Why People Cheat about Their Credentials

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Introduction

Lying about one’s credentials is indeed a violation of societal norms and contradicts principles of integrity. This means that such actions are not justifiable. Instead, it is actually necessary to offer a valid explanation of why the phenomenon occurs. This issue is highly context-specific and actually occurs as a result of certain hidden factors. This is for example in the case of Richard Blumenthal, who claimed that he had served in the Vietnam War. Blumenthal’s case indicates that lying about one’s credentials is an issue of overcoming rigid obstacles that impede individuals from growing in their careers or even accessing job opportunities.

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Most employers require work experience and knowledge of academic background before they can even think about giving someone a job. This makes it impossible for fresh graduates or those who may not have been given a chance by any other employer to get the job even if they were qualified.

This paper is going to address the issue of falsification of one’s credentials, and the author will try to look at some of the issues that make people lie about their credentials. To this end, the circumstances that surround credential falsification will be addressed, and analysis will be made whether these justify the falsification or not. Also, the author will look at the impacts that falsification has on the individual and society at large.

Why People Cheat about their Credentials

The scientific community has not been immune to cases of falsification of credentials. Even doctors and other professionals have engaged in some degree of falsification because of a number of reasons. Top on this list is the rigorous nature of research approval processes in the scientific community. Before a researcher is given a grant, he or she may be required to have a curriculum vitae showing their academic accomplishments and awards. Those whose credentials are not so appealing in terms of their academic prowess may miss out on these grants.

Some of the doctors may have worked so hard to acquire their current academic credentials, and as such, they regard it as unfair to look down upon their current academic qualifications and start asking for more. On the other hand, acquiring an additional award may not always be easy, meaning that the opportunity of the doctor to progress in the scientific field will be limited. Not every researcher will be in a position to get these kinds of support and may actually make grants inaccessible to a majority of them. Therefore, some scientists may opt to work around this problem by padding their CVs so as to meet those stringent conditions.

Eventually, this may lead to the approval of individuals who may have falsified their information. This might have been the case with a Duke University researcher whose area of interest was cancer research. He had been accused of this dishonesty by his peers who found out that he never really got an award as he had purported in his documents. The desire to get the grant, and the realization that he did not possess the required awards, might have encouraged him to lie about this (Furstenberg 13).

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At times, parties may lie about their credentials simply because they feel that they possess all the requirements needed to carry out a certain job except their credentials. Most have a lot of experience in the field and may actually feel entitled to a certain job because of this. They get around this problem by falsifying their credentials.

A case in point was that of two West Virginian miners who had been accused of claiming that they were certified to carry out safety investigations as foremen. This information was obtained by a health and safety inspector in mining. The candidates both pleaded guilty to the charges after affirming that they were indeed guilty of falsification. It is likely that these individuals chose to do this simply because they could get away with it. It is a fact beyond doubt that they were experienced, as their documents indicated. However, despite their qualification, they were not certified as safety investigators. It is likely that the company realized that they were indeed capable of carrying out their duties well and without any challenges (Elkins 10).

This case points out that falsification takes place because the concerned individuals already have the experience or the skills to perform a certain role. What they lack is just the formal approval of their qualification through certification. This explains why it is common to find a number of such individuals engaging in such practices (Elkins 10).

How Societal Mores Contribute to this kind of Dishonesty

It is quite common to get people lying about serious matters in real life. This culture of dishonesty is so intense; it even permeates our legal system. Many individuals have taken the witness stand and lied about lots of things there. This goes on even after the said witnesses take an oath, to tell the truth. The practice has become so entrenched in the minds of the people that the professionals are inclined to do the same.

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Some government representatives who take the stand as witnesses actually lie about their credentials even when they know that this could severely affect the credibility of their assertions and the judgment. The toxicologist James Ferguson affirmed that he had lied about his year of departure from college but quickly shrugged this off as unimportant. He claimed that it was not relevant and that his twenty years of experience actually illustrated this. In fact, it was soon discovered that the toxicologist had lied about his credentials several times before. To him, this was nothing new because he believed that witnesses always did this all the time (Hillar 18).

