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"Risky Business"

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by Charlene Gatt.

IT’S the stuff movies like Mission Impossible are made of. Police Checks. Fingerprint access control. Passport readers.

Essendon's Personnel Risk Management has spent the past 16 years sourcing the latest technology to enhance security for the public and private sector, and is now taking the next step with biometrics

Former Victoria Police Inspector Geoff Stockton set up the business in 1995 in his dining room with an old computer and, familiar with the time and energy spent on filing paperwork for police checks, invented the first online system to perform police checks.

He was also well aware that there was nothing printed – police checks, university degrees – that couldn't be copied.

Mr Stockton was then contacted by UK company Personnel Risk Management, asking him if he could do pre-employment screening. He agreed, and PRM in Australia took off.

While it didn't work out for the UK chapter, which sold out over a decade ago, PRM Group Australia thrived.

The business really took off after the Federal Government changed legislation so that every person working in the aged care industry had to have police checks.

“Its very, very difficult to do all the paper applications – especially in this case, where there were 400,000 people,” Mr Stockton said.

Mr Stockton now has 10 employees and around 1500 clients across Australia, including Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales Government Departments, plus corporations like Johnson & Johnson, Michelin and Queensland Gas.

The business was ranked 21st in the Westpac Smart Company, The Smart 50 2010 Awards.

The PRM Group's Business Development Manager Ross Brierty said, “running police checks was now considered a more acceptable research tool.”

The proof is in pudding. Three years ago, there were only 1.5 million police checks performed Australia-wide. Today there are 3.5 million

The challenge for The PRM Group is to continually enhance the software to make the system more secure, while working with other technology to provide more for clients.

To achieve that, the company now bases itself on three pillars; pre-employment screening, police checks and biometrics.

The PRM Group is working with suppliers in Korea, Spain and the UK to market fingerprint access and iris control, facial recognition and passport readers.

Among their tools is a device the size of an iPhone that they are marketing to hotels.

The device takes the place of keycard, entry devices and employs facial recognition.

“It tells the hotel just who is staying in the room and if a hotel has 20 cleaning staff and something is stolen, this will tell you who was in the room.

There is also a wireless EFTPOS machine that employs a fingerprint scanner with a temperature setting, so you can't just cut someone's finger and use it, Mr Stockton said

We want to combine the database to give better offerings for people so that when they do a police check they'll be able to do a police check and other checks like facial recognition.

The technology is getting better and better all the time.

Years ago, to get someone's fingerprints to access a door or alike, someone worked out if you chopped a finger off you could use it. Now it has to be a live finger as it reads your capilliaries, temperature and other unique body parts.

Also, once you give your fingerprint, it turns it into a algorithm, which is unique to you. It can't be rebuilt as a fingerprint.”

The PRM Group is also working on a tender to supply passport readers to an international airport

"The Lying Game"

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No one would fall for the cheap qualifications churned out by online ‘Diploma Mills’… or would they? Iain Hopkins discovers that deception runs deep – and employers need to be wary

Glen Oakley was moving up the corporate ladder, but as he was about to step on the highest rung of his career, the truth came out and his world fell apart.

Sharing similarities with the film Catch Me If You Can (a real-life story in which Frank Abagnale Jnr successfully impersonated an airline pilot, doctor, assistant attorney-general and history professor, while cashing more than US$2.5m in fraudulent cheques in 26 countries), Oakley’s story is almost as compelling: a man with no qualifications who lied his way into any job he wanted. It serves as a stark warning to employers considering waiving pre-employment checks in the rush to fill positions.

Oakley’s deception began in the 1980s. The fake qualifications included a bachelor of science (hons), a graduate diploma in education, a master of business administration and a doctor of philosophy. These got him his first job and led to others – predominantly six-figure executive roles.

