With a recent report revealing an astounding 48 percent increase worldwide in the number of known fake diploma mills in the past year, and a 20 percent increase in the United States alone, education verifications where employers verify the academic achievements and certifications claimed by job applicants have taken on an important role in employment screening background checks. Continue reading
Background check expert Lester Rosen, an Attorney at Law and President of nationwide background screening provider Employment Screening Resources (ESR), will present an educational session at the 2011 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference and Exposition titled ‘Legal and Effective Reference Checking and Education Verification.’ The session will take place on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. For more information, follow this link. Continue reading
Attorney and safe hiring expert Lester Rosen, President of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a nationwide background screening provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), will present a session, ‘Legal and Effective Reference Checking and Education Verification,’ at the 2011 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Annual Conference and Exposition on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. For more information about the session presented by ESR President Lester Rosen, please visit:
http://www.esrcheck.com/Newsletter/ESR-Speaks/Legal-and-Effective-Reference-Checking-and-Education-Verification-72/. Continue reading
With a new report from Europe’s leading background screening company revealing a 48 percent increase worldwide in the number of known diploma mills in the past year, some U.S. states have stepped up the fight against diploma mills defined in the report as “largely online entities whose degrees are worthless due to the lack of valid accreditation and recognition.”
According to the second annual Accredibase™ Report for 2011 from Verifile Limited, the United States was the world’s fake college capital and saw a 20 percent increase in known diploma mills, with the number rising from 810 to 1,008. More than 40 percent of U.S. diploma mills operated in four states: California, Hawaii, Washington, and Florida. Continue reading
A new report from Verifile Limited, Europe’s leading background screening company, has revealed an astounding 48 percent increase worldwide in the number of known fake diploma mills – which the report described as “largely online entities whose degrees are worthless due to the lack of valid accreditation and recognition” – in the past year.
According to the second annual Accredibase™ Report for 2011, the United States was the world’s fake college capital and saw a 20 percent increase in known diploma mills with the number rising from 810 to 1,008. The report also found more than 40 percent of U.S. diploma mills operate in four states: California, Hawaii, Washington, and Florida. Continue reading
According to a story that reflects a parent’s nightmare – ‘Mom says background checks are needed for college RAs’ – a mother in Tennessee wants a law that would require background checks on college resident assistants (RAs) after a University of Tennessee at (UT) Chattanooga student and former RA at the university was accused of placing surveillance cameras hidden in alarm clocks in the dorm rooms of her daughter and several other students. Police arrested the student – who was previously convicted on charges that included burglary, arson, harassment, and stalking – on more than a dozen charges. Continue reading
A six-month joint investigation by Sports Illustrated (SI) and CBS News that ran criminal background checks on nearly 3,000 players from the Top 25 ranked college football teams revealed that 7 percent of the players checked had criminal records, that only two of the schools performed background checks of their own, and that none of the schools checked juvenile records. Continue reading
The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report to the Chairman, Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives that revealed high rates of employees in all sorts of positions at both public and private schools – including teachers, volunteers, aides, support staff, and contractors – who had records of inappropriate sexual conduct and convictions for sex-related crimes.
The GAO report dated December 2010 – ‘K-12 EDUCATION – Selected Cases of Public and Private Schools That Hired or Retained Individuals with Histories of Sexual Misconduct’ – examined 15 cases that showed that individuals with histories of sexual misconduct were hired or retained by public and private schools as teachers, support staff, volunteers, and contractors. At least 11 of these 15 cases involved sex offenders who previously targeted children, and at least 6 cases involved offenders who used their new positions as school employees or volunteers to abuse more children.
The GAO report revealed that the following factors contributed to hiring or retention of sex offenders:
- School officials allowed teachers who had engaged in sexual misconduct toward students to resign rather than face disciplinary action, often providing subsequent employers with positive references;
- Schools did not perform pre-employment criminal history checks;
- Even if schools did perform pre-employment criminal history checks, they may have been inadequate in that they were not national, fingerprint-based, or recurring; and
- Schools failed to inquire into troubling information regarding criminal histories on employment applications.
