“Fraud and deceit are anxious for your money. Be informed and prudent”.
– John A. Widtsoe
International Fraud Awareness Week
Neotas have joined the global effort to minimise the impact of fraud by being a supporter of International Fraud Awareness Week (IFAW). IFAW, or Fraud Week, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and is organised annually by the ACFE, the world’s largest anti-fraud organisation.
Throughout the week, supporting organisations and individuals share resources and engage in conversation online, in an effort to proactively fight fraud and help safeguard businesses from this growing problem.
Rise in Fraud Cases
In their 2020 Report to the Nations, the ACFE compiled data from 125 countries to help explore the costs, schemes, victims and perpetrators of fraud. Alarmingly, amongst their findings they discovered that companies lose an estimated 5% of their revenue annually due to fraud.
A recent BBC investigation also highlighted how fraudsters had hijacked the government’s Bounce Back loan scheme, resulting in potential taxpayer losses of up to £26bn through fraud, organised crime or default.
*The ACFE, Behavioral Red Flags of Fraud, 2020
The ACFE’s Report to the Nations (2020) found that just 12% of fraudsters are being caught and convicted. As a result, it’s important to identify robust, future proof tools for trying to safeguard businesses and individuals from the risk of fraud.
Alongside internal measures like employee training and procedure updates, effective background screening can play a crucial role, whether it’s pre or post employment, or as part of due diligence checks. This is where the power of OSINT comes in.
Enhancing Existing Searches
Search engines reveal just 4-6% of available data, while traditional background checks like DBS or credit checks are limited by their very nature, they only identify whether a subject appears on a set of specific databases. Our OSINT specialists are able to scour 100% of open source data in over 200 languages, leaving no stone unturned.
Using a combination of machine learning, AI and human analysts, Neotas are able to identify “red flags” for fraudulent behaviour within a matter of days – potentially saving individuals or organisations from the risks and harmful nature of fraud.
Through Enhanced Due Diligence, we recently uncovered a subject who had hidden a past conviction for fraud worth over $50m. Having changed their name and moved to the UK, they had escaped traditional customer due diligence but by supplementing these checks with OSINT, we found a network littered with criminal ties, bribery and corruption. Only through these insights were we able to help protect our client and their business.
Our team of experts have continued to educate themselves on the latest anti-fraud measures, including taking part in seminars throughout the week and competing against each other with the Fraud Week trivia quiz.
Fraud Week Trivia
To support Fraud Week, we posted daily trivia questions through social media using the official hashtag #FraudWeek:
89% of responders answered correctly that 5% of revenue is lost annually to fraudulent behaviour
Two-thirds of responders knew that 54% of organisations don’t recover any financial losses when falling victim to fraud
Nearly 75% of responders believed that strengthening internal controls would reduce a fraudster’s opportunity to commit fraud
Just 27% of responders knew that 39% of fraud is detected through tips, with the remaining answers all opting for lower percentages
When it comes to identifying fraudulent behaviour, a quarter of responders felt that missing funds was the key indicator, while the remaining majority believed it to be a combination of missing funds, lack of policies & procedures and missing documentation
Based on the results, responders overwhelmingly recognised the financial impact of fraud. The results were more varied when it came to identifying fraudulent behaviours and the ways to prevent them moving forward. What is clear is the need for the continued development of future-proof anti-fraud measures like training and robust, technology-driven background screening.
We’d like to say a big thanks to everyone who took part.
For more resources and more information on Fraud Week, you can head here.
With Covid-19 still prominent and our country facing a looming recession, businesses are facing unprecedented times. It’s more important than ever as we near 2021 that for those companies lucky enough to be hiring, only the best candidates reach the final stages of application.
Until now, pre-employment checks have been carried out by dedicated in-house HR teams whose aim is to maintain engagement with the future employee throughout the process. Whilst this is a great way to be on first-name terms with an individual by the time they are hired, it can also be a time consuming process for an already stretched department. This can also sometimes lead to missing red flags that pop up throughout the pre-employment check process and lead to an unfavourable hire.