The first time he used the qualifications was in 1987, when Oakley jumped from being a mortuary assistant to a regional manager of the Maritime Services Board. An impressive run of job titles continued until 2001, when his lies started to catch up with him. Oakley became the front-runner for an executive position with toll road developer Transurban; all was well until a board member – who happened to be a University of NSW academic during the time that Oakley claimed to have completed his masters – had no recollection of him. The recruitment agency assigned to the Transurban position confronted Oakley with doubts that his photocopied qualifications were genuine. Unable to provide original copies, Oakley responded with the far-fetched story that he had been given an identity, including academic qualifications, by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation while working as an undercover agent in the 1980s. He added it was a military secret that could not be disclosed, before withdrawing his application. Meanwhile, another job application, to NIB Health, was sprung by their recruitment agency Korn/Ferry who – thankfully – carried out their due diligence.

History abounds with potentially devastating hiring errors. Geoff Stockton is a CV fraud detective and director of employment screening company The Personnel Risk Management Group. He says that adding the odd qualification to a CV is more common than one might think. “All it takes is a good imagination and a computer. You can write anything you like in a CV and chances are it won’t be checked, and if nobody does any checking, you can get away with whatever you dare to write,” he says.

As screening becomes more accepted and advanced so does forgery. Internet growth, laser printers and other accessible technology have caused an explosion of fraud. Taking it a step further, ‘Diploma Mills’ are companies set up as fake schools selling Bachelor of Arts, Masters degrees and Doctorates for a relatively small fee. There are an estimated 500 Diploma or Degree Mills operating around the world with an annual turnover of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Richard Bensberg, managing director of Red Flag Screening, says qualifications checks are becoming harder to carry out, but there are three variations commonly seen on suspect qualification

    ‘Original’ forgery
    Real certificate with details changed
    Diploma Mill-provided certificate

“Generally, academic certificates are not difficult to forge, and therefore forgeries are hard to spot – there are some exceptions however, with forgeries containing obvious misspellings, for example.

As such, the most effective method of verifying a qualification is to do it through the institution directly. This is where the issue of Diploma Mills is important to understand. In such cases, the awarding institute will often still exist and even be able to verify the qualification attained. In such cases it’s important to have a clear policy on the educational requirements for the position, and having a screening provider who can alert you to instances where the ‘qualification’ does not meet your company’s standards,” says Bensberg.

As proof that these bogus qualifications are difficult to spot, last year an NBC reporter in the US led an investigation into Diploma Mills and 10 days later, after paying US$180 to a company called, was awarded a PhD with honours, no questions asked, from a ‘Buxton University’ in the UK. The package arrived, stamped from Portugal.

The Buxton degree comes with an accreditation certificate that states in very small print that they are having trouble with their phone lines, making overseas verification difficult. Stockton says little irregularities such as this should ring alarm bells for astute employers. He also cautions that many genuine-looking university diplomas are really from places that sell degrees for ‘life experience’. Reading a book on a relevant subject is often criteria enough.

Greg Newton, managing director of Verify, says that where the qualification appears to be issued by an Australian institution there are some easy steps to take (see box). He adds that working with a pre-employment screening partner that has relationships with hundreds of institutions around the world is more effective than trying to use a supposed qualification broker which may just be ‘warehousing’ information. “While they can be a useful source we’ve always found the issuing institution to be the most reliable and valid,” he says. “The absolute simplest and best way to confirm the qualification is to have an experienced background verification company undertake the process for you. It’s not expensive and in most cases costs less than $50 to give you total peace of mind.”

In addition to Diploma Mills, organisations are urged to be wary of a similar trend in the employment reference market, with companies providing fake payroll info and references.

“It costs about $1,000 to set up a company. We encountered a case where a candidate had his spouse on the other end of the telephone ready to provide a reference for him. It was a legitimate company but it was totally fake,” says Stockton.

