The statistics about the numbers of candidates found lying on their CV are shocking, with around 56% of CVs thought to contain lies or exaggerations. Employers are well aware of what’s going on, and so many will ask for extra checks on applicants, involving chasing up references or running social media checks. One of the easiest things to lie about is qualifications, as until recently it hasn’t been standard practice for employers to ask candidates to show A-level or degree certificates.

Although many employers like to think they could spot a fake certificate or forged qualification very easily, in reality it’s not always as straightforward. An investigation by the BBC in 2018 exposed the size of the fake qualifications industry, highlighting that the biggest player in the industry, Axact, sold over 215,000 fake qualifications in 2018. The BBC report also exposed the fact that many of these certificates were being sold to healthcare professionals, allowing them to get the right accreditation to work and practice medicine in the UK without any checks into their actual skills and experience.

For degrees awarded in the UK, employers can log into a university system run by Prospects to get confirmation about degrees awarded to students. Employers can register for an account with the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) Service and use this to confirm what an applicant is telling them. There is a charge for each check run through the system, but the costs are far less than hiring an unqualified and potentially dangerous employee.


Key Features of Fake Qualifications

HEDD recognises that not every employer wants to register and pay for formal checking, especially if only recruiting very infrequently. There are some general rules which can be used when checking qualifications though.

  • Does the university exist – a common technique employed by fakers is to issue a certificate from an invented university. Don’t be taken in by slick websites as they can fake those too. Do independent verification. Remember that all UK universities will have at the end of their internet domain name.
  • Design of certificate – universities have moved with the times and use modern fonts and print styles on documents rather than a font designed to look like calligraphy.
  • Latin – not even Oxford and Cambridge issue degree certificates written in Latin. Other flowery language should also ring alarm bells.
  • Security features – Degree certificates should have watermarks, holograms, seals, or other embossed security features. Look online for genuine certificates as comparison.
  • Spelling and grammar – a genuine certificate will never have spelling or grammatical errors on it. Look out also for colloquialisms and slang terms for institutions. Liverpool John Moores might be referred to as LJMU by students, but the institution name will always be written out in full on any official paperwork.

It goes without saying that applicants who present fake certificates should not be considered for employment. If the person is applying for a job in healthcare on the basis of their fake certificates, they are probably committing a crime too. Keep hold of the fake paperwork and report the matter to the police.