Event Roundup: Identity fraud in digital right to work

Event Roundup: Identity fraud in digital right to work

In our latest Reed Screening webinar we talked to a panel of experts about identity and document fraud, and how employers can reduce the risk to their business. 

Presenting were:

Anita Pali, Partner in the Employment and Business Immigration Group at Sheridans.

Gavin Burton, Identity Consultant at Beruku

Rob Brooker, Director at PKF Littlejohn

Keith Rosser, Chair of the CRBT, BHI chair and director of Reed Screening

What are the risks for employers of identity fraud?

With the 30th September 2022 marking the end of the COVID-adjusted regimen for checking employees’ right to work in the UK, employers are no longer permitted to check identity documents over video call, and must choose between returning to the old system of in-person document checks or using a digital identity checking service via an Identity Service Provider or IDSP.

Employers who knowingly employ an individual who doesn’t have the right to work in the UK are guilty of committing a criminal office and face unlimited fines or even imprisonment, but even those who unknowingly employ an illegal worker could find themselves liable for a fine of up to £20,000 if they have not carried out the correct checks, or if it’s “reasonably apparent” that the documents they’ve accepted to prove an employee’s status are false.

Employers who can provide evidence that they’ve carried out the prescribed checks before employing an individual are considered to have a Statutory Excuse and are not liable, but could still be at risk of reputation damage. Beyond the civil penalties for employing illegal workers, businesses could also face greater risks – individuals who’ve obtained employment using false documents are also higher risk for committing fraud or data theft in their roles, potentially causing greater liability for employers if there’s a data breach. False qualifications or documents such as driving licenses could also mean employees are a direct threat to the safety of other employees or customers, with potentially serious consequences.

It’s therefore extremely important that employers have a robust process in place for checking their employees’ right to work, and verifying any other documents they present.

How the risk of identity fraud is changing

It’s expected that digital identity checking via a certified provider will be much more effective at identifying applicants presenting false documents than in-person checking. Reed Screening’s AssuredID service has been running for ten weeks, and has flagged false documents which the average individual checking documents in person would have been unlikely to spot.

This means that fraudsters are likely to target in-person checks rather than going through digital identity verification processes which could be more likely to refuse them.

It’s important to note that employers cannot enforce the use of IDVT, and that there are good reasons for legitimate applicants to need to use the manual process (not least that IDVT requires a full, in date UK passport). This means that while employers can reduce their risk of fraud by encouraging applicants to use IDVT, they also need to be increasingly vigilant of fraudulent documents during in-person checks.

How can employers reduce the risk of identity fraud?

There are a number of ways employers can protect themselves against the potential repercussions of identity fraud:

Learn how to spot fake documents

The quality of false documents of all kinds is significantly better than most people expect. Fraudsters can replicate everything from perforations and watermarks to UV-reactive paper, holograms and even laser engraving, meaning that a high quality fake passport or driving license can be difficult to spot. Digitally-generated documents like bank statements or utility bills can be even easier to replicate, with AI increasingly used to create extremely convincing false documents.

Checking elements like document numbers against services which flag lost or stolen documents can help add an extra level of assurance, as can carrying out verification on qualification documents where possible. Training your team on what to look for and ensuring that presented documents get more than just a cursory glance can help to spot fakes.

Be on the lookout for stolen documents

Another common tactic in identity fraud is using legitimate documents which belong to another person, and which have either been stolen, borrowed or sold. In these cases, it’s important to ensure that not only are the documents themselves real, but that they genuinely belong to the applicant.

In these cases, individuals may have completed verification via an IDVT, but the person who shows up to work may not be the right person. It’s therefore vital to ensure that a check is carried out before the individual starts work to make sure everything matches up.

Look at the whole story, not the individual document

Understanding the context in which documents are presented can also help you and your team to spot when something doesn’t look right. While UK documents are amongst the most popular forgeries, unusual passports from countries employers may be less familiar with can also be used, on the basis that people are less likely to know what to look for in a fake. Understanding why individuals hold certain documents and ensuring they add up with what you know about the individual and their history can help you to understand whether what they’re presenting backs up their story or whether it could be cause for concern.

Similarly, trading stories and experiences with other teams, companies or industry peers can also be helpful. Fake documents often share similar features, so knowing that another company in the area has spotted fakes with a particular problem can help guide you on what to keep an eye open for.