“80% of the HR decision-makers we spoke to had admitted that they had employed an unfavourable candidate”
A review completed in 2018 here at Neotas concluded that 80% of the HR decision-makers we spoke to had admitted that they had employed an unfavourable candidate when carrying out the entire employment process in-house. What’s more, the individual hired had ended up costing the company an amount the equivalent of 23x their salary. This was calculated from a number of factors, including how high up the individual was within the company, how long their length of employment was, and also any paid training that was undertaken to further development.
Not only do individuals cause a monetary loss to the company, but they can also damage a firm’s reputation. It is a difficult loss to calculate, though as we are in such a prominent digital age, any potential employee will be able to search online for honest workplace reviews of any firm. Potential employees can see discontent within these reviews and decide against applying. Current employees can also see these reviews which could run the risk of losing good members of the team due to the development of negative feelings, ultimately distancing themselves from the organisation and seeking employment elsewhere. Essentially the potential damage to a company’s profile could have been avoided by finding out more about the employee beforehand. A task which can be time-consuming for a small, in-house team.
Another unfortunate outcome of hiring an undesirable candidate can be the reduction in the rates of productivity within the established team when faced with the introduction, and prolonged stay, of an unsuitable teammate. Thus diminishing levels of workforce morale overall and leading to more long-term damage at an unknowable cost.
How can individuals escape detection with a pre-employment check?
Although we may know as individuals that lying on an application form or in an interview is something we ourselves would never do, that’s not to say that many, many people don’t embellish on their applications. Even submissions from candidates that, upon first look seem glowing, can unfortunately be misleading and in many cases lead to a bad hire. In fact, leaning towards a candidate on gut instinct alone can increase the risk of a bad hire by up to a huge 50%.
Individuals can ‘improve’ many areas of their work and personal history during the application process to pass pre-employment checks. They undertake these amends for a number of reasons and are unfortunately not an uncommon occurrence today in the UK.
One of the biggest embellishments on C.Vs today is the alteration of qualifications or grades. This can range from ‘bumping up’ results to match the job specification, all the way to a complete fabrication of a degree. A notable example from 2012 is Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson who claimed to have a Computer Science Degree from Stonehill College. A college which did not include this particular degree in its course list at the time Thompson would have studied there.
In the digital age we are in, potential candidates can now look to ‘purchase’ their qualifications online. Several online outlets offer the record of a physical degree, without the individual having to take part in an actual course.
Another area which can be discreetly altered is the employment dates from previous roles. Candidates who may have had temporary roles or taken a career break early on can sometimes think that this may reflect badly on their work history and chances for future employment, especially if a minimum amount of years is required for a role. Candidates can also inflate their previous salary with a job title to match to give a better impression to a potential employer. Traditional in-house techniques can sometimes get to the bottom of these fraudulent claims, however by utilising an external pre-employment checks service, such as our Social Media Screening, we can dig even further to get you a full overview of the candidate, i.e. checking social accounts for previously listed jobs and showing the resulting discrepancies before you complete the employment process.
Right To Work
Applicants can also agree that they have a right to work in the UK, when this may not be the case, leading to a penalty of up to £20,000 for the hiring company.
Often, simple driving offences can be left undeclared during the pre-employment process due to the individual being concerned it would eliminate them from the application process. When this eventually comes to light it can then affect the individual’s chances regardless due to their dishonesty at the time of interview.
References can easily be falsified should the potential employee wish to avoid a new company contacting an individual who they may have had a difficult relationship with. An individual will then list friends or family members as references instead underneath their previous job history, however, It can be hard to investigate this thoroughly with a small HR team.
When submitting a C.V and cover letter, an individual discusses their work history and qualifications, describing how they apply to the job specification. For many individuals these are 100% truthfully written and in turn the potential employee may seem like the perfect person to hire. Perhaps one of the most difficult things to glean about a potential employee however is not within this document. This important element is; how their conduct will be during their time with the company, including outside of work, as a company representative as well as during business hours. Even after thorough business-related pre-employment checks have taken place it can give little indication of a potential employee’s outside affiliations.