Some examples of cases from around the United States that the GAO examined for the report include:
- Ohio: A teacher forced to resign because of inappropriate conduct with female students received a letter of recommendation from the school superintendent calling him an “outstanding teacher.” After being subsequently hired at a neighboring district, he was convicted for sexual battery against a sixth grade girl.
- Louisiana: A teacher and registered sex offender whose Texas teaching certificate had been revoked was hired by several Louisiana schools without receiving a criminal history check. A warrant is currently out for his arrest on charges of engaging in sexual conversations with a student at one of these schools.
- Arizona: A school rushing to fill a position did not conduct a criminal history check before hiring a teacher who had been convicted for sexually abusing a minor, even though he disclosed on his application that he had committed a dangerous crime against a child. He was later convicted for having sexual contact with a young female student.
- California: A sex offender was convicted for molesting a minor in 2000 and the school where he worked was aware of his conviction but did not fire him. After the GAO referred the case to the California Attorney General, officials placed the sex offender, who has since resigned, on administrative leave.
The GAO report also found no federal laws regulating the employment of sex offenders in public or private schools and varying laws at the state level. While some states required a national, fingerprint-based criminal history checks for school employment, others states did not. State laws also varied as to whether past convictions would result in termination from school employment, revocation of a teaching license, or refusal to hire.
GAO performed the study after a 2004 Department of Education report estimated that millions of students are subjected to sexual misconduct by a school employee at some time between kindergarten and the twelfth grade (K-12). GAO was asked to:
- Examine the circumstances surrounding cases where K-12 schools hired or retained individuals with histories of sexual misconduct and determine the factors contributing to such employment actions and
- Provide an overview of selected federal and state laws related to the employment of convicted sex offenders in K-12 schools.
To identify case studies, the GAO compared recent data in employment databases from 19 states and the District of Columbia to the National Sex Offender Registry and also searched public records to identify cases where sexual misconduct by school employees resulted in a criminal conviction. GAO ultimately selected 15 cases from 11 states for further investigation.
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading background check provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) performs sexual offender searches as well as criminal record searches around the United States supplemented by a national multi-jurisdictional search. Although no one search is perfect, ESR recommends a series of overlapping tools that must also include checking professional licenses and verifying past employment, especially looking for unexplained gaps in employment where an offender may try to hide past negative information.
For more information on background checks, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.
By Lester Rosen, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) President
Institutions of higher education such as colleges and universities bear the same risk as other employers when it comes to hiring employees. Due diligence in hiring, including employment screening background checks, is critical for any organization seeking to avoid workplace violence, negligent hiring lawsuits, or any repercussions from hiring employees with unsuitable criminal records or false academic credentials.
Since colleges and universities have a higher duty of care when it comes to hiring given their special role in society to provide a safe place of learning for young people, these institutes should avoid the ten biggest mistakes that higher education Human Resources (HR) professionals make in the area of background screening of staff members:
- No. 1 – Assuming all screening firms are the same
The mistake of assuming all background screening firms are the same is like saying that all schools are the same and a fake degree from a “diploma mill’ is as good as a degree from a school with a legitimate accreditation. In selecting a background screening firm, higher education HR professionals need to make sure the firm belongs to the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) and if it is accredited by the NAPBS Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) for compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). Higher education HR professionals may also want to see if a background screening firm – also referred to as a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) – is a member of ConcernedCRAs and demonstrates a commitment not to “offshore” job applicant personal data overseas beyond U.S. laws.
- No. 2 – Assuming database searches for criminal records are adequate protection
One of the biggest fallacies is the untrue premise that database searches are real criminal background checks. Even Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) database searches using fingerprints of job applicants can result in missed records since it relies in great part upon the accuracy and timeliness of reports made by state and local jurisdictions. Commercial privately assembled multi-jurisdictional commercial databases used by higher education HR departments can be full of holes since they are a crazy quilt of information complied from a variety of sources with no guarantee that the data is complete, updated, timely, or accurate. Large swaths of the country are not included in these databases and they are subject to both “false positives” and “false negatives,” meaning that criminals can come back as “cleared” and innocent job applicants can be falsely labeled as criminals.
