Have you done any background checks today? How do you know if the company you called is real?
Before there was the proposed Fair Employment Act of 2011, there was The Reference Store.
One of the top reasons your candidate isn’t getting hired these days is because he or she is unemployed.
The government is trying to rectify this, having introduced a Senate bill prohibiting discrimination against unemployed job seekers.
But before that, there was a business created in 2008, called The Reference Store, which creates fake employment references for people being turned away from jobs because they are unemployed, fired or have a criminal background, or perhaps have fallen victim to a bad reference from a former employer.
I didn’t believe it at first.
The only reason I happened to come across it was while I was searching for something in the comments on a past article I’d written. Somehow, I’d overlooked a woman’s comment about this service (or maybe I'd assumed it was spam - that does happen).
It didn’t sound believable, and if it was real, how did they get by without being called out for fraud?
But the writer directed me to an actual website.
Intrigued, I called the 800 number, and spoke to one of their personnel, who told me The Reference Store is, indeed, a legit company (legit in the sense that they exist). Designed to “pull the wool over the eyes” of employment agencies, he told me they really do provide job seekers with a fake company and references, not to mention find housing for people who might have a difficult time if they're house-hunting on the up and up.
No kidding, the company actually says on the front page of its website, “We’re your Virtual H.R. Department. We help our clients by providing alternate work histories; and little white lies.”
They even have a computerized employee screening system to avoid that pesky little employment obstacle called the criminal background check, for “those whose moral compasses have pointed a little off course.”
(Excuse me, I just had to pick myself up off the floor after irony hit me.)
The nice man I talked to at The Reference Store walked me through the falsification process:
- The client, depending on their career industry, completes a data worksheet.
- They are assigned a case manager who evaluates it.
- The case manager develops a best-case scenario.
- The client gets the option to choose the moral high road (in other words, leaving the meeting) or to sell out.
- If they choose the latter, the company creates the fake reference, complete with a website, phone number, physical address, HR manager name, and the scenario that makes them the perfect candidate, etc. within 12 hours to 10 business days.
- The potential employer's HR department gets to speak to an actual person when calling for references.
In March, the store began offering a Targeted service, where the client picks a job with a company they’d most like to work for, and The Reference Store comes up with a fake one very similar to the desired position.
The service is offered worldwide, and soon will have a Spanish-speaking program.
“We see it as serving a greater cause,” the man on the phone said. “The clients figure out ‘what.’ We tell them how.”
He told me that The Reference Store is staffed by former military intelligence professionals “trained in developing smoke and mirrors” scenarios, and some former HR professionals, as well.
I still didn’t get it – how does it bypass employment fraud?
The website says it’s perfectly legal.
“Misinformation isn’t a crime,” it states at the top of its FAQs list.
The man I spoke to said that not one client has yet been discovered, though the website warns, “If the deception is discovered, you could very well be terminated; evicted or suffer embarrassment and humiliation.”
How much does it cost?
For a standard plan, you pay a $99.95 deposit, and $29.95 for each additional month.
Of course, good covert ops take time.
“Quick and easy is how you clean a toilet bowl,” my source told me.
However, he added, two of their plans have a 100% success rate, so they strongly encourage clients to follow their advice. Those who haven’t found jobs typically haven’t followed the advice, he said.
“The decisions are always up to the client,” he added.
The Reference Store has a few standards, though. He told me that under no circumstances will they find people employment in K-12 education, law enforcement or other government agencies, legal or fiduciary organizations, or health care.
“That is just not something that we are comfortable supporting,” he said.
They also refuse to submit false statements to any court, so you’re on your own if you get caught.
The company has a number of people who were willing to share success stories online, some of whom claim it an act of God.
Eric S. from Texas said, “I couldn’t find work with a Prison record. Nobody would hire me. You guys really know how to sugarcoat the past.”
Rosa D. from Arizona called the services “too good to be true.”
Honestly, there’s very little truth involved.