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By Rod Piukkala


Preventing fraudulent documents in the hiring process

Sending candidates to the police station to get their criminal record check is a practice familiar to many HR managers across Canada. In fact, according to research, 69 per cent of employers use criminal record checks to screen job applicants as part of their hiring process.


There are several reasons why criminal record checks are a popular screening tool. Overall, background-screening helps employers make more informed hiring decisions, leading to a more engaged and efficient workforce. The result is a decrease in employee turnover and improved retention rates. Criminal record checks, in particular, are effective at creating a safer and more secure workplace, preventing occupational fraud and theft and reducing the legal liability associated with negligent hiring.


Unfortunately, by putting the onus on the candidate to obtain and provide a clear criminal record check, employers could potentially expose themselves to the risk of receiving a forgery.


Creating false documents
When a candidate is sent to their local police station to obtain a criminal record check, the results are provided back to the candidate, who is then expected to pass the document along to their prospective employer. This practice compromises the chain of custody, leaving the document in the hands of the person who would benefit from altering its contents.


With access to a scanner, the appropriate computer software and a quality printer, a candidate could alter the name or result on a document. There have also been cases where candidates with more advanced computer skills have recreated authentic-looking police checks from scratch using basic desktop publishing software.


For those candidates who are less tech-savvy, a clear police check can be purchased for the right price. A western Canada police service recently became a target for an illegal scam artist offering police clearance certificates for $4,250.


Preventing fraud: an easy first step

As a best practice, hiring managers should conduct a physical check of the candidate’s photo identification. Background screening is rendered ineffective if the hiring manager has not verified that the candidate standing in front of them is indeed the person who they might be investigating. For example, a candidate with a lengthy criminal record could attempt to gain employment using a stolen or borrowed identity. If the hiring manager never bothers to check their photo identification, the candidate’s criminal history would likely go undetected.


Third-party screening
Another effective way to prevent the intake of a fraudulent police check is to use a third-party service provider. Background checking companies replace the candidate as the intermediary between the police and the employer. The results are provided back to the employer, removing the opportunity for candidates to alter or forge results.


When considering a provider, employers should first confirm that the criminal record checks are being performed by accredited and authorized police partners and gather information on the types of checks that are available. Not all criminal record checks are created equal.


Previously completed checks
In certain situations, employers are faced with the question of whether or not they should accept a criminal record check that was previously conducted. One of the most common examples of this is when an employee is contracted through a staffing agency. While simply accepting the check might be more convenient and save both time and money, it is accompanied by the risk of relying on an outdated document.


Employers should record their procedure for accepting existing checks in their screening policy. If an employer intends to accept criminal record checks completed by staffing agencies, there should be clear criteria – such as how and when the check was originally completed – in order for it to be accepted.

Criminal record checks can be valuable to the hiring process; however, to get the most value from a screening program, employers need to regularly evaluate their screening policy and take measures to close any loopholes.


Rod Piukkala is vice president, Police Service Technologies at SterlingBackcheck Canada.

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