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20th May 2014

Could you Really Spot a Fake Reference?

Fake Rubber StampFake Britain

Having watched a recent episode of ‘Fake Britain’, I was amazed to see just how easy it is to obtain a ‘fake reference’ and to observe how this is having a significant impact on businesses.  It seems with the job market being so competitive, and 100’s of candidates applying for each vacancy, people will chance fake references to gain a competitive edge.

The FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) completed a poll of 1,800 businesses in December to measure the level to which small businesses are affected by this scam.  The report showed that ‘nearly 1 in 5 (17%) told the FSB that they had hired an employee only to find out they used fraudulent references’.  A staggering ‘7 out of 10’ small businesses were unaware of the fraudulent websites where you can obtain a reference with little trouble.  Surprisingly, they also claim that men were ‘twice as likely to fake a reference’, shame on you gents!


References within the care sector are particularly important. DBS checks may be definitive but they don’t cover important employment points such as reliability. So here are a few points you can look out for when obtaining references.

  • It is advisable to write for a reference and obtain it as a written reference; because it covers both you and the reference organisation.
  • Check at interview stage that you have the right name of the person to contact for a reference.
  • If you are going to telephone, ensure the telephone number provided is an office number; be wary if mobile numbers are given for referees.
  • Do some digging - ask questions about the nominated referee, perhaps they have a LinkedIn profile you can view.
  • Even when relying on a written reference, check the details of the past employer with Companies House; does company ABC exist?

It seems that there are no limits to the services that fake reference companies can go to.  For a couple of hundred pounds a virtual HR department can be made up, the prospective employee may even have a dedicated case manager to support them through the process.

So, be aware when requesting references remember to ask the question.  Just how genuine will they be?

Anita Manfredi of Employer Solutions – QCS HR Expert Contributor

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

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