Knowledge of an individual’s online footprint can be hugely advantageous. This can give a thorough understanding of whether the person has engaged in online content that can be described as racist, sexist, homophobic or listed as terrorist activity. An outside-led enquiry can also investigate circumstances which may be questionable should they be going for a position within financial services. For example, several trips to blacklisted countries listed on their social profiles within a matter of months could be something the company wanted to investigate, but didn’t have the information initially in order to discuss.
A recent case study we conducted for a client involved carrying out a social media screening on an individual who has passed through both traditional background checks as well as two interviews. After we completed the screening, the potential candidate was identified as being involved in football related violence and specifically involved in an attack on police officers. The individual was not only actively involved and promoting sexist, homophobic and racist content and personally attacking other individuals online, he also mentioned several class A drugs on his social media interactions. As a result, the person in question was removed from the application process and reported to Crimestoppers. The outcome could have been completely different had the HR team not contacted Neotas for the Social Media Screening.
“A thorough report was provided with areas of concern and interest that we wouldn’t have found otherwise” – Partner, Executive Search Firm
What can you do to avoid an unsuitable hire in 2021?
A study in 2020 showed that over 63% of applicants that they checked had lied on their C.V. This included 23% in relation to qualifications and 37% editing their previous workplace details. Whilst this can be looked at by an internal HR team through pre-employment checks, the ability to uncover a potential candidate’s personal history outside of their employment is still beyond reach using traditional methods. Even a person who passes the standard background checks can be hiding information that could be potentially damaging to the reputation of a business, the results of which can affect a company of any size. Even CRB checks can only show UK crimes, they do not include instances that the individual may not have been convicted for, and they also do not cover behaviour that a hiring company will find goes against their ethos.
This potentially damaging gap in the application process can be avoided simply by giving the hiring team a full picture of the individual in question. Neotas are experts in Social Media Screenings and offer a complete overview of a prospective candidate based on their online presence. The screening looks at individual candidates objectively and offers a summary of information which could affect your company should you choose to hire the individual. The screening is completely objective, removing the possibility of an unconscious bias and lets you make a completely informed decision during your pre-employment checks. It is due to this that we do not recommend conducting these searches yourself and instead outsource to a third party, as this research may lead to an unconscious bias being held by an individual based on lifestyle choices outside of work time.
“Many companies and HR professionals we speak to can’t believe that some of the stories we uncover are real. However, our checks are uncovering highly concerning factors on a daily basis. Sure, it’s only in a relatively small number of cases, but the risk is still severe enough to make it a real concern for anyone hiring in the next 12 months.” – Vipul Mishra, Neotas CEO
We understand it can be difficult to justify the cost to senior members of a board, of bringing in an outside resource. However, put plainly, the real question is whether can they afford 4- 23x the salary of the individual they are hiring?
Neotas can help you avoid monetary loss, reputation damage and a potential drop in team morale simply by carrying out a Social Media Screening.
5 Industries that Should be Doing More than a DBS Check
A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is a common way for employers to assess the background of a potential employee. Many jobs ask that employees undertake a DBS check to ensure they have a clean criminal record and will not be putting people that they work with at risk.
Industries in which employees are dealing with vulnerable people, and particularly children, however, should arguably be doing more than just a DBS check. These roles can involve positions of power and authority, and when working with vulnerable people, potential employees need to be properly vetted. While a DBS check is a good initial assessment, for certain industries it simply isn’t enough to know that an appropriate person is being hired.
What does a DBS check include?
A DBS check, formerly and often known as a CRB check, is a record of someone’s criminal record, including any convictions and cautions. There are currently four different types of DBS checks, depending on the level required from the employer:
Basic DBS check
A basic DBS check will show unspent convictions and conditional cautions on the applicant’s criminal record. If you are an individual applying for your own CRB check, this is the only one you can attain.