- No. 3 – Assuming a job applicant’s privacy is protected and personal information is kept within United States borders
Many background firms ship personal data of job applicants such as names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers (SSNs) outside of the U.S. for processing in order to save money. In recent years, there has been a substantial effort in the U.S. to protect what has come to be known as “Personally Identifiable Information” or PII. Unfortunately, these protections cease to exist as a practical matter once PII leaves the U.S. The lack of any meaningful protection once data is “offshored” is a major gap in the effort to combat identity theft. When identity theft occurs in the U.S., legal protections, resources, laws, and mechanisms help victims. Once data goes offshore, that protection dissipates rapidly. A reputable background screening firm should believe that risking PII to make more money is not justified by the potential damage to the consumer and the potential liability to the educational institution.
- No. 4 – Assuming you need to have applicants sign a physical piece of paper
There is a “green” solution to the significant logistical challenges faced by institutions of higher learning that are hiring across numerous departments of large campuses, or even across multiple campuses. With the new technology available right now, background screening can be performed by a completely paperless system. For example, if a school uses an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), a button can be added that says “Perform Background Check.” Releases can be handled online as well with a legally valid E-Sign electronic signature, so that no paperwork is involved whatsoever.
- No. 5 – Assuming temporary employees have already been screened by staffing firms
When a staffing firm uses the term “screening,” it may simply mean they are trying to match up applicants with your list of needs – not that they are performing due diligence background checks. It is crucial for higher education HR professionals to have staffing firms clearly specify what types of background checks they are doing, if any, including: who is ordering them, what searches are being conducted, who is reviewing reports, and what criteria is being used to decide who is eligible to work. Another best practice is to ask the staffing firm to include the school, college, or university in the language of the background release so that the HR professional can review the completed reports as well. Even though the worker is on the staffing firm payroll, a college or university can still be considered a “co-employer” and be on the hook for any crimes or misconduct.
- No. 6 – Assuming that contacting past employers is not beneficial
Not checking those businesses or institutions where the applicant has worked for the past seven-to-ten years can be a big mistake for higher education HR professionals. Some HR professionals assume that since past employers are reluctant to give reference information that such calls provide little value. But there are many instances where past employment verifications can be just as valuable as a criminal records search. These include verifying dates of employment and job titles, confirming a job applicant’s whereabouts for the past seven to ten years, making certain there are no “unexplained gaps” in employment, and determining which jurisdictions to search for criminal records.
- No. 7 – Assuming international background checks are too difficult
With the increased mobility of workers across international borders it is no longer adequate to conduct due diligence checks just in the United States. Based on the ‘Place of Birth of the Foreign-Born Population: 2009’ report issued in October 2010 by the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 38.5 million foreign-born U.S. residents, representing 12.5 percent of the population. In addition, an increasing number of workers have spent a significant part of their professional career abroad. Because of the perceived difficulty in performing international employment screening, some employers have not attempted to verify international credentials or to perform foreign criminal checks. However, the mere fact that information may be more difficult and expensive to obtain from outside the U.S. does not relieve employers such as colleges and universities of due diligence obligations.
- No 8 – Assuming “one size fits all” for background checks
While HR processionals live by the rule that similarly situated people must be treated in a similar fashion, that does not mean all employees must undergo the same background check. It is perfectly acceptable to screen CEOs more intensely than janitors, as long as all CEOs are screened the same and all janitors are screened the same. The typical rule is that a higher degree of risk justifies, and may require, a higher level of background check. In considering the level of background screening, higher education HR professionals need to weigh the potential risks of the position. Examples of positions with of greater risk include workers with access to: student dorm rooms; personal or financial data; vulnerable groups such as the aged, young, or infirmed; and uniforms that may allow them to act under color of official authority.