The globalisation of the workforce is adding another layer of complexity to an already challenging problem, as greater numbers of students are returning from abroad with a wider range of qualifications from different institutions. “This can prove to be an overwhelming job for HR professionals tasked with verifying such information, experience and qualifications from all around the world,” says Bensberg. “It’s becoming much harder for all employers, from large MNCs to small local businesses, to be sure whether the qualifications and experience a candidate presents in their applications are genuine.”

However, it must be remembered that qualification checks, like most background verification services, can usually be delivered within the same time frame it takes for a potential employer to undertake the full recruitment process. Solid partnerships with third party information providers and high speed online communication technology means that most checks – such as identity, criminal record, credit history, and bankruptcy – can be completed in less than 24 hours.

“We try to get them back as soon as possible but there are always going to be roadblocks – referees who are overseas, schools that are closed over a period during the year – but no one else can get it done any faster,” Stockton says.

In Australia, at least, it appears candidates can also ill afford to dupe employers. Stockton warns that if a worker commits fraud by providing false qualifications in order to be employed, they may be subject to criminal charges. “There is certain to be a flood of lawsuits in the future and insurance companies are not going to pay out for theft or litigation if an employer has not conducted proper pre-employment screening,” he says.

"Identity theft is not a recent phenomenon"

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by Kelvin Glare AO APM, former Chief Commissioner, Victoria Police, Australia, and Fingerprint Expert.

Sir William Herschel was a British government official in Bengal, India, in the 1850s and is given credit for being the first to devise a workable method of fingerprint identification.

Herschel sought to use the thumb prints of illiterate workers as a means of positive identification. In those days people often pretended to be someone else so they could collect wages or pensions that were not theirs.

Identity theft is not a recent phenomenon.

In time, the idea of fingerprinting, more properly called dactylography, developed into a scientific system. Sir Francis Galton founded the present system of fingerprint identification in the early 1900s. His system was later refined and perfected by Sir E.R. Henry, a Police Commissioner of Scotland Yard of London. Modifications the Henry system were most commonly used and the modern advent of computer based fingerprint searching systems has simplified the whole process.

Fingerprint identification is based on the simple truth that no two fingerprints are alike unless they are from the same finger. One ought not to be surprised that each individual fingerprint throughout the world is different. In the Bible the Book of Job, Chapter 37, Verse 7, states, “He sealeth up the hand of every man that all men may know his work.” What else but a reference to the individuality of fingerprints?

Technology has now more than ever assumed an increasingly prominent place in preventing identity theft. Modern technology has the capacity to embed a fingerprint in a wide variety of applications that make it virtually impossible for a miscreant to assume the identity of another without the certainty of detection. One thing a potential fraudster cannot do is present the fingerprint of some other person. Whether related to financial transactions or to access to secure areas, the simple expedient of electronically scanning a person’s fingerprint can ensure that the authorized person alone gains access to whatever is involved. This measure of security cannot be provided by any other simple, failsafe, practical means.

The highly successful PRM Group of Suite 4, first floor, 200 Buckley Street, Essendon, Victoria, 3040, Australia, which offers services worldwide, is a highly recommended leading provider of biometric security systems that are of the highest quality and which can be individually tailored to meet the needs of any client. Embedding a fingerprint in a security system is one facet of biometric identification - but one of the simplest and best.

"Fighting to finger fraudsters"

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by Garry Barker.

A Melbourne company is meeting the global demand for personal checks as the cost of identity fraud surges.

IT MIGHT smack of George Orwell's Big Brother and the spread of bureaucracy's tentacles into private lives, but, increasingly, governments, industries, companies and organisations are using sophisticated technology to check the identities and histories of, seemingly, almost everyone with whom they come into contact.

The Personnel Risk Management Group, set up in 1995 by retired Victoria Police inspector Geoff Stockton, recently completed a technology exchange agreement with Avalon Biometrics, a global German company based in Spain, and is now discussing similar alliances with the Home Ministry in India, the Hong Kong Police and authorities in South Korea.