Standard DBS check
Most companies that require a CRB check will opt for a standard check, unless the applicant is working with vulnerable people. A standard DBS check reveals spent as well as unspent convictions, and any cautions, reprimands, or final warnings on an applicant’s criminal record.
Enhanced DBS check
This check covers all the same information as a standard DBS check, but the Disclosure and Barring Service will also contact local police for any information or encounters with the applicant they might deem appropriate to disclose.
Enhanced DBS check with barred lists
The fourth and most comprehensive check covers everything in an enhanced check plus will reveal if the candidate is on a list of people barred from working in a particular role.
What doesn’t a DBS check include?
All DBS checks are only valid for the country in which they are taken out. If the applicant has ever lived overseas and been convicted of a crime in that country, it will not show on a UK criminal record. Each country has their own system for running criminal background checks, and the employer would need to follow the proper channels within each overseas country to run a check on an applicant who lived there. Of course, if an applicant doesn’t mention living overseas, any convictions held in another country would never be known.
Another drawback of a CRB check is that they only cover convictions, not accused crimes. Many crimes, particularly sexual assaults, go unprosecuted. Some studies show that the prosecution rate of rape accusations are as low as 2% and sexual offences as low as 4% in England and Wales. Many of these assaults go unreported, and can be very hard to prosecute, resulting in such low figures. Someone accused but not convicted of a sexual assault will not have this show up on their criminal record or DBS check.
A DBS check has no expiration date and is true at the time it is carried out. However, any activity post-assessment will not be included, so it’s usually requested anew for each job application.
Which industries should go further?
A DBS check is of course a good idea for many professions, particularly those that deal with young and vulnerable people. But some of these industries should be doing more than even an enhanced DBS check. The five industries below are examples of jobs in which employees are in direct contact with vulnerable people, and the potential dangers a DBS check wouldn’t protect against..
Taxi and minicab companies
Taxi and minicab companies are private firms whose employees have intimate access to their customers, as well as access behind a wheel. As a result, it is imperative to ensure not only that they are hiring competent drivers, but people with a clean criminal background with no prior inappropriate behaviour that could jeopardise the safety of the passengers. A taxi driver working for a private firm or company such as Uber or Ola should be properly vetted before customers get in a car with them. Many taxis may also be transporting people who are under the influence after a late night, making them particularly vulnerable.
An enhanced DBS check will reveal any convicted crimes or warnings, but there is other inappropriate behaviour that doesn’t fall under the definition of a crime that should consider someone ineligible for the role. Their Twitter feed may be filled with pornographic content or writing sexually explicit and inappropriate comments to women online. Neither of these actions are illegal or even banned from social media sites, but should deem someone ineligible to drive women and children around. They may also have a history of posting drag racing videos online and doing tricks in their car, which is certainly not the behaviour anyone looks for in a taxi driver.
Teaching and education
Anyone who works in a school where there are children and vulnerable young adults must undergo an enhanced DBS check for obvious reasons. This includes teachers, teaching assistants, and volunteer positions.
Child safety is of the highest priority in a school, and checking the background of an applicant is important. However, as mentioned above, just because there are no convictions against a candidate does not mean there were no charges or situations. A more in-depth check into someone’s history could reveal crimes that were unable to be charged. These are particularly relevant if they involve children, sexual assault, Class A drugs, or violence. With the extremely low conviction rate for many of these crimes, DBS checks are not infallible.
Teaching applicants should also have a usual online presence in the world of social media. There have been many cases in the news of teachers getting into trouble for some of the posts online visible to the world; being overtly sexual, intoxicated, or political. Any online vitriol directed towards children should be paid particular notice, as it could indicate something more sinister.
Teachers are not encouraged to get involved in a romantic relationship with parents of the children, although it is not illegal. It’s possible a person may have left their previous teaching role due to that very reason, but would not disclose it, and would not turn up on a DBS check. Teachers and parents being involved in a romantic relationship can unfairly help or hinder a child’s progress in school, and create an uncomfortable environment.
