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Protect yourself against Fraudulent Background Checks

Organisations are prioritising background screening and talent management solutions in their efforts to identify top talent and manage the risks associated with hiring new people.

South Africa’s worryingly high unemployment rate and a fiercely competitive job market, characterised by limited vacancies and heightened scrutiny, have seen some job seekers being issued fake background screening reports on their criminal or credit status checks. Most often, these fake reports are issued by fraudsters posing as legitimate recruitment agents.


Concerningly, candidates paying for such reports are unwittingly taking part in fraudulent activity, which may pose significant reputational damage, or worse, criminal charges.


According to Jennifer Barkhuizen, Head of Marketing at Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE), despite a candidate’s motives for morally sound verification, it is important to exercise caution when asked to pay for a background screening check.


“This is increasingly critical, given the rise of scammers in the job market and the influx of some suppliers looking to defraud candidates with falsified qualification, credit and criminal verification certificates.”


In one instance, Barkhuizen explains that an unsuspecting candidate was required to pay a fee to a company acting as a recruitment agent, only to be provided with falsified feedback and a fake MIE report.


While everything appeared legitimate at first glance, the candidate’s suspicions arose when she was required to pay again for several other background screening checks. After reporting this to MIE, she discovered that MIE did not issue the report, and that it was, in fact, fraudulent.


“Alarmingly, this same victim noted that when she visited the fraudulent recruitment agency, over 40 other job seekers were present. This begs the question: were they aware of the supplier's fraudulent dealings, or were they unsuspectingly being deceived?” adds Barkhuizen.


As a result, background checks have become essential for companies when employing a potential candidate as they verify information accuracy, uncover red flags, help them make informed hiring decisions, mitigate risks and maintain organisational integrity.


Considering the remarkable advancements in technology over the years, falsifying or altering a document is no longer as challenging as it once was, with the 2023 MIE Background Screening Index noting an annual increase in the risk associated with qualification verification for the first time since 2012.


“Candidates who knowingly conduct such dealings will be listed on the relevant Fraud Detection and Prevention databases, leading to them being flagged across multiple channels, and reported to prospective employers, or credit and service providers who perform fraud detection checks before employing a person or opening an account,” explains Barkhuizen.


However, the ramifications extend further. Should the institution opt to pursue legal action, candidates whose information is verified as fraudulent may face criminal charges which could result in substantial fines or, if found guilty in court, potential imprisonment.


To protect themselves from committing fraud, or beings cammed by unethical or fraudulent recruitment companies, Barkhuizen emphasises the importance of asking questions and ensuring the legitimacy of the supplier. To do so, she suggests the following eight tips to guide candidates:


  1. Research:  Prioritise vetting the background screening service provider by examining online reviews, ratings and client feedback. Reputable providers typically boast positive reputations.
  2. Verify credentials: Ensure the company holds accreditation and licences for their operations.
  3. Beware of unrealistic promises: Exercise caution with companies offering quick results or guaranteed outcomes. Background checks require thorough research and verification. Scepticism is warranted towards those who make lofty claims.
  4. Understand the process: Familiarise yourself with the background screening process, including the required information, duration and steps involved. This knowledge aids in spotting discrepancies or suspicious practices.
  5. Ask questions: Seek clarity on the company's methods, data sources and handling practices. Legitimate suppliers are transparent and responsive to enquiries.
  6. Securecommunication: Utilise secure channels for all interactions with the screeningcompany to safeguard sensitive information.
  7. Check forred flags: Stay alert for indicators such as upfront payment demands, rusheddecision-making pressures or reluctance to disclose screening procedures.
  8. Trustyour instincts: If something feels dubious or too good to be true, exercisecaution. It's prudent to verify information meticulously rather than rush intopotential risks.


For candidates, partnering with a certified background check company such as MIE, the largest background screening and vetting company in Southern Africa, is essential to ensure trust and transparency throughout the hiring process, and mitigate any potential ramifications. For those looking to have their background checks verified for authenticity, kindly


“By prioritising legitimate background screening, candidates assert their integrity and bolster their credibility in the cutthroat job market. This proactive approach not only safeguards against the threat of potential criminal charges, but also paves the way for a successful career journey,” concludes Barkhuizen.

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