Lying to your CV could lend you up to 5years in prison

Today’s matriculants, graduates, and job seekers face an extremely competitive job market, making it tempting to “embellish” or add a few more details to your resume in an effort to land a position. However, under the recently passed National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act 2019, which was approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa, lying or misrepresenting your credentials might result in a five-year prison sentence. The new rule also applies to social media; lying about your credentials on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter may result in jail time. But what constitutes “lying” exactly?

National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act 12 of 2019

32B. (1) A ” person is guilty of an offence if the person makes or causes to be made a false entry in the national learners’ records database or the misrepresented or fraudulent register. If a person is a party to the falsification and dissemination or publication of a qualification or part-qualification of any person or the records of the national learners’ records database or the misrepresented or fraudulent register or with a fraudulent purpose knowingly provided false or misleading information in any circumstances in which this Act requires the person to provide information or give notice to another person.”

In essence, this implies that you are violating the law if you misrepresent your qualifications, lie about possessing them or assist a friend or coworker in doing so. It’s also deemed lying to overstate a qualification, such as declaring you have a BCom degree when you only have a diploma. The same applies if you don’t finish your education but lie about it on your resume. Legally, you have not finished or gained your qualification, and you are not permitted to claim that you have even if you are only a few credits short. List your studies as “incomplete” as it is the best course of action. because you can still show prospective employers that you have studied without having to worry about being found out. Anyone who knows you are lying on your resume parents, friends, family, educators, and employers can report you for it, and you risk getting into trouble. So be sure to follow the law at all times.

SA has a high incidence of CV fraud

Recent years have seen a rise in CV and qualification fraud in South Africa, with prominent people being publicly accused of lying about their academic accomplishments. For instance, Ellen Tshabalala, the former chairwoman of the SABC board, submitted her resignation in July 2014 despite lying about having a BComm and a postgraduate diploma in labor relations. Regrettably, a similar wave of scandals involving famous persons has persisted. The recent whitepaper from Quest, “A report on the culture of dishonesty – fraudulent qualification & falsified curriculum vitae,” explores the prevalence of CV and qualification fraud in the South African and international contexts as well as market solutions to address this growing business concern.

Quest CEO, Kay Vittee says: “Job-seekers in South Africa face high levels of unemployment and with limited access to tertiary education, CV fraud has reached epidemic proportions.“While the majority of CVs contain ‘white lies’ such as inaccurate dates or timelines, inflated job titles or embellished achievements others contain gross qualification or experience fabrications,” she adds. Vittee cites numbers from Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE), the leading background screening company in South Africa, which provide a concerning picture.

From 21% in 2010 to a total of 29% in 2012, there was an annual increase of 1% in the number of matric certificates that showed danger throughout the verification procedure. Criminal background or fabricated credentials were not disclosed in 16% of the 2.3 million checks undertaken in the private and public sectors in 2012. Qualification fraud has skyrocketed by 200% in South Africa over the last five years (2009–2014).Vittee emphasizes that in order to avoid major financial and legal dangers associated with employing a candidate at face value – without confirming his or her academic and professional claims – company executives need to take into account the predominance of this trend and act accordingly.

“Just seeing a CV or certificate is no longer sufficient. A company that employs someone who is unqualified to do a job can be sued for negligence by customers or patients if anyone is harmed due to their misconduct. In the event of a disaster and loss of life, the cost to your business and your brand can be immeasurable,” Vittee explains. According to her, using stringent and comprehensive procedures can guarantee that your business is shielded from CV and qualification fraud. “Consult a professional, reputable staffing and recruitment agency that partners with a background screening and verification company. As part of their outsourced recruitment offering, staffing and recruitment agencies will assist you in implementing a stringent interview process and vet the validity of the professional and academic claims of job-seekers,” Vittee adds.

South African job seekers have a tendency to lie on their CVs due to the growing pressure to stand out from the flood of CVs that companies get and to market themselves as the ideal candidate for a position. Fraudulent resumes, which tend to mislead, embellish, and exaggerate, have increased since 2011. These fabrications included exaggerating duties at prior jobs, embellishing work titles, and misrepresenting one’s abilities to potential employers. However, potential candidates frequently exaggerate their credentials and educational background. The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) has discovered that, as of the end of January 2017, a total of 1 276 qualifications (444 domestic and 832 foreign qualifications) had been reported as falsified credentials.

Most common lies

LexisNexis data published in May revealed that South Africans frequently add the same embellishments to their CVs. Rudi Kruge, GM of LexisNexis Data Solutions, stated that qualification fraud stands out among other CV embellishments discovered by RefCheck, LexisNexis’ reference checking tool. According to Kruger, the following sorts of falsification on CVs are the most common types of qualification:

  • Non-existent matric certificates
  • Inflated education
  • Unfinished degrees
  • Fake degree certificates

This is consistent with a 2018 research by background investigation firm Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE), which discovered that a greater number of South Africans are lying on their resumes. Results revealed that, in comparison to other background screening checks, a candidate’s qualifications are the ones that is most likely to have discrepancies. According to MIE data, the number of qualifications determined to be fraudulent declined from 2,049 in 2016 to 1,678 in 2017, but the number of qualifications that were misrepresented rose from 44,880 in 2016 to 50,618 in 2017.

How qualifications are faked

Lying about your academic credentials is now simpler than ever. Just a fast Google search will reveal a number of websites that offer to make fraudulent certificates and other bogus papers that people may need to give them an edge in the job market. Additionally, there are groups operating that send emails to prospective “customers” with the subject line “Contact us NOW to acquire your certificate within days, and start changing your life!” There are also people who will lie to potential employers by listing their qualifications on their resumes but failing to present the necessary certificates because they have been “lost” or “misplaced.”When pressure mounts, these people can try to use computers to make their own false certifications (these are quite easy to spot, more about this later). In South Africa, this is by no means a recent problem, as seen by the numerous scandals involving our politicians’ phony degrees and credentials. It stands to reason that the average, desperate person would see individuals in positions of leadership and influence who fake their credentials as a model to follow.

It should be highlighted that institutions have recently come under scrutiny for giving bogus academic credentials, not just people, who are in the business of searching out phony credentials. For instance, The University of Zululand, a historically underprivileged university, has come under fire following claims of senior-level corruption and the discovery that bogus credentials were being issued directly from the institution. This worsens the issue because, in the words of Blade Nzimande, the current minister of higher education, it gives students the impression that their genuine degrees are unreliable and undervalued. In order to distance themselves from the negative reputation of the university, some students may feel pressured to lie or “fluff” their academic credentials or the location of where they received their degree as a result of this mindset. Even worse situations involve fake colleges taking advantage of the helplessness and fragility of underprivileged young people looking to further their education. These are shady companies that enroll students under false pretenses, take their money (which is frequently a loan that cannot actually be afforded), and then discharge them with faulty credentials.

How to spot a fake qualification?

The degrees of deception can often vary when it comes to academic qualifications and there are a couple of 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 the 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

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