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6 Top Tips to Avoid Fraudulent References

April 13, 2016

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) together with the BBC’s Fake Britain TV show recently surveyed over 1800 firms and found that 17% had appointed candidates who they had later found to have used fraudulent employment references. To help our fellow FSB members and all other businesses avoid this fraud, Know Your Candidate provides its 6 Top Tips to Avoid Fraudulent References:

Make it clear to the candidate that you will check references
Many candidates using fraudulent references do so in the knowledge that employers will not follow them up or if they do they will be taken at face value. Letting candidates’ know that all references will be followed up and checked for authenticity, either internally or via an employment screening firm, will deter the vast majority.

Verify the organisation exists
To avoid references from a completely fictitious company your candidate has invented or obtained from a fake reference website (search ‘fake references’) the first step is to verify the organisation your candidate claims to have worked for actually exists. Although fake reference services can engineer certain aspects to look genuine such as providing local phone numbers, addresses and even a website they cannot totally re-create the footprint a legitimate company would generate over time. Just a few simple checks can help you spot fakes quickly:

For any type of limited company (Ltd, PLC, LLP) use the WebCheck feature on Companies House website.

Check the VAT number – all businesses with a turnover greater than £83,000 must be registered. You can check via the European Union website, search ‘verify VAT number UK’.

View the organisations website – does it have the look and feel you’d expect from a company of its size/industry? Does it have a news section – how far back in time do the articles go?

Is the address of the office/site your candidate claims to have worked from listed on the ‘contact us’ page?

Search LinkedIn – does the organisation have a profile? Can you find profiles of current and previous employees?

Verify the company address – use the Royal Mail address checker to make sure the address exists.

Do not call the referee directly – go via the main switchboard
While it’s quick and convenient to call the referee directly on the mobile number provided by the candidate it may mean that you end up with a reference from the candidate’s friend, relative or colleague posing as the candidate’s manager primed with information that the candidate has told them. To avoid this scenario call the main switchboard and ask for the HR Department. The HR Department will confirm who should be providing the reference for your candidate and should be able to confirm who the candidate’s line manager is/was.

Use a time-based approach to referencing
Obtaining references which cover a set time period e.g. 3-years or 5 years has several key advantages over the traditional approach of just requesting 2 references. The corroboration of employment dates becomes much easier and any gaps in the candidate’s work history become simpler to spot. In addition, a time based approach makes it much more difficult for the candidate to omit employers which may produce a negative reference and makes it easier to spot trends in areas such as absence and reason for leaving for example.

Ask for the reference in writing
Written references are more robust and provide a much better audit trail than verbal references obtained over the telephone. Granted, many organisations will only confirm factual details such as employment dates and job titles in writing but once you have the basic details in writing there’s nothing to stop you then calling the referee and requesting a more subjective view about the candidate’s work performance.

Be suspicious of referees using web based email
Even the smallest organisations are likely to have a website these days and use an email address that matches their web domain. So if a referee is using a web based email such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo then you need to question why this is.

 


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