Ensure robust internal processes

While thorough checks are essential, the reality is that a good quality fake document can be almost impossible to spot. It’s therefore vital that your overall processes are robust, so that if the worst does happen, you’re able to prove to the Home Office that you’ve taken as many steps as you reasonably can to prevent illegal workers from joining your business.

Accurate record-keeping is very important – you need to be able to prove that you’ve checked an individual’s documents, and that the responsible person has received the right level of training to do so. Investing in training courses or technology to help you verify documents is not strictly necessary, but is likely to make a good impression if UK Visas and Immigration do have cause to investigate your business.

It's also vital that you maintain high levels of data security around your employees’ personal information – businesses can be a source of stolen documents as well as the potential victims of fraud, so ensuring that copies of documents are held securely and that access is restricted only to those who require it is important too.

 Insights from our attendees

We took the opportunity to get a gauge on how our attendees were feeling about their responsibilities in relation to identity fraud:

Do you think digital identity will make recruitment safer?

  • Yes – 84%
  • No – 0%
  • Don’t know - 15%

In comparison, how safe do you think the face to face/postal route is?

  • Just as safe as digital identity – 5%
  • Reasonably safe – 25%
  • Not very safe – 58%
  • Not safe at all – 10%

As employers, do you feel there is enough information available to identify fraud in the new scheme?

  • Yes – 15%
  • No – 60%
  • Don’t know – 23%

Our attendees were confident that digital identity would help them to make their recruitment safer. However, many have concerns about how to handle face-to-face or postal document checking, particularly since it’s likely that these will become a target for fraud. It’s clear that employers need more support on how to handle this and protect themselves against false or stolen documents.

Questions from our attendees

As usual our attendees had a raft of questions for our presenters. We’ve included the most popular questions and answers below:

If I’m presented with fake documents, where do I report them?

There's an illegal working phone line employers can ring to report individuals to the Home Office. In the case of a new hire it's up to you whether you want to report it or not, and some employers make the decision not to. If you become aware that an existing employee has committed fraud, it’s in your interest to report this to reduce your liability. The Home Office typically reacts favourably in these scenarios.

Unfortunately identity isn't a policing priority so it’s difficult to know what to do with fake documents. If you're in a face to face environment and provided with a false document, it’s safest just to give it back and let person walk off. If you can make a copy of it, do so, and send it to the police in case the same document comes round again, but never put yours or others' safety at risk.

Is there a right time to do a right to work check in the hiring process?

Right to Work should be checked as early as possible – at the latest, their first day before they get into the workplace somebody should be meeting them. Ideally though, checking at interview or offer stage is better.

If somebody is trained vs. not trained, how does that affect employer liability for a good fake document?

The Home Office expects general familiarity and general in-house processes, so if you're getting somebody to check documents for you they should be trained to a decent level. They’re not expecting MI5-level knowledge, but a responsible person should have a basic understanding of what to look for. Additional training is also helpful and looks good. CIFAS, UKIFA, Beruku and many law firms offer good quality training.

What should I do if I recognise that I have an imposter (the person who arrives to work isn’t the person I ID checked)?

If this occurs then first and foremost - do not employ them or you'll put yourself at risk of liability! You may need to call the police, as it's possible this person is using somebody else's identity, perhaps without their knowledge or permission. It's common in these circumstances for the person when confronted to run and never be seen again, however, and in these cases we don't recommend putting your own on anybody else's safety at risk. If you've done the checking process correctly there'll be no repercussions on your company.

How can employers protect themselves?

Make sure you know how to carry out checks correctly, and keep records of the check. There's no harm in sitting around a table if you're part of a trade body to talk about issues within your industry to compare notes and identify trends.

How can I best detect a fraudulent document?

Don't just take it for granted. Think twice and take five minutes to think about what's in front of you. Make sure everything adds up generally as well as taking specific measures to follow the required processes.

Stay up to date

Digital hiring is a fast-moving area, with new developments happening all the time. Reed Screening is hosting regular events where you can keep up to date with the latest news and share your opinion on policy and process changes.  

Below are a few of the upcoming events you can get involved with: 

27th October – Hiring for tomorrow: Screening speed dating series - four bitesize discussions on the latest innovation, trends & topics

24th November – Employee screening in our gig economy - learn about the rise of the non-employees and how to ensure vetting and security isn’t compromised

15th December – A year of change, looking to the future in 2023 - Join us as we summarise key changes in 2022 and look ahead at what is coming for UK employers in 2023.