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NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Simple misrepresentation of facts on a CV is passe. Lying convincingly is in.
As companies, via background searches, try to call the bluff of less-than-honest job seekers, candidates are resorting to more complex, sometimes hi-tech means to hoodwink potential employers.
Some applicants are providing employers with phone numbers, which are answered by operators of Web sites that not only offer phoney academic degrees, but also "verify" a job seeker's education.
And, in an effort to put more credibility into embellishing their resume, some candidates are paying hackers to plug their names into a class list database of a university they claim to have attended.
"Candidates are allegedly breaking the law to get a particular job or promotion, and that is pretty much going to the full extent of the limit," said Scott Pustizzi, vice president at The Human Equation, Florida-based human resources consultants.
People could be charged with a felony for hacking into a university's database, according to criminal lawyers. And if a false degree leads to higher pay for a job candidate, he or she could be accused of criminal fraud by the employer.
While the uncertain employment market is pushing job hunters to such convoluted extremes, inadequate security for database systems and a long list of Web sites offering fake degrees only serve to facilitate resume fraud.
The background search firm ADP Screening and Selection Services, in a 2003 study, found that more than 50 percent of the people on whom it conducted employment and education checks had submitted false information, compared with about 40 percent in 2002.
This has prompted an increasing number of companies to do more thorough background checks of candidates.
A 2003 survey of more than 200 companies by Virginia-based Society for Human Resource Management revealed that 80 percent of them made reference and criminal checks on their employees.
Still, some applicants continue to get smarter and slicker at defrauding employers and are crossing legal limits to snatch jobs away from otherwise equally qualified honest candidates.
TRANSCRIPTS -- COMING SOON
Companies seeking to get a clearer picture of a candidate's qualifications via background checks are uncovering other new forms of deception.
"In the past, people just lied," said Charles Wardell, managing director at executive search firm Korn/Ferry International. "Now, what they are doing is they are hacking into a class of a university and putting their name on the class list."
Wardell said he has come across cases where some candidates are paying hackers to break into the databases of universities. If recruiting firms called the university to check the candidate's degree, the school would confirm it because the applicant's name would indeed appear on the list.
Breaking into a database is relatively easy because most database servers are not password protected, said Alfred Huger, director of engineering at anti-virus company Symantec.
So, Korn/Ferry has started requesting degrees and, in some cases, even grades from potential candidates as proof of their academic claims.
But as corporate investigations company Kroll Inc. points out, documents such as scholastic degrees and grades can also be concocted with the help of numerous Web sites that provide such services.
Web sites such as http://www.fakedegrees.com help job hunters cook the facts and even lists out-service enhancements. "Transcripts -- Coming Soon" says one promotion on that site.
Other sites such as http://easydiploma.com go a step further and offer verification service.
"You can select the parchment paper, the insignia and the type of degree," said Bob Schlossnagle, president of Kroll's background screening division. "And one of the things they (Web sites) are now doing to enhance their service is they will give you a 1-800 number to give your potential employer. And when employers call they will actually confirm the degree."
Background search firms admit their job is getting harder with the increasing level of sophistication in resume fraud.
"A good liar understands that you have to have some basis and facts to pull off a scam," said Lester Rosen, president of California-based Employment Screening Resources. "But it's even more dangerous when employers unknowingly hire a fraud, thief or a crook."
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