In the Rush to Hire, Watch Out for Everything from Minor Fraud to Deep Fakes

Bryce Edwards, Senior Operations Associate, Advanced Clinical

If your organization finds itself having both the need and available funding for new hires in 2024, don’t get so excited about onboarding those eager newcomers that you skip due diligence regarding the bona fides of the credentials they claim in their resumes and applications, a clinical research hiring authority says. 

“The clinical research job market is very active right now, with lots of pressure being put on under-resourced organizations to recruit and retain new talent whenever they can afford to do so,” notes Bryce Edwards, a Senior Operations Associate with Advanced Clinical and a subject matter expert in identifying fraudulent candidates who screens and onboards candidates for a major contract research organization (CRO). “But in the rush to get new people up and running on stage or in more background roles, as it were, for important research projects, companies need to pay attention to whether an applicant has really achieved all the things they claim or, in an even more worrisome scenario, whether they are even who they say they are.” 

There are often scenarios where potential hires can attempt to use fake credentials for employment purposes by providing for example, a false name and Social Security number, which can oftentimes still pass a background check, even with the fraudulent information. 

With such scenarios in mind, Edwards offers these situations as watch outs when screening resumes and applications: 

  • A candidate uses a different name on their resume than the one they used for other communications. 
  • Unusual formatting appears on a resume, suggesting a candidate copied and pasted details from someone else’s document. 
  • A candidate’s LinkedIn profile doesn’t include a profile picture, lists a very limited number of connections, and/or provides dates of employment in current and previous positions which do not match up with those listed in their resume. 
  • When attempting to verify references, business e-mail addresses for the references are not provided, the reference cannot be found on LinkedIn, and/or the information given looks like a “shell profile” rather than one that is legally registered and active. 
  • When attempting to verify employment history, if a previous employer cannot be found on LinkedIn, the phone numbers listed on a company’s website do not appear to be legitimate, and/or the supposed employer is not registered with the Secretary of State, it means you are probably looking at a shell company—an entirely fake organization. 
  • Certification registries offered by organizations such as ACRP do not back up the candidate’s claims of holding a current certification, or of ever being certified. However, keep in mind that, as is the case with ACRP, inclusion in a registry may be voluntary, so the absence of someone’s name who claims a certification is not proof positive of any attempted deception. 

Edwards further offers these tips for situations in which you suspect you are dealing with fraud during an actual interview: 

  • In video call interviews, watch closely to see if the person on screen is truly answering the questions. Do the words you can hear match up with what the interviewee’s mouth appears to be saying? If they are wearing a headset, try to determine if they are being fed answers. 
  • Obtain a set of well-crafted questions from a subject matter expert in the relevant job skills to effectively discern key details in resumes, filtering out extraneous information often found in “fluff CVs” submitted by unqualified candidates. 
  • Consider incorporating panel interviews so that other interviewers may pick up on the same issues or clues, or spot areas of concern that you might miss. 

Finally, “Your top consideration for handling cases when fraudulent credentials or IDs are suspected or detected related to a current employee will be to work with your Human Resources (or People & Culture) and Legal teams to ensure you handle the situation properly and in a non-discriminatory manner,” Edwards advises.

Getting Real About Fake Companies 

One of the bigger recruitment agencies in the clinical research enterprise notes that it has identified dozens of fake companies. According to information it provided to ACRP, craresources first started noticing these “shell” companies in 2010, and the discovery of this practice led it to better understand how organized candidate fraudulence is. “While individuals have been known to embellish or falsify their own credentials, a large portion of the current fraudulence epidemic is organized,” says Angela Roberts, Head of Recruiting Operations for craresources. “Clinical research associate (CRA) candidate fraudulence has become a big business as sophisticated networks have been put into place with the sole purpose of selling fraudulent credentials to fake applicants.” 

Further, craresources says it has recently had whistle-blowers come forth to reveal the practices of some of these organizations. Fraudulent CRA applicants pay a fee for an overall “applicant” package. These organizations provide completely fabricated resumes, train the applicant how to pass interviews, and offer fake references. In addition, many of these organizations include the use of a totally fictitious company as part of their services. These “shell” companies often have websites and, when you call them, someone will answer the phone to verify an employment that never existed. 

“As a side note, you should also be mindful of the dates of operation for authentic companies listed on candidates’ resumes,” advises Roberts. “We often see fake CRA applicants represent that they worked for a company before or after the company existed. At a minimum, make sure the dates of employment align to when the companies were acquired or went out of business.” 

(The information in this sidebar was provided by craresources. All other details in this blog were shared by Advanced Clinical or ACRP.)

Edited by Gary Cramer