PRM's 1500 clients can now log into a secure website and submit a request for a police check, as well as a check of credentials such as academic and professional qualifications claimed in a CV, previous employment details and credit rating. Checks that once might have taken days, and even weeks, can now be done in 24 hours, unless something possibly suspicious shows up, Mr Stockton said. Names are checked with the national register maintained by state and federal police forces. If a name is matched on that database a detailed manual check is made.

Demand for such services is rising globally. Australian risk management consulting company, Intellisec, has estimated employee fraud costs companies in Victoria and New South Wales more than $1 billion a year and suggests that, for every case of fraud uncovered, three go undetected.

Individual losses were relatively small - about $1600 - the Intellisec report showed.

Frauds against the Commonwealth, investigated by the Australian Federal Police last year, added up to nearly $2 billion and if lost output and property crime were included, the yearly total exceeded $5.9 billion, the report showed.

Detection systems such as that developed by PRM are constantly improving, but there are still holes in the system, Mr Stockton said. Names are not always reliable indicators.

"Say a married woman has taken her husband's surname, and she doesn't declare her maiden name on an application. If the names are not linked on police records you get a clear check.

"We got a clear check on a woman recently but, by coincidence, our office happened to have her 100 points ID list. One of my employees noticed that she was Mrs and yet on the police check form she had declared only one name.

"So we asked for her maiden name, rechecked her, and found she had spent 14 months in jail for assault. That meant she was barred from working in the aged-care sector," he said.

"People change their names by deed poll - about 20,000 of them every year just in NSW,'' he said. Some do it for social reasons, others ''to disappear from police records".

But checking a name is now only part of establishing the veracity of an identity. PRM is finding there is more demand for biometric identity checks - facial recognition systems clever enough to pick out an individual, even in an MCG-sized crowd and intelligent enough to know if the identified person left the premises before it was closed and locked down.

Eye scans are used to check a person seeking entry to secure parts of buildings and fingerprints taken on an electronic sensor are used for similar purposes.

"We can not only tell whether the person is known but also check on when they went into the secure area and when they came out," Mr Stockton said.

"There's other technology that can note someone getting on to, say, a train carrying a bag and then raising an alarm if they get off without the bag."

Biometric records are not kept by police, although fingerprints in Australia are both widely used and digitally stored for easy retrieval in the National Automated Fingerprint Information System.

"Big Brother has his eyes on students and punters "

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by Henrietta Cook.

STUDENTS would be digitally fingerprinted before sitting exams, and problem gamblers could voluntarily ban themselves from entering casinos with face recognition software if a new alliance between an Australian pre-employment screening group and an international homeland security organisation is successful.

Australia's leading pre-employment screening organisation, PRM Group, has joined forces with the Spanish-based Avalon Biometrics and last week met state and federal government departments and corporate organisations to discuss the potential of biometric technology, which includes digital fingerprinting and face and iris recognition.

Founder and principal of PRM Group Geoff Stockton, who is also a former inspector with Victoria Police criminal investigations branch, said the technology provided endless benefits to the community.

"A practical example where this technology could be used would be at the MCG. If someone gets thrown out for bad behaviour and they go to another gate, it's very hard for the person's photograph to be circulated to all gates, but with face recognition if they came back in they would automatically be recognised."

The technology could also be used to prevent drunk and disorderly patrons from re-entering bars and could prevent people from sitting university exams in someone else's place.

Avalon Biometrics CEO Helmut Sima said the state-of-the-art technology had the ability to stamp out identity fraud, which currently costs the Australian community between $4billion and $5billion every year.

"For Australia it is particularly interesting; you don't have a national identification card, so how do you identify yourself to any other institution that needs to verify your identity?"

Liberty Victoria president Michael Pearce said biometric technology had many benefits but carried the risk of invasion of privacy

"We think it is unrealistic to try and stop these technologies from being used but we think they need to be used within a legal protection framework. The current framework doesn't allow us to sue for an invasion of privacy."

