Are P's (Passes) no longer the only way to get your degrees?
Recent press coverage has discussed the ease by which people can
procure fake degree certificates, supposedly from a number of
leading Australian universities, and use them to obtain
employment.1 This isn't a new phenomenon, with many
cases around the world, but the most recent scam appears more
sophisticated than usual.
The Chinese business involved (whose name translates to
'Overseas Student Assistant HD') operates through social
media. It allegedly charges customers thousands of dollars for
forged degrees and diplomas purportedly from leading Australian
tertiary institutions. The business claims to source from the same
parchment paper providers used by the universities to create the
certificates. For a premium price, the business also claims to be
able to input the student details fraudulently into university
databases, as well as the official qualification register system
run by the Chinese government's Education Department. This
raises issues around the verification process to be considered by
In our experience, when companies have had problems with
unethical (or fraudulent) behaviour from employees or business
partners, our investigations have uncovered misleading information
or documents provided by the employee early in the recruitment or
But those unethical behaviours can remain undetected at the
initial stages of a business relationship, because companies trust
the information given to them by employees or business
Fraudulent documents presented to prospective employers will
look and feel real (they are supposed to!) as people will go to
great lengths to deceive where they perceive the reward may be
While trust is an important part of any work environment, the
business mantra should be 'trust but verify'. So what's
Firstly, companies should:
Have a healthy level of scepticism and verify information
provided by prospective employees.
Use a risk based approach to determine the level of background
due diligence that must be applied.
Get some advice on the types of skills you may need to properly
assess an applicant and their supporting documentation.
Outsource where necessary.
KordaMentha recommends that an initial risk rating of an
employee or business partner should be identified (e.g. Low, Medium
or High risk). Once that risk is established, we suggest making
further enquiries. Below is a sample of an approach we have used on
a larger organisation:
As each business is unique compared to another, a standardised
approach applicable to all situations is unlikely. Thus some
'Level 2' review may be applicable to a 'Level 1'
review if the situation is sensitive to a certain aspect. By
tailoring the approach for the right level of due diligence,
organisations will invest in the optimal level and gain more
Just like a university student, the answer is clear. Do your
Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
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