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Reed Screening’s Keith Rosser: Implementing a digital identity system would add £58 billion to UK economy

Government implementation of a digital identity programme would boost the UK economy by £58 billion, Reed Screening director Keith Rosser revealed at last week’s Screening in the Digital Age event.

A full digital landscape offers the opportunity for employers to vet quickly, yet thoroughly. Keith noted that employees, including those who require police checks, could hypothetically get a job on Friday and be vetted quickly enough to start work on Monday.

He said: “We want to make identity fully digital because it’s good for business, good for the public and because of the 24/7 nature of modern screening. Reed Screening often completes its vetting long before the candidate shows up at an office with their identity document. That paper, manual process is vastly slowing down everything else.”

Keith was joined at the event by Jonathan Jacobi, social media screening service Neotas’s head of sales, Chris Rea, Higher Education Degree Datacheck’s (HEDD) head of higher education services, David Lean, chairman of the Association for Online Due Diligence (AFODD), and Sandra Peaston, director of research & development at the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System (Cifas).

Screening trends

Emphasising that vetting and screening needs to follow the trends of the labour market, Keith highlighted that one-third of jobs were no longer “traditional” full-time roles. With more employees working flexibly, this creates new challenges and imperatives to vetting.

He noted that opportunities for abuse of the law have multiplied. Keith quoted statistics from Cifas which found that in 2018 there had been a 6% increase in reported fraud by employees, a 26% rise in money muling and an 8% rise in identity fraud.

While screening is still primarily used to manage security, safety and compliance issues, Keith added that more businesses are using pre-employment vetting to ensure that they have better quality hires.

He also predicted that, in the future, if not already, the majority of information about prospective employees will be found online, rather than through references or police checks.

Social media screening

Exploring the future of social media and online screening, Neotas’s Jonathan Jacobi revealed that social media users have an average of 7.6 accounts. This makes social media platforms a vital source when it comes to pre-employment checks.

“Social media is the world’s biggest data-set. And we’re all gladly feeding it and putting information out there,” he stated.

Jonathan noted that a number of regulators are increasingly using open-source social media checks, such as the FCA and the US Department of State for visa screening, arguing that employers needed to follow suit.

He suggested that they should screen for red flags which would lead to an immediate HR intervention if they happened in the workplace. These include extreme/violent views, illegal activities, hate or discriminatory behaviour, or signs of addiction or substance abuse.

However, Jonathan added that social media screening should not just exist to find negative issues. He argued that it should also highlight positive aspects of a candidate’s personality and social presence, such as charitable work or volunteering.

The rise of qualification fraud

Cifas’s 2019 Fraudscape report found the number of people to have used false qualifications in job applications was the highest on record.  HEDD’s Chris Rea argued that a weak checking culture, uncertainty about the law and a lack of familiarity with education systems was enabling qualification fraud.

Stating that most students do not realise that lying on a CV is illegal, Chris discussed the shadow industry around fake degrees. They include shadow qualifications and universities which look to mislead employers into believing someone has a relevant qualification, including fake degree verification companies.

Citing numerous examples of bogus academic institutions appearing online, including a “Brexit University”, he made the point that there are some people who have enrolled into these scam universities believing they are genuine. But, he concluded the vast majority know that they are purchasing a fake degree certificate.

Chris warned that certificates which appear to be from a real university could be counterfeits. Graduates posting their genuine degree certificates on social media has allowed counterfeiters to produce fake certificates of high enough quality that even university issuing offices struggle to tell the difference.

He urged employers to ask candidates for their original certificate and to check its authenticity with the issuing body every time.

“Until 100% of employers, check 100% of their candidates’ degree credentials, 100% of the time, qualification fraud will continue to flourish and thrive,” he said.

Identifying potential risks at the recruitment stage

Cifas’s Sandra Peaston discussed the challenges presented by internal fraud. She quoted research from the University of Portsmouth which calculated that cases of internal fraud where up to £25,000 was taken initially, actually ended up costing organisations 265% more.

Sandra stated that the best way to avoid these issues is to thoroughly vet potential employees before they join.

Using statistics from Cifas’s Internal Fraud Database, she highlighted the number of cases of fraud identified before employees were hired and compared them to those after an employee had started.

"Where employers should be kicking themselves is when someone is identified as committing fraud post-application, when they really should be identified pre-hire,” she said.

With application fraud becoming more common for senior positions, being able to identify problems before an employee starts is now crucial, Sandra added.

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