"Legislative pressures, compliance and the whole 9 yards"

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by Don Moore.

The future for Best Practice Retirement Villages.

Retirement Villages are a lifestyle choice. And where there is choice, competition is inevitable; with Critical Success Factors playing a large part in your future business.

Why might a potential resident choose one Village over another?

We know that residents’ expectations include a high quality of buildings, fixtures and furnishings in a physical sense. Then lifestyle demands a secure environment in which they will not be bothered by outside influences unless invited in. A huge part of this security is trust in the Management, and in particular Financial Management, of their affairs, and the provision of services to them.

Does the Manager really have an MBA? If they do they will surely be extremely competent in managing. (Critical Success Factor). But if is not “real” I might be in trouble. (Trust issues).

We are already seeing in various States, laws such as the NSW Retirement Villages Act, requiring owners to disclose to prospective residents the professional history of the operator, the financial management of the village and the security and safety issues surrounding the village. Similarly in Queensland where their Act clearly emphasises the transparency of all management practices and financial management, and full disclosure on all conditions affecting a resident’s finances, amenities and way of life.

Is there a Solution? Forward thinking Owners will see the ever increasing legal/ political pressures on disclosure and compliance, and consider how they might turn these negative expenses into positive promotional products to enhance their Critical Success Factors and build market share.

Independent screening of Staff including and especially Operators (Managers), and verification of their criminal histories, creditworthiness, employment references and so on will provide the basic data to meet any compliance needs and to simultaneously use in marketing your villages.

We should note here that the current views on legislation of Pre Employment Screening are that the Government will not over legislate in this area. Rather, like the Quality Assurance movement of the past 5 – 10 years, they will encourage all companies to include Policies and Procedures relating to screening checks and to perform them at initial hiring of staff and contractors. Progressively the free market forces will ensure all companies have such elements in place or they will simply not obtain the business against a fully competitive, best in class company, just down the road.

So if we list off every screening check available, do we have to do them all on every person who is even remotely connected to our Village?

    Academic Qualifications Check
    Bankruptcy Check
    Personal Credit Check
    Creditworthiness of Companies
    Criminal History Check/Police Check
    Directorships Searches
    Disqualified Directors
    Electoral Roll Check
    Employment History Confirmation
    Future Learning Potential
    Global Media Search
    Professional Memberships Confirmation
    Overseas Criminal History Check
    Land Title Search
    Right to Work in Australia check
    Telephone Listing Check
    Driving License check
    Pre Employment Health Checks
    Drug & Alcohol Screening

Through RVA, you now have an Associate Member, The PRM Group, who will bluntly tell you, no!

You need to consider the risk involved and the impact an incident would have on your image, reputation, and finances (from legal proceedings, insurance claims etc). Then select a set of checks that suit your needs and provide the maximum useful information at the minimum cost.

As an example, a National Police Check which provides information about an individual’s criminal history is a very basic check. It is independent, it is quick, and it is meaningful to almost everyone in government, business or volunteering today. In Aged Care it is mandatory to have 100% coverage of all staff/ contractors.

And one of the cheapest yet most important checks is on a person’s right to work in Australia via DIAC (formally DIMIA). This confirms if an individual is on a Visa rather than being a Resident or Citizen, what type of Visa and what if any work restrictions may apply, and the dates the Visa is valid. The Government recently introduced new legislation to protect Australian Jobs with penalties for employing illegal workers of up to $13,200 and/ or 2 years jail for individuals and $66,000 for companies for each offence. And an offence may be committed by accidentally working too many hours on a restricted Visa. A simple mistake, often of passion, for doing a good job.

Never forget Reference Checks with pre-qualified Line Managers. Statistics show that referees provide the biggest single reduction in risk when employing new staff. We can ask them questions about technical skills, inter-personal skills and work ethics.

For Management you might consider Bankruptcy and Personal Credit Checks which indicate issues with money up to and including legal bankruptcy which would preclude a person from holding an Authorised Officer’s role within a Company.

