Beware - Fraudulent Skills Cards are on the Increase

Beware - Fraudulent Skills Cards are on the Increase

10th December 2018

In October, a 53 year old man who pleaded guilty to an offence under the Fraud Act 2006 was sentenced to nearly four years in prison by Warwick Crown Court.  Andrew Weeks was investigated by Warwickshire County Council trading standