ESR Newsletter and Legal Update

This newsletter is sent to clients of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), as well as employers, Human Resources and Security professionals, and law firms who require information on pre-employment screening, safe hiring, the FCRA and legal compliance. If this was sent in error, you can be removed from this mailing by using the “remove” feature at the end of the newsletter.

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February 2006 Vol. 6, No. 2

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) Newsletter and Legal Update

1. Education Going to the Dogs; Phony Diplomas

2. Study Shows Identity Theft Continues to be Major Issue

3. Cheap Background Checks Can Put Employers and Public at Risk

4. ESR Announcements and Seminars

1. Education Going to the Dogs; Phony Diplomas

Getting a college diploma apparently no longer requires years of hard work, taking tests, paying tuition or even reading a book. Why bother going through the formalities when all a person needs is a credit card and a web browser in order to buy an authentic looking diploma that mimics real colleges, universities and even high schools across the U.S.? Go to any search engine and run keywords such as “Fake Diploma” and anyone can instantly “graduate” from nearly any school in America with a very handsome and authentic looking diploma suitable for hanging.

One such website advertises that it creates, “very realistic diplomas/transcripts. These diplomas/ transcripts are extremely high quality printed on official parchment quality paper. You can show your employer and they will never doubt that you indeed attended college. You will not find better quality anywhere!!!”

Some of these sites “officially” caution that the diplomas and transcripts are intended for “Novelty and Entertainment Use Only.” However, the fake documents you receive do not have a disclaimer written any place on them. Some sites will even provide phone numbers to give employers in order to verify attendance at a fake school.

A case in point is a recent degree ostensibly “granted” by the University of Arizona for a Bachelors of Business Administration. The only problem is that the degree was issued to the dog belonging to an ESR staff member. Not only that, but he dog had passed away ten years ago! However, according to a very genuine looking degree and college transcripts obtained from an internet site, the deceased dog apparently took a number of business classes in recent years. To an employer not familiar with the genuine degrease issue by that school, it could easily appear to be a genuine diploma.

With statistics showing that resume fraud is a significant issue, employers must be very cautious about accepting a physical diploma as proof of a degree. When presented with a physical diploma or transcripts, employers should fax a copy to the school to confirm its authenticity. Most background firms can tell stories of faxing copies of degrees, supplied by the applicant, to high schools and colleges only to be told the degree is a fake. These fakes have not entirely escaped official attention. In Illinois, the legislature passed a law in 2004 aimed at addressing educational fraud. It is now a Class A Misdemeanor to knowingly manufacture or produce for profit or for sale a false academic degree, unless the degree explicitly states “for novelty purposes only.”

For a copy of the college degree and transcripts issued to our dearly departed canine friend, contact Jared Callahan at ESR at or by phone at 415-898-0044.

2. Study Shows Identity Theft Continues to be Major Issue

According to a recent study released by the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft once again topped the list of consumer complaints filed with that federal agency in 2005. The major metropolitan areas with the highest per capita rates of reported identity theft were Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale, AZ; Las Vegas/Paradise, NV; and Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, CA.

Other consumer complaints included:

  • Internet Auctions – 12 percent
  • Foreign Money Offers – 8 percent
  • Shop-at-Home/Catalog Sales – 8 percent
  • Prizes/Sweepstakes and Lotteries – 7 percent
  • Internet Services and Computer Complaints – 5 percent
  • Business Opportunities and Work-at-Home plans – 2 percent
  • Advance-Fee Loans and Credit Protection – 2 percent
  • Telephone Services – 2 percent

The full article is located at

As reviewed in previous ESR Newsletters, one of the main sources of identity theft occurs in a business environment. Employers can conduct an internal audit of their privacy and data handling practices by going to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse web page at:

Background firms also need to pay careful attention to privacy and identity theft in the workplace. A background screening firm should have state of the art security, encryption and strong password protection, in addition to a strong privacy policy. The ESR privacy policy is located at.

One important area of protecting privacy and preventing identity theft–employers should very carefully consider the privacy and data integrity implications of working with a background screening service that utilizes at-home operators to conduct employment verifications. The potential lack of privacy controls can put the employer and applicants at risk. Another area of exposure is when background firms send data offshore to India or other countries for processing where there is little privacy protection. ESR does not engage in either practice.