The PRM Group is an experienced service provider in the area of Pre Employment Screening including Security Checks and Risk Management. In fact, we are the longest established organisation in Australia dedicated to pre employment screening. From this extensive history we can confidently state that most people are honest, hard working and do a pretty good job. The screening checks in these cases provide the initial trust which is necessary to begin building a long term relationship with your residents. They also provide an objective and measurable difference between villages when selections are being made by potential residents

Then there are 2% of Bad Guys! Across more than 20,000 Police Checks we have performed in the Aged Care Sector in the past few months, about this level of genuine problems has arisen and these people have been quickly ejected from the Industry. You only need one bad incident to ruin your good reputation.

There is also approximately a 5% strata where the history shows some kind of criminal history but it is not relevant to the job that individual is doing today. This is a useful discussion to have as it shows an openness between Management and Staff and a recognition of humanity, of capability to learn, and of compassion. All good attributes to have in the village industry.

In conclusion then, adding Pre Employment Screening to RVA’s Capabilities, provides all members with the opportunity to jump ahead in terms of compliance (best practice) and to create even more competitive marketing strategies to attract future residents.

"The End of The Resume Pork Pie"

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Melbourne August 28, 2006. The days of job seekers being creative with their CV’s and, in some cases, being deceptive and fraudulent in order to secure a job, may be numbered. The recent release, by Standards Australia, of AS 4811 -2006 recommending tighter new standards for employment screening, has the potential to change the Australian employment landscape forever.

Despite record employment figures, it can still be tough for job seekers to get short-listed for that dream job and the temptation to embellish or tell outright lies is too tempting for some. Research has shown that a staggering 25 percent of CV’s contain lies including; education qualifications, positions held and other aspects of their past that they would rather not discuss.

For the employer, this area has now become a minefield with serious implications for business if an employee is not properly screened and goes on to cause damage to an organisation. The purpose of the screening process is to stop poor decisions being made by people who are not qualified to do the job. Poor decisions can compromise not only physical safety but also an organisations reputation and asset base.

Most recently, a doctor has been stood down in central Queensland after it was belatedly discovered he had served time in jail for rape in the United States. As a further embarrassment for Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, it was established that the unnamed doctor had trained in New Zealand and had his licence revoked in the United States.

Geoff Stockton of The Personnel Risk Management Group said, “What do you say to your insurance company when you make a $20,000 claim of theft by an employee and they ask you to show them the employment screening check that you had conducted?” Mr Stockton went on to say, “it’s important that job seekers understand that while employers respect their privacy they also have a duty of care to their other employee’s and shareholders and must demonstrate due diligence in the employment process.”

Geoff Stockton advises that the level of checks depends on the responsibilities of the position involved and should include over-sea’s checks where appropriate. The new standard AS 4811 – 2006 also recommends checks on; employment history - five years, verbal employment references - five years, education and professional verification, police criminal history, identity - 100 point system, address history ,right to work in Australia.

As an avid skydiver with over 100 jumps to his name, he said, “would you climb Mt Everest or jump from an aeroplane at 14,000 feet without first assessing the risks? The answer is probably not, so why would you risk damaging your business by employing someone without thoroughly screening them first.”

It should come as no surprise that insurance companies are taking a closer look at client compliance with best practice in the hiring process. A major part of this process includes rigorous pre-employment screening which is widely accepted as providing risk mitigation when hiring personnel. A legal claim of "negligent hiring" can lead to insurance claims being declined and civil litigation.

Police criminal history checks are often used as the main means of checking for a record of criminal behaviour but are by no means perfect. Many employers elect not to prosecute employees because of embarrassment or lack of evidence and simply want to rid themselves of the employee quickly, rather than undergo a protracted legal process. Unfortunately, this practice has resulted in a number of job seekers with an undocumented history of sexual predation and theft going from job to job. Geoff Stockton advises that the only way to lessen your risk is to professionally interview past employers for indications of undesirable behaviour.