The technological world is another fertile ground for the falsification processes. This is because there is an underworld of criminal organizations that are dedicated to the creation of false academic credentials. Their work is to boost education CVs by making background checks on institutions and identifying loopholes that can assist individuals to get away with this kind of falsification.

Given the fact that the American culture permits only the best to progress, those who fall outside this bracket feel abandoned. To boost their chances of getting ahead in such a society, many people will engage the services of criminal organizations to acquire falsified documents. In other words, the whole country is obsessed with perfection or being the best. Lying may be deemed as part of the corporate culture because everyone wants to be on top. The all-or-nothing law characterizes the corporate culture. In other words, when one goes to university or college, it is only the best performers who have a chance at getting good jobs. Furthermore, those who keep rising up the ranks at the workplace are the ones who have demonstrated that they are the best. However, since the bar has been set so high already, it becomes very difficult for the average worker to access these opportunities. This need for perfection drives many parties to falsify information just so that they can get ahead; it is a casualty of the culture in our society.

The US, along with many other western states, is characterized by capitalist enterprises. In other words, individualism and the need to do well as a person outweigh communal concerns. To this end, money-making or profit generation is the number one reason behind engagement in economic activities. Sometimes, this obsession to increase profits causes a wide number of people to fall into the trap of falsifying. If lying will increase the number of profits, then businesses will willingly do it irrespective of the morality of their behavior. Such motives can be contrasted to the ones that are prevalent in communities where collective responsibility is heralded and individualism shunned. This is for example in traditional societies. Those regions often pay more attention to the consequences of actions within one’s community. If someone is aware that lying about his credentials may lead to unwarranted consequences in the community then that individual may be prompted to refrain from those actions. However, if someone is only concerned about his or her well-being, then chances are that no single piece of information will be carried forward to other generations.

Consequences of Lying about Credentials

Sometimes, lying about one’s credentials may not just be limited to individuals or job seekers; it may extend to include even business entities. In other words, even business entities sometimes engage in this kind of behavior so as to have many recruits.

A case in point was Centura College that had falsified its credentials with the intention of getting more clients. This was a for-profit learning institution that claimed that it was approved by World Vision International (herein referred to as WVI). As a result of this claim, a certain client called Corey Lewis enrolled in this institution in order to take advantage of this very aspect of WVI approval. Lewis was a retrenched employee who was eligible for WVI financial aid as explained in the Workforce Investment Act (Bennet 3). One month into his course, Lewis realized that the college had not been approved and he, therefore, had no way of paying his tuition fees. The client decided to sue the institution for falsification of their credentials, and if he went through, then the College would be obligated to pay a maximum of three hundred and fifty thousand US dollars in compensatory damages. The company had lied about those credentials in the hope that it would be in a position to attract more business into its premises. However, this had the opposite effect of attracting legal action against it. In the end, the organization could lose much more than it would have gained if it had not engaged in this falsification. Furthermore, their reputation will be tarnished and this is always a bad thing in business, more so in the education sector. This is an indication of the potential negative consequences of falsification in the business world.

When asked whether this company was aware that it had lied about the approval, Centura College claimed that they had changed names and failed to update this information thus making them non-eligible to WVI. Perhaps the college was honest in this claim, and it was more of an oversight rather than deliberate falsification. But if the college had deliberately falsified the credentials, it is not hard to see the immediate negative impacts. Such false representations may have the immediate short term benefit of attracting clients, but they never really last for long because they often lead to long term negative impacts such as legal suits or even a tarnished company name. Furthermore, if such cases become commonplace, then it is likely that American citizens will lose faith in their educational system or any other industry which lies about their respective credentials (Bennet 2).

This is an indication of the fact that the effects of falsification are not limited to the institution or the individual who is lying alone. The effects extend to other parties in the society. For example, the falsification of the credentials of the college mentioned above may lead to negative attitudes of Americans towards all colleges in the country and to the American education system in general.

