Academic Qualification Fraud: How To Spot a Fake CV and What To Do

Why people lie about their qualifications

Unemployment rates in South Africa have dropped slightly, from a record high of 27.7% to 26.7% in the fourth quarter of 2017 according to Statistics South Africa. Nevertheless, this is still a very high rate that has far-reaching consequences for South African employers as academic qualification fraud is on the rise. It was also revealed that even though unemployment decreased across all age groups, youth unemployment is still the highest bracket – approximately 3.1 million (29.7%) of the 10.3 million young persons (15-24 years) were not employed, studying or undergoing training of some sort, StatsSA said. So this means that competition for employment is still intense and cut-throat, especially for young people entering the job market for the first time.

With added pressure to stand out from the plethora of CVs that employers get and to present oneself as the ideal candidate for a position, South African jobseekers have a tendency to lie on their CVs. With a proclivity for misleading, embellishing and overstating, fraudulent CVs have been on the rise since 2011. These lies included overstating responsibilities at previous employment, embellishing job titles and misleading employers about their skills. However, the most common thing potential employees lie about is their qualification and educational background. According to the recent findings of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), at the end of January 2017, a total of 1 276 qualifications (444 national and 832 foreign qualifications) were recorded as misrepresented qualifications.

How qualifications are faked

It is now easier than ever to lie about your academic qualifications – just from a quick Google Search there are various online platforms claiming to create fake certificates and other fraudulent documentation people may require to give them the leg up in the job market. There are also syndicates operating that target potential ‘clients’ through emails that proclaim “Contact us NOW to receive your diploma within days, and start improving your life!” There are also those individuals that will give employers the run around by stating qualifications on their CVs but not actually producing the required certificates because they have been ‘lost’ or ‘misplaced’. When push comes to shove these individuals may attempt to create their own faked certificates on personal computers (these are quite easy to spot, more about this later). This is by no means a new phenomenon in South Africa as demonstrated by the copious amounts of scandals facing our politicians with fake degrees and qualifications. If those that lead and have power are faking qualifications it can only be expected that the average, desperate individual would view this as an example to follow.

It must be noted that it is not only individuals that are in the business of seeking fake qualifications, there are also institutions that have come under fire as of late for the issuing of fraudulent academic qualifications. For example, The University of Zululand, which is a historically disadvantaged university has received criticism after allegations of corruption at the senior level, as well as finding that fake qualifications were being issued directly out of the university. This further compounds the problem as, according to current Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor, this leaves students feeling as though their legitimate degrees are disreputable and undervalued. This sentiment then adds to the ever-present pressure of the jobseekers market and may push some students to lie or “fluff” their academic qualifications or where their degree was awarded in order to separate themselves from the bad reputation of the university.

There are even more unfortunate circumstances of bogus colleges preying on the vulnerability and desperation of poor youth attempting to acquire a better education. These are opportunistic businesses that enrol students under false pretences, take their money (which is more often than not a loan that cannot actually be afforded) and then leave them with invalid qualifications.

Government Actions

Government is attempting to assist in the fight against the increase of fake qualification by the introduction of the National Qualifications Framework Amendment Bill of 2016. This bill “introduces measures to deal with issues of misrepresentation and imposes consequences on persons who misrepresent their qualifications or organisations that issue qualifications that are invalid” Former Communications Minister Mmamaloko Kubayi said. The bill makes an appeal to employers to verify the qualifications of their employees. If any fraudulent qualifications are found this should be reported to SAQA where a record of the holder of the fake qualification will be kept. The bill also suggests a register of fake qualifications be kept. Other efforts are being taken such as Umalusi, The Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training, exposing fake matric certification sites and calling for those seeking clarity to use a certificate verification agencies. The Department of Higher Education has ongoing efforts to close bogus colleges and has also urged young people and their parents to confirm the legitimacy of any private institution via the call centre before enrolling at any private institution of education and training.

How to spot a fake qualification

The degrees of deception can often vary when it comes to academic qualifications and there are a couple quick checks you can do to identify a fake qualification.

  • Check the paper quality. Legitimate certificates often have security features that are present and they use a higher quality of paper.
  • Is there a lack of official stamps/seals?
  • Examine the language used. Is it too informal or incorrect?
  • Look at the font. If a variety of fonts is used then this is a poor sign.

What to do

As an employer when hiring new people you want to make sure you are getting the best person for the job that can perform and create a return on investment. The inclusion of an unqualified person decreases the credibility of your company and also diminishes your work quality. If those quick checks above turn up nothing and you are still unsure there are various strategies available to you. You can perform various official checks such as academic verification reports, certificate verification and criminal background checks – you can even verify qualifications online.  Ultimately, you need a trusted partner to ensure that you are not being taken for a ride!

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