3. Cheap Background Checks Can Put Employers and Public at Risk

A recurring issue for employers is the proliferation of “cheap” background checks. These are typically multi-state databases containing of millions of public records. Employers need to understand that these databases are NOT the same thing as an FBI “rap sheet” taken from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). Private employers do not have access to the FBI unless there is a specific state or federal statute, such as laws permitting school teachers or bank employees to be fingerprinted.

These private multi-jurisdictional databases can be extremely valuable when used as a secondary or supplemental research tool to perform a broader search of public records to locate courts to check in more detail. Use of these databases have revealed serious issues that employers would have missed because the databases cover a much wider geographical area. However, because of issues concerning completeness, accuracy and timeliness, employers need to realize that these databases are subject to false negatives, which means an offender can be marked as “clear” even though they have criminal records. There can even be false positives-individuals who are incorrectly identified as offenders who are not.

The issue was highlighted by a story in the Dallas Morning News on October 10, 2004 by writers Diane Jennings and Darlean Spangenberger. The story noted that the Texas state criminal convictions database is accessed more than 3 million times each year by residents and state agencies to conduct background checks on individuals who apply for jobs, licenses, and housing, as well as criminal investigations. However, according to the story, police administrators say the database has so many gaps that pubic security is in jeopardy. The state possesses only 69 percent of the overall criminal records for 2002, according to a report by the Texas Department of Public Safety. The District Attorney for Williamson County was quoted as saying that anyone who depends on the state database for a full and accurate check is foolish.

Bottom-line: Any employer who conducts background checks should ask their background firm if the data is coming from a database or from the courthouse. If a database is utilized, has the background firm specifically advised the employer as to the advantages and limitations of criminal databases and the legal requirements for proper use of database information under federal and state laws?

4. ESR Announcements and Seminars

  • ESR announces the Safe Hiring Certification Training, an intensive 30 Hour online educational and professional development course designed for employers, human resource and security professionals, and anyone responsible for Risk Management and Due Diligence in hiring.

The Safe Hiring Certification Training is a self-paced, on-line course that can be accessed at any time from anywhere, including at work. Features of this course include:

    • Convenient 24/7/365 availability through any online connection
    • 21 self-paced lessons on Safe Hiring practices
    • A printable, 190-page workbook to facilitate note-taking and preparation for review quizzes
    • Review quizzes after each lesson featuring more than 300 questions about Safe Hiring
    • Easy access to useful Safe Hiring web-links
    • Sample Safe Hiring forms to help guide your own form development
    • Industry certification in Safe Hiring
    • Additional audio pointers by author Les Rosen (requires speakers but not a requirement for course completion)

Through this course, participants will obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to implement and manage a legal and effective Safe Hiring program including employment screening background checks. Upon successful completion, participants will receive a Certificate of Completion, marking a significant professional accomplishment. The course is offered at no charge to ESR clients.

The course is available at

More information is available at:

  • ESR wrote the book on background checks! – The Safe Hiring Manual, now in its third printing, is available from BRB Publications. Click here to read more. The definitive book on pre-employment screening, “The Safe Hiring Manual-The Complete Guide to Keeping Criminals, Terrorists and Imposters out of Your Workplace,” has undergone its third printing since its introduction a year ago. The new printing also contains updates and new material.

ESR is pleased to participate in the following seminars across the United States, including three nationwide SHRM Conference: the SHRM National Conference, the SHRM EMA Conference and the Global Screening Conference.

Current 2006 Spring/Summer Schedule

March 17, 2006 Oakland, CA “Extreme Caution Advised: Dealing With Federal And State Laws Regulating Pre-Employment Screening And Safe Hiring,” Lorman Seminars

March 21, 2006 Las Vegas, NV “International Pre-employment Background Screening – Dealing with the Practical and Legal Challenges.” 29th Annual SHRM Global Forum

March 30, 2006 San Diego, CA “Pre-employment Background Screening for HR and Staffing Professionals.” SHRM 37th Annual Employment Management Association Conference and Exposition (EMA)

June 27/28, 2006 Washington, D.C. “Avoid Negligent Hiring-Best Practices and Legal Compliance,” SHRM 58th Annual Conference & Exposition

July 27, 2006–Kennedy Information National Audio Conference on, “Background Checks and Recruiting — Avoiding Negligent Hiring.” (Details to be posted)

Contact ESR for further details.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR)

1620 Grant Avenue, Suite 7

Novato, CA 94945


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