In the case of the miners discussed earlier, it is likely that the falsification may lead to eventual safety predicaments. Some of the issues that need to be checked by the health inspectorate could actually be crucial to the well being of those concerned, especially the miners. Such miners who have not undergone the safety procedures may put themselves or their workmates in danger and may also cause substantial losses to business experts and those who have invested in the mines (Elkins 10).

In the scientific community, falsification of one’s credentials may lead to severe repercussions than in any other field. In the case of the Duke researcher who had given false information about his history and the fact that he had received an award, it is likely that his career may have been tarnished. There were more than a dozen letters that were sent to the scientific review board concerning this doctor’s conduct with a large number of them questioning this individual’s credibility. Some of them ascertained that because Dr. Potti’s credentials could be questioned then he should not continue researching. These allegations were so severe that they led to the eventual suspension of the researcher. In this regard, his career was jeopardized.

However, this was not the only casualty; perhaps another more serious issue was the effect that his work would have on real patients. Dr. Potti had been carrying out research on breast and lung cancer. His intention was to come up with a prediction model that would assist him in determining the most suitable chemotherapy drugs for patients. However, after a thorough review of his work by his colleagues, most of them realized that his methodology was questionable and that his results were wrong as well. If his predictions were utilized in the real world, they may be hazardous to patients’ health, further proving the negative effects of falsification on external players. Doctors would predict and administer the wrong treatments thus causing fatal results.

To this researcher, padding his CV was nothing more than an attempt to get past the rigorous approval process of the cancer research grants’ bodies. However, he had not thought about the unforeseen consequences of his actions. This unethical behavior was not only detrimental to his career as a reputable doctor and researcher but it was also dangerous to the subjects that he was studying. Instead of contributing towards better health treatments, this individual was actually impeding it by exposing patients to undue harm risks (Furstenberg 13).

Falsification can substantially affect other people’s lives in a negative manner. For example, in the case of the toxicologist who gave false information about his experience, it is likely that the information he gave about the witness was also wrong and she might have been imprisoned on the basis of an opinion that was not credible at all. In an attempt to appear experienced, this individual may have made him appear more experienced and this may have given undue weight to his opinions. He was an officer of the court and a public servant so he was expected to behave ethically in the eyes of the law. In this regard, he suffered the consequences of getting caught by receiving a sentence of thirty years in jail or a fine of one thousand dollars (Hillar 19).

Johnson (43) explains that falsified credentials are very risky to employers because they lead to situations in which people are awarded for things that they never carried out. The proliferation and rise of the so called ‘diploma mills’ or falsification businesses can have severe repercussions within the workplace. This is given the fact that they may reward the wrong people or they may close the door on those who are actually entitled to those opportunities. They harm businesses because some of the employees who are enrolled may have obtained their certificates from none existence colleges or institutions. Alternatively, some may choose a little known institution which rewards students with certification even when the kind of work that they put in was much less than what other approved institutions require from them. Furthermore, since employers may not have the time or the logistics to go through all applicants’ papers, it is likely that a high number of them may go undetected and this will affect the business’s outcomes (Zharkov 23).

It should be noted that all it takes to carry out verification is a background check by the concerned institution through university databases online. However, in certain circumstances, some names may be missing from the approved list so an employee could have genuinely obtained a degree from a university but may miss out on the opportunity because of the misgivings of technology. One way in which employers can overcome this obstacle is by doing a background check on the concerned individuals so that they can prevent recurrence of these problems.

A very serious consequence of falsifying credentials is getting caught and being imprisoned for those actions. People who have taken part in these kinds of arrangements will often find that they are putting themselves in very dangerous positions. Falsification of business records is an offense in law (Parsons 23). Also, grand larceny and false instruments are all possible charges that can be placed against the concerned individuals and they could make him a criminal in the eyes of the law.

