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Do You Know Who You Are Hiring? Diploma Mills and Why You Need to Verify, Verify, Verify

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Diplomas and Education Verifications for HiringThe hiring game is not for the faint of heart! Especially now that the number of job openings is higher than the number of people out there looking for work. “Full Employment,” which once seemed as unattainable as a unicorn, is now close to reality in many parts of the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, not only do those who want a job now have a job, but the rate of wage growth has also doubled. It’s an applicant’s market out there.

Not too long ago, hiring managers could be picky. Sure, there were jobs to fill, but there were plenty of applicants lining up for them. Now, some employers say, not only can they not find the best candidates, they sometimes can’t find any. This could lead to acts of desperation – get warm bodies through the door any way you can. Maybe you relax your standards or rush your due diligence because you need these positions filled ASAP.

Employers might be tempted to cut corners on background checks in an effort to speed things up. Unfortunately, skimping on your screening won’t save much time and it’s a terribly imprudent move.

Why You Can’t Skimp on Checks

Background checks tell you a lot about who you are hiring. Aside from the obvious criminal history issues, a complete screen could let you know if you are dealing with an honest applicant or a con.

Criminal checks are pretty straight forward and quick. The majority of EBI’s checks take barely a day to complete. Education verifications, on the other hand, can take several days because a researcher often has to contact schools by phone. While a couple of extra days might not seem like a lot, it can be a lifetime to a manager that needs a worker now.

But skimping on education verifications not only puts you at risk for hiring someone who can’t handle the job; you could be hiring someone who is willing to look you straight in the eye and lie.

It is impossible to say just how many fake diplomas are sold every year, but a quick internet search turns up page after page of places that will sell you one.

Diploma Mill Crackdown

Diploma mills have been in the news quite a bit over the last few years. Several have been shut down, but others continue to churn out worthless degrees. In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission filed charges against two operators of online “high schools” that charge would-be “students” up to $349 for a worthless piece of paper.

The mills used several names– Stratford Career Institute, Columbia Northern High school, West Madison Falls High School– but they had one thing in common… they were a scam. Documents filed by the FTC show the operators bought several different websites. When we looked them up, some actually looked like real high school webpages, but others looked more like hard-sell come-ons with the price tag front and center.

While the sites claimed the diplomas were equivalent to a GED or an actual diploma, it turned out the “courses” didn’t include a single class and offered nothing more than four untimed, unmonitored multiple-choice tests. If the “student” got 70% correct on each test, they earned their diploma. If not, some of the sites had them take the test again, but this time the correct answers were highlighted! No chance of failing a second time!

After finishing the testing section, some of the sites gave students course credit for “life experiences.” For example, those who said they could balance their checkbook got credit for taking an accounting class. If you “Listen to Music Occasionally” you could get credit for a music appreciation course. On top of it all, some of the operators claimed their programs were certified by, or compliant with, the Department of Defense’s standardization programs for online education.

The people who bought these diplomas were either scammed or were trying to cheat the system when they used the fakes to apply for college, join the military and apply for jobs. In February of 2017, the Stratford Career Institute agreed to stop making deceptive claims and to pay back those who bought their fake diplomas. The FTC mailed 8,043 checks to those who said they were misled. They paid a total of $216,000, but each student only got about $27.00.

While this one mill got a slap on the wrist, there is no guarantee they are not already back up and running under another name. There are also plenty of others pushing the same scam.

So, what does this mean for employers?

It means education verifications are more important than ever when it comes to your background screening process. While it might not matter in the long run if your new hire didn’t really have their GED or diploma, the truth does give you a little insight into the applicant. If they are willing to pay for that piece of paper and boldly lie on the job application, what else might they be willing to do once they have access to the internal workings of your company?

Having your background screening partner verify all education claims may add a day or two to your process, but it will also make sure your new hire is honest.  Do you really want to hire someone who is willing to lie just to get in the door?

EBI partners with Jobvite to make sure this part of the process is as quick and painless as possible. Our education verifications allow you to see as little or as much as you want when it comes to your applicants’ education. Everything from dates of attendance, their major, if the degree was conferred, their GPA and much more — all without any additional work on your part.

Be sure to drop by to see the EBI team at Recruiter Nation Live 2018 this October 1-3.


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