Social care is a very broad industry that can include taking care of young people, adults, the elderly, and people with a variety of disabilities. In such cases, making sure an applicant has a clean background check is vital for them to provide the right duty of care without putting patients at risk. An enhanced CRB check is required for jobs within the social care spectrum.
Things that could put this care of duty at risk beyond a DBS check could include a family history that indicates disruption within the family. A person applying for a social care role that does not have major access to their children, for example, does not bode well. Any applicant that has a history of making jokes about disabled people is completely inappropriate. The applicant may also have undisclosed crimes that they were accused of, yet never charged for. Any history of animal abuse or neglect, such as a pet that was taken away is also an indicator that the person is not suitable for the job.
Creches and childcare facilities
Anyone looking after children outside of the education system is required to have an enhanced DBS check. Childcare can include creches, nurseries, nanny positions, playgroup leaders, and childminding, and all involve children under the age of 16, usually without the parents’ presence.
Looking after children is one of the most trustworthy positions of power, and those applying may have prior activities that make them unsuitable. A recently overturned law means that any minor youth offences, cautions, reprimands, and warnings need not be disclosed on a criminal background check. The controversial decision means that those with petty crimes in the youth are no longer discriminated against for future jobs, but could also mean that crimes relevant to a childcare position are overlooked.
Online activity, previous childcare positions and the reason for leaving, as well as family history, are all good indicators of a potential employee’s suitability to the role. An applicant may have spent time abroad teaching English as a Second Language, in which case a further background check would need to be undertaken.
Security services can cover everything from security guards at supermarkets and clubs, to bank security, university campus security, as well as protecting high ranking figures of authority. The job of a security guard or officer is to protect a person or property from damage, theft, fire, or other threats, enforce laws, and keep watch on anything suspicious or unusual.
Security guards often interact with members of the public and therefore need to have a good demeanour and approachable air. They should be able to deal with situations swiftly and calmly in the case of something getting out of hand. Sometimes physical force or detainment is necessary when there is criminal activity suspected.
Because of the physical nature of a security guard’s job, a key thing to look out for is often a history of violence or violent behaviour. While this may not show up on a DBS check, the applicant may have an uncharged accusation, a family dispute, aggressive online behaviour, or a history of threatening people. This behaviour might be missing from their background check, but a well known trait about them. If they are often sharing videos containing violence or fighting online, this could be an indication that the aspect of the job they are looking for is the physical one. An overly aggressive person is not suitable for a job as a security guard, and could be a liability for the company.
These are just a few of the positions that should be doing more than a DBS check. This can apply to a number of jobs that work with children or vulnerable people, who are the most at risk. DBS checks are not foolproof, and do not cover a person’s background as extensively as they should within certain roles.
Neotas provides rigorous background screening that assesses candidates’ online behaviour. This goes far beyond an enhanced DBS check, screening all social media and online behaviour for activity that contains violence, terrorism, sexism, and racism. Get in contact here to find out how we can better protect your business from potential risk from unsafe candidates.
Neotas use OSINT For Good to Support Environmental Investigation Agency
Neotas are proud to use OSINT for good (#OSINTForGood) to support and assist Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) in their efforts to investigate environmental crime.
The recent report published by EIA highlights the threat towards Asia’s leopard population due to illegal killings in aid to meet the demand for their body parts. A number of Chinese pharmaceutical companies named in the report list leopard bone as an ingredient for their medical products.
“The illegal killing of leopards for their body parts in Asia is driving the species towards extinction. They have already disappeared from Laos, Vietnam and Singapore and are on the brink of extinction in several other countries. Demand for their bones, primarily from Chinese consumers, is one of the drivers of the trade. Leopard bone is used in similar ways to tiger bone, steeped in rice wine to produce health tonics and used in other traditional medicines.” – EIA, Bitter Pill To Swallow, March 2020
Our team of in-house experts used OSINT technology to map out the international links between potential actors involved in the trade. The EIA’s research aims to highlight the leopards rapid decline and the need to revisit certain trade regulations in place.