Checking for fake identity: what UK employers need to know

Our employment-screening expert, Mark Sugden, discusses what the Home Office’s new advice on identity checks means for employers

The UK Home Office recently reported that individuals have been using false identity documents to obtain Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) checks, to conceal criminal history.

DBS checks are completed by employers and volunteer organisations in England and Wales, to validate whether a person has a criminal record. Typically, they are used to determine whether someone is able to work in industries with vulnerable people such as care or with children.

When we consider sophisticated editing software and high quality forgeries are widely available, it’s no surprise that employers can find it challenging to differentiate between genuine and false documents.

Most organisations will ‘identity check’ an applicant by manually inspecting original documents such as a passport, driving licence and a bank statement. The documents must be originals and help prove the person’s name, address and date of birth. This information is then used in order to request a criminal record check.

However, due to lack of resources available in some industries, document checking for identity purposes is often undertaken by untrained laypersons who are unlikely to spot a professionally produced counterfeit document.

So, what’s the answer?

The Home Office has announced its support for the use of document validation technology for employment screening purposes such as Right to Work and DBS criminal record checks, in this published guidance.

This is beneficial to the industry because it means not relying on the untrained human eye; technology-based systems can forensically examine a government issued document in seconds and provide an immediate response.

The technology is designed to quickly and easily assist users to establish the authenticity of documents presented, such as UK driving licenses, biometric residence permits and identity cards.

It plays an important role in preventing the use of fraudulent documentation and helps establish the identity of the person being checked.

Document validation technologies can save businesses time because documents can be checked in seconds. It saves money as it reduces the risk of employing illegal migrants or becoming victims of fraud and it reduces human error, providing higher levels of confidence about the identity of prospective applicants.

Fair processing notice

The Home Office’s guidance provides a fair processing notice, which can be used to inform the candidate their details will be shared with law enforcement authorities if the documents are suspected to be fraudulent.

For example if a fraudulent document is detected then it would be shared with the police, Home Office Immigration Enforcement or other organisations where it is lawful to do so.

What should you do when a fraud is suspected?

As an employer, if you spot a fraudulent document and the holder is present, Home Office advice is to firstly ensure you’re not at risk of harm. Return any suspicious documents to the holder - unless it is safe to retain them.

Only law enforcement officers such as the police or an immigration officer have formal legal powers to seize documents they suspect to be fraudulent. Instead, forward a copy of the fraudulent document plus any additional details to the police or Home Office Immigration Enforcement.  

GBG is a founder member of the Association of Document Validation Professionals (ADVP). The association works with The Home Office to create awareness of the issue of fraudulent documents and how organisations can protect themselves from the risks associated with identity fraud.

To find out how GBG can help you authenticate documents as part of the employment screening process, contact or take a look at GBG KnowYourPeople.

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