Last week The Stoel Rives World of Employment posted about fake job reference site Alibi HQ and provided some pointers for employers on how to verify the legitimacy of job references provided by job applicants. Given that the site has numerous broken internal links, we speculated that it may be a joke. It’s not. Picking up on our blog post, ABC News investigated Alibi HQ and competitor CareerExcuse.com (a site that also purports to provide fake job references) to determine whether the services provided are real, and sought comment from us regarding the legality of lying on employment applications.
CareerExcuse.com’s founder, William Schmidt, confirmed for ABC News that his service is real, and that it has "helped at least 20 people find work" by providing false job references. Alibi HQ boasted that business has quadrupled in the current recession, but was somewhat more circumspect about the details of the company (they also provide fake landlord references and fake doctor’s notes), refusing to identify the company’s location because to do so "poses a security risk." Both companies appear aware that their services tread on shaky legal ground. Each purports to take steps to avoid liability such as not providing references to government job applicants. That’s wise because lying to the government runs afoul of federal criminal law, and can carry with it up to 5 years in prison.
But what about lying to private employers? Are the lies promulgated by these companies somehow protected because the target of the lie is a private, rather than a public, entity? As I stated in the ABC News article, I think not. If a company relies on the misrepresentation of an applicant and is later damaged by that misrepresentation, it very well may constitute actionable fraud.
The companies acknowledge that their services are based on "fibbing" and that they have some "moral issues." They argue, however, that the means are justified by the end–finding someone a new job. Some commentators take the same position, arguing that these services level the playing field between the jobless and the "evil" employers. It’s not that simple. Putting aside the obvious moral and ethical issues related to lying, there is a social and economic cost. These services don’t just put someone in a new job; they falsely puff up an applicant’s experience to help get her get a job for which she is not qualified. That’s bad for the applicant who is ultimately found to be unqualified for the job, and costly for the duped employer. Far from leveling the playing field, it creates an unfair advantage over the honest applicants with actual experience who get passed over for a position because of someone who lied.
Our advice to employees: These are tough times and we know that finding a job is hard. Still, maintain your integrity and steer clear of services like these and overt resume puffery. Hang in there!
Our advice to employers: As noted in our prior post, when considering an applicant, take the time to diligently review prior job references and history to verify that the applicant has the experience he or she has advertised.