- No. 9 – Assuming the Internet and social networking sites can be used without limitations
Many employers have discovered that the internet can provide what appears to be a treasure trove of information when it comes to recruiting and hiring. By using search engines and social networking sites, recruiters are often able to source candidates for positions and use the Internet to pre-screen job applicants. However, in using the Internet for background screening, employers can uncover “TMI” or “Too Much Information” that reveals prohibited information such as ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, religious preference, or other factors that cannot be considered for employment. Social network sites such as Facebook may contain a photo that reveals personal characteristics or physical problems and raise questions of discrimination as well. Other concerns with using the internet for background screening include issues of privacy, off-duty conduct, and “cyperslamming” where defamatory material is placed anonymously online. Some schools now have a policy of requiring employers to reveal whether they do such online searches as a condition for recruiting at the school. One alternative is to get specific consent from applicants for an online search, and only after a conditional job offer.
- No. 10 – Assuming it costs too much to do real due diligence
Although cost is an important factor in business, it is usually not advisable to choose the cheapest provider for any professional service since, as the old saying goes: “You get what you pay for.” It is especially true for an information-based and heavily regulated industry like background screening. Key criteria for selecting a background screening firm should be knowledge, training, experience, and privacy policies – not cost-cutting.
For more information on background checks in general, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.
Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen and is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) . To learn more about Employment Screening Resources, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations, at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.
An article titled ‘Fake Michigan doctor had hospitals fooled’ by the Detroit Free Press shows why employers should run background checks that include education and credential verifications on medical professionals to ensure they are licensed after a 15-year charade in which a man passed himself off as a doctor ended with a routine background check.
A 58-year-old “doctor and PhD researcher” in Michigan who lined up millions of dollars in research grants and consulting fees directing simulated medical exercises to train hospital staffers resigned after being uncovered as a fraud when calls to the University of Wisconsin confirmed the man had simulated a few facts about himself, the Free Press reports.
The ruse had hospital administrators wondering how a person with no medical or doctoral degree could have fooled some of the best in medicine for so long. After billing himself as a doctor, researcher, and certified pilot – with only the latter being true – the falsifications were revealed during a routine background check on a federal grant application.
The Free Press reports that for some reason the phony doctor’s résumé with false references was not vetted by either medical administration or human resources departments at the hospital, and the embarrassing episode has prompted tighter scrutiny of applications. Fortunately, the fake doctor never treated patients and did not apply for physician admitting privileges.
A medical ethicist at Michigan State University quoted in the article said the case shows that medical and academic institutions should follow the rules that should in place to catch possible falsifications. “Always check credentials. There’s just no excuse for not checking credentials. It’s kind of a no-brainer.”
This story – and other such stories about phony professionals falsifying employment histories or education credentials – shows the need for employers to run background checks on all professionals since they cannot simply assume they are licensed.
As reported earlier on ESR News, education and credential falsification is a surprisingly common occurrence, and a rapidly growing problem, as evidenced by the following stories:
- Background Checks Help Avoid Fraudulent Academic Claims
- Former Texas A & M Administrator Charged with Fraudulent or Fictitious Degree for Allegedly Lying on Resume and Job Application
- Unrecognized, Fake and Dubious Online College Accrediting Agencies
- What Does an Employer Do if Applicants Lie About or Fake Their Education
Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading provider of background checks accredited by the National Association of Background Screeners (NAPBS) – offers background screening that include verifications of credentials and education. ESR has extensive procedures to ensure that any school is legitimate and not a so-called “diploma mill” (also known as a “degree mill”), an organization that awards academic degrees and diplomas with substandard or no academic study and without recognition by official educational accrediting bodies. The terms “diploma mill” and “degree mill” may apply to:
- A “real” degree from a fake college.
- A fake degree from a real college.
ESR also has a wealth of material on the subject of academic fraud including an article by ESR’s founder and President Lester Rosen, “The Basics of Educational Verifications” at http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/1090/the-basics-of-education-verifications. In addition, the Additional Links page in the ESR Resource Center contains information on states with lists of fraudulent schools as well as how to find real accredited schools at: http://www.esrcheck.com/services/resources.php.
Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco Bay area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the company that wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. Employment Screening Resources is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). ESR was the third U.S. background check firm to be ‘Safe Harbor’ Certified for data privacy protection. To learn more about ESR’s Leadership, Resources, and Solutions, visit http://www.ESRcheck.com or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations, at 415.898.0044 or jcallahan@ESRcheck.com.