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Economic recession leads to higher crime and resume fraud

By Michael Klazema on 12/3/2010

As layoffs continue and jobs remain scarce, the competition for those scant few job openings becomes fierce. For those companies that are still hiring, and even those who are simply retaining employees, this recession leads to an even greater need to screen applicants and rescreen current employees. Well before the economic downturn officially became a recession, experts estimated that 50%-60% of people lied on their résumés and 23%-45% of résumés contained substantially misleading or inaccurate information.

Now, as desperation rises to a fever pitch, résumé fraud may increase, just as it has during times past when jobs were seemingly few and far between.iii

This desperation manifests itself in other ways as well. Richard Rosenfeld, a sociologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, told the NY Times that "every recession since the late '50s has been associated with an increase in crime and, in particular, property crime and robbery, which would be most responsive to changes in economic conditions."iv He continued on to say that there is typically a one-year lag between economic change and crime rate change.

Jack Levin, professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University, explained this phenomenon to the Providence Journal in Providence, RI saying, "More residents are desperate to make ends meet and are willing to go outside the legal system to do it."v

This hypothesis is backed by hard evidence: A survey, conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum from December 2008 into early January 2009, found that 44% of police agencies reported a rise in certain types of crime, which they attributed to the poor economy.vi

All of these factors combined can tell us many things, but one thing in particular is that employers have to be especially diligent right now about who they hire. Checking the criminal history of applicants thoroughly as well as rescreening current employees can help alleviate some of the increased legal risk associated with employing individuals with a history of violence or theft. Along with criminal record checks, employment and education verifications can help you avoid investing time and money in training those who choose to misrepresent their level of education and experience. Depending on your industry, such misrepresentations can be very costly- especially when it comes to executive level employees who make serious business decisions for your organization.

Jobseekers who want to prepare themselves for a job search can run a background check on themselves to see and better understand what kind of information employers are considering when reviewing job applicants. BackgroundChecks.com has developed a dedicated product for this situation called the job application check.

i "Another Worker Pays The Price For Fabricating Resume," Physorg.com
ii "Fraudulent Resumes: Why Embellishing, Omitting and Lying Are Poor Tactics," eRésumés and Résume
Writing Services, www.eresumes.com
iii "Economy Promises to Fuel Résumé Fraud," The Wall Street Journal, online.wsj.com
iv "Keeping Wary Eye on Crime as Economy Sinks," The New York Times, www.nytimes.com
v "As economy founders, crime on rise," The Providence Journal, www.projo.com
vi "U.S. recession fuels crime rise, police chiefs say," Reuters, www.reuters.com


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  • December 04 Chicago Public Schools has dismissed hundreds of employees, coaches, vendors, and volunteers based on background check findings. The district recently vowed to re-check the majority of its 68,000 employees after a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed holes in its background check policies.
  • November 29 Striving to create a safer environment more conducive to productive training and leadership development, the Army has recently moved to adopt a uniform policy of background checks for certain roles. 
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