By Lester Rosen, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) President & Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Editor

An interesting story about an alleged fraudulent academic claim serves to remind all employers, including academic institutions, how a simple background check can help uncover education fraud.

According to a news release from the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), after discovering that an instructor who taught workshops on human trafficking and counterterrorism misrepresented his academic credentials to the Institute, the MIIS is taking steps to ensure a similar case does not occur again by requiring that anyone teaching a course for credit to undergo a background check, effective immediately.

The instructor – who has not responded to requests from MIIS to provide supporting documentation – claimed in a resume and biography submitted to the Institute to be “a retired colonel of the U.S. Army Special Forces” who earned a Ph.D. at the University of Oregon. However, the Institute’s review found the instructor had not earned a Ph.D. at the University of Oregon, and was unable to obtain military records that substantiated the military service claims, MIIS officials stated in the news release.

Because the instructor served only as an independent contractor and never applied for a position as a faculty member at the Institute, he was not subjected to the pre-employment background checks MIIS requires of all employees, including faculty and adjunct faculty. As a result of this incident, effective immediately, MISS has changed its policy and extended the requirement for a full “pre-engagement” background check to any person who provides classroom instruction for academic credit, regardless of employment status.

Located in Monterey, California, the Monterey Institute of International Studies, a graduate school of Middlebury College, has prepared graduate professionals for global careers in the private, public, nonprofit, and educational sectors since 1955. For more information about the Monterey Institute, visit

Background checks that include verifications of education can help employers avoid hiring job applicants that make fraudulent academic claims. This case demonstrates how a failure to run an academic verification during a background check can allow a fraudulent claim of education to fall through the cracks. A simple phone call would have prevented this. 

Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a nationwide provider of background checks that include education verifications, 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 In addition, the ESR Resource Center contains information on states with lists of fraudulent schools as well as how to find real accredited schools at:

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). For more information about Employment Screening Resources, visit or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations and Business Development, at 415.898.0044 or [email protected].