed Feb 06, 2002 at 11:40:46 AM EST

I thought about including that in my write-up, but decided not to include specific examples of people trying to use fake certs. In this case, the guy simply lied on his resume and didnt actually have the letters or paper saying he had his master's from (IIRC) Stony Brook. I wanted my write up to focus on cases where people paid $500 for a piece of paper saying they're an MCSE or something without actually taking the tests or courses. But it's a good point to bring up.
You're the straw that broke the camel's back!
[ Parent ]
ever propagating lies (none / 0) (#10)
by webwench on Wed Feb 06, 2002 at 11:57:00 AM EST

That coach was originally from GA Tech and had worked there for years without anyone checking his resume's details.

I had to wonder, why did he still feel the need to embellish that resume? At that level, his suitability for the job is established more by his record at Ga Tech and word-of-mouth. Providing a resume was just a formality, no doubt -- a minor piece of bureaucracy. I wonder if at that point he had been lying about his easly history for so long that it was unimaginable to him to quietly stop lying and provide an accurate resume. I bet no one would even have noticed.

I can't imagine a tougher punishment, really, for 'expanding' your qualifications in your resume. The guy was offered and accepted his dream job, finally ascending to the pinnacle of a college coaching career -- and a couple of days later, he's kicked out on his a55.

[ Parent ]

Determining Fake Credentials? | 12 comments (11 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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