Because a person may be receiving pay checks on the basis of the falsified information, then that individual will actually be contributing towards poor service provision. This person could also get charged for such an offense. This was the case with a former psychologist of the court called Feldman. Feldman had purported that he had been a student at Hamilton University. However, it was soon discovered that he had obtained these papers from a diploma mill that exchanged certificates for cash. Additionally, the individual had been working for the department for a period of four years after it was discovered how dangerous this person could be to the entire department. He had been given the responsibility of evaluating defendants or those who were eligible for court petitioning, yet he was not fully aware of what this entails (Annette 7).

Sometimes, falsification of documents may not always appear as it is. In this regard, an individual could be accused of the charge and fired from their positions even when this may not have a firm basis. A case in point was that of a noted whistle blower within the US Army. This individual was a scientist in the institution and had been responsible for bringing out a series of cases against many dishonest individuals in the army. He had been working for the Pentagon in particular and had been responsible for unraveling unethical behavior. It is likely that this may have ruffled the feathers of many influential persons in the army. Before charging this individual, the army had tried letting him off for unacceptable performance, but because it was not possible to do so under US law, he still remained an employee of the US Army.

However, as one goes through the facts of the case, one immediately realizes that there could be ill motives disguised under these intentions. The concerned individuals were exposed through a series of government documents that were classified. He was in a position to ascertain whether conduct within the department was ethical or not. In this regard, he threatened the job of very many individuals. Before this scenario, he had been a noted critic and whistle blower. Consequently, it may be that the accusations of false credentials may not be true. In other words, he may not have lied about his credentials; it may be a false accusation. Therefore, sometimes the charge of falsification may be used as a tool to help unethical employees get rid of whistle blowers in their presence. The lesser charges filed against this same individual testify to the fact that some parties may have had a vendetta against him (Lardner 12).

Conclusion

In essence, falsification of credentials has become more prevalent than ever. This has been perpetuated by the proliferation of technology that allows for the growth of diploma mills. Also, some people do it in order to get around the complex or almost impossible criteria set by authorities. Alternatively, some may do so simply because they feel that they have the right skills or experience and that one tiny requirement does not undermine their capabilities. On the other hand, it can be argued that this goes on because of the individualistic and perfectionist attitude inherent in society (Gurav 3).

Generally speaking, this falsification does lead to unintended consequences such as breaching of law, legal suits, tarnished careers or businesses and possible harm to the public. Even though falsification of credentials does have lots of serious consequences, there is no practical solution to eliminate the phenomena considering the complexity of the situation. We cannot totally control all the factors that lead people to lie about their credentials. The only thing that we can control will be the way we react when it happens. Instead of immediately reacting as if the person who falsified his or her credential is an evil person, we could understand why they had to take the risk. What they did is wrong and cannot be justified, but we all should know that they have their own reason. No one is born a liar.

Works Cited

Annette, Mary. “Former Toxicologist Sentenced For Lying About Credentials”. Daily News, 2010. Print.

Bennet, William. “Student Accuses Centura College of Lying About Credentials”. RSS News, 2010. Print.

Elkins, Wallace. “Two WV Miners Make Plea Deals to Lying About Credentials Charges”. California News.

Furstenberg, Joan. “Duke Researcher Suspended, Accused of Lying about Credentials”. New York Times.

Gurav, Peter. “Saratoga Springs: Man Indicted in False Credentials Case”. Fake Certification, 2010. Online

Hillar, Bill. “Man Charged With Lying About Credentials”. NYDaily News, 2011. Online.

Johnson, Linda. “Falsified Credentials a Risk to Employers”. Business Fraud Focus, 11(3), 2007: 43-44. Online.

Lardner, George. “Army Accuses SDI critic of falsifying credentials.” Washington Post, 1992.

Parsons, Larry. “FBI Arrests MIIS Lecturer Accused of Lying about Credentials”. Herald News, 2011. Print.

Zharkov, Rajiv. “Falsifying Credentials”. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2008. Print.

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