"Recruitment Industry Dodges A Bullet"

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Recruitment agency Hamilton James & Bruce and its insurers recently agreed to an out-of-court cash settlement to bring to an end legal proceedings brought by former client ISS Marketing.

ISS Marketing claimed that HJ&B engaged in misleading conduct under the Trade Practices Act by not adequately checking a candidate who then defrauded the company of more than $250,000.

Many companies who trust recruitment agencies to check and promote the best quality staff will be alarmed to know that this particular candidate had already served jail terms for multiple counts of serious fraud.

ISS claimed that the recruitment company had failed to perform the “effective investigations, inquiries, reference and other checks” required to make an informed decision.

Geoff Stockton, director of Australia’s first Pre-employment Screening company, The PRM Group, said ”The recruitment industry dodged a bullet on this one. If this one had gone to court, it could have been disastrous for the reputation of the industry.”

“They’ve avoided setting a legal precedent for breaching their duty of care by ‘clearing’ an unscrupulous candidate with relevant criminal convictions, but it’s only a matter of time before some recruitment agent will be caught out, and will rightly carry all the responsibility,” he said.

ISS was seeking damages of over $1 million, but accepted a settlement under mediation that included all of ISS legal costs without an admission of liability.

Mr Stockton points to a survey completed by The Eureka Project, an independent policy forum representing various business, government and regional interests, which highlights that clients generally assume a higher level of probity checking than is typically carried out by recruitment companies.

“One of the reasons recruitment companies have been able to avoid legal repercussions from allowing shady candidates to slip through is that with the passage of time, it is more difficult for employers to blame recruitment companies for forwarding someone they hadn’t identified as being a concern. Again, it’s largely a matter of time, and timing,” Mr Stockton said.

“It’s unfair to put all the blame on recruitment companies though”, he added. “Recruitment companies and HR departments rarely have the resources to ensure that all the Australian Standard Best Practice conditions for Employment Screening are met.”

The new (draft) Australian Standard for Employment Screening outlines a number of recommended Best Practice procedures including rigorous background, police and referee checks. APRA also recently included the new standard of a “fit and proper person” in assessing appropriate candidates, which requires a range of checks, which would need to include police checks, directorship and bankruptcy checks, credit checks and the sort of extensive background and referee investigations to determine they are “not of bad repute within the business and financial community”.

“Recruitment companies can not necessarily be expected to provide the sort of screening that a specialist pre-employment screening company can,” Mr Stockton said. “Nor can they easily present themselves as objective and impartial in rigorously checking candidates, as the HJ&B case probably demonstrates.”

Executive recruitment companies in the US have over recent years increasingly become targets of compensatory and punitive claims that employment lawyers here in Australia say could just as easily be sought under Australian law.

“We’re probably benefiting from a ‘lag time’ here in Australia. Pre-employment screening has been par for the course over there for over a decade, it’s only just becoming recognised as essential here. They’ve got an extra decade of possible negligence or breaches of duty of care claims. But again, it’s just a matter of time,” Mr Stockton said


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by Grace Templar.

An element of poetic license has often found its way into the resume. Curriculum- vitae are commonly filled with over-inflated work histories and gaps in employment that have been plumped up with fiction but beware the job seeker who takes it one step further and sprinkles a few bogus academic qualifications into the mix. A fraudulent B.A, M.A. or PhD could be arsenic to your career.

Internet growth, laser printers and other accessible technology have caused an explosion of fraud. Diploma Mills are companies set up as fake schools who sell Bachelor of Arts, Master degrees and Doctorates for a relatively small fee. There are an estimated five hundred diploma or degree mills operating around the world with an annual turnover of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The most disturbing revelation is that anyone can purchase a PhD over the internet. It is as easy as being able to punch a few buttons into a keyboard. You might think that $200 or thereabouts is an easy price to pay compared to the many years of toil and study to gain a genuine degree – but be warned – you will pay a much greater price once exposed.

