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Fake Job References and Employment Histories

December 10, 2009
Over the last 23 years of performing employment verifications we have documented many cases of applicants providing phony references and employment histories. We’ve become rather adept at sniffing out these situations. 
The frequency of fabrications continues to rise. It’s almost an epidemic as applicants become increasingly desperate to find jobs.
In the past, most people who wanted to cover up bad work experiences or gaps in their employment used rather simplistic techniques.  They would have a friend or family member posing as a past employer answer the phone when a prospective employer called for verification.  An experienced company like ESS finds it fairly easy to catch these.  We notice inconsistencies in the information they provide or we cross-reference the phone number and discover it is a private line.  It’s not too tough to ferret out the truth if you know what you’re looking for.   
But the rules of the game have changed.  Now we are up against more sophisticated opponents who have created a cottage industry for falsifying employment histories. 
Check out this site:  It is just one of many websites offering “professional job references” and other services to people who need to lie on their application to secure a job. The site appears very professional and legitimate. But it’s really a con game. Start reading the content and you find brazen statements such as: 

“Bad References Are Costly – Ask yourself this question…Can your present job references provide you with the positive response needed to compete against the hundreds of other applicants who are applying for that same job?  If you have any doubt – WE CAN HELP YOU.”
“Create Your Career History – Have a 3 year gap on your resume you need to get rid of? Simply provide us with your desired career field and we will act as your past employer with a real branch address, 800 number, website, plus email address, along with operators standing by to answer any inquiries with a positive reference.”
For as little as $64 this company will shamelessly lie for you and provide a “professional reference” with all the trimmings.  An unsuspecting prospective employer will likely be completely duped.
Think you’re safe looking on social networking sites to find information on your applicant?  They have that covered too. “Building a profile on LinkedIn and other social networks takes a huge investment in time and resources. The good news is that we at Career Excuse think this is time well spent.”  (By the way, this is just one more reason you should never rely on social networking sites for employment screening.  See our previous e-Update for a discussion of the subject.)
Further evidence of Career Excuse’s audacious behavior is their response to one inquiry “What if I get caught?” “Lying on a resume is not a crime.  A resume is not a legal document.  As you can see, using our company as your reference is foolproof. The greatest risk is when you use a former employer as a reference and then cross your fingers they won’t call.”
And don’t think falsification of employment is limited to certain types of individuals.  Applicants at any level can succumb to the temptation of misrepresenting their past.  A case in point — Chef Robert Irvine from the Food Network got caught lying on his resume and lost his job for a season. Click Here for the article.
The bottom line is you must be very diligent in making sure you obtain the most accurate and most complete information possible from your applicants. If we are doing the employment verification for you, this helps us to be more effective.  If you are doing your own verifications here are a few things to keep in mind.
  • Don’t automatically trust documents (letters of recommendation, employment and degree documents, self-employment information) provided by an applicant without independent verification.
  • Require at least three work-related references.  It is probably unlikely someone will pay a flimflam company for three distinct false reference providers.
  • Although phony references may be well-prepared, ask specific questions regarding: position(s) held and work relationship, description of the position including work environment, address of the company’s headquarters.
  • If suspicious, verify the reference giver’s position with his/her company’s HR Department … which should be at a different number or extension from the reference.
  • Cross reference phone number and addresses. If you can, track down the business next door and call to see if the company is/was actually there.
  • Confirm “closed” companies or ownership through government agencies or use IRS source (4506T) for verification.
There are no guarantees you will catch a skilled scam artist.  But the higher the position’s risk of doing harm to people and property the wider the employment screening net should be cast.  If the applicant is held accountable for providing complete and clear information on the employment application and if a thorough and comprehensive screening is performed (including an integrity interview) the chances are good a scam artist will be discovered. 


If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at


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