Geoff Stockton, the director of the country’s leading employment screening company, ‘The Personnel Risk Management Group”, has a twenty-two year history in the Victorian police force, many of those spent in the C.I.B. Geoff promotes the idea of having an independent company quickly and effectively validate the qualifications of a potential employee in the first instance, prior to the interviewing process.

“Tendering of a degree by the candidate is not good enough,” says Geoff. “These are easily faked.” He also cautions that many genuine-looking University Diplomas are really from places that sell degrees for “life experience”. Reading a book on a relevant subject is often criteria enough.

“If a worker commits fraud by providing false qualifications in order to be employed, they may be subject to criminal charges. There is certain to be a flood of lawsuits in the future and insurance companies are not going to pay out for theft or litigation if an employer has not conducted proper pre-employment screening.”

George Brown, director of ‘HigherEd Consultancy, Australasia’ recently presented a seminar on credential fraud at the HR Summit in Sydney. George has an international reputation in the area of quality assurance in the higher education sphere.

He is passionate about exposing diploma mills and those who wear fraudulent PhD’s after their name. Being a genuine PhD candidate himself, George finds it “frustrating” that good jobs are going to bad eggs who shirk the work, claiming doctorates that aren’t worth the parchment they’re printed on.

In recent months an NBC reporter in the U.S led an investigation into Diploma Mills and ten days later, after paying $180 US to a company called, was awarded a PhD with honours, no questions asked, from a “BuxtonUniversity, U.K”. The package arrived, stamped from Portugal.

George Brown knows “Buxton University” well. “Just this week I discovered a Chief of Police in the States, with strong links to the military and the F.B.I, who has a B.A, an M.A and a PhD all from Buxton. That scares me!”

Like most diploma mills, this “university” is shrouded in mystery but George Brown’s research has revealed that Buxton has no connection with the United Kingdom at all. It is not an accredited or chartered school of any British county and it is impossible to contact a real person employed by the establishment. The only route to Buxton is via the internet site advertising instant degrees and for a small fee you can choose whether you’d like to be a Doctor of Psychology, Geology or anything in between and the company will even backdate your degree for you. Once you have paid your money and bought your degree of choice, you can spend more at a members-only website offering Buxton University paraphernalia – hats, shirts, cups and tea towels.

Sound too good to be true?

“It is,” states George Brown and he gives a serious caution to anyone contemplating using a Buxton degree or any similar degree from one of hundreds of diploma mills, offering a quote from leading U.S author on the subject, John Bear. “It is like putting a time bomb in your resume. It could go off at any time with dire consequences.”

The Buxton degree comes with an accreditation certificate that states in very small print that they are having trouble with the phone lines, making overseas verification difficult. Little irregularities such as this will ring alarm bells to astute employers. If you do manage to deceive your way into a job it will be a constant distraction to keep looking over your shoulder.

George Brown is a ‘degree vigilante’ who is always scanning the media, uncovering resumes and hunting the internet for bogus professionals.

“People can get complacent after successfully building a career upon deceit”. So a self-glorifying web site or an ego-boosting promotional story in a local paper could be your undoing? “Absolutely!” says George Brown. “One day you will get caught.”

Brown and others like him are working to close legal loopholes and bring greater awareness to the public of the Diploma Mill epidemic.

“I loved the Leonardo di Caprio film, “Catch me if you Can”, about the real-life escapades of Frank Abignale,” says George, but in his everyday experience the villains who claim degrees they have not earned are not nearly as colourful.

“They are cheats.”

So while it seems to be as easy as P.H.D to get a degree, if you didn’t earn the letters and put in the years of study, you don’t deserve one. It’s dangerous to fake one. It’s illegal to fake one. And it’s only a matter of time before you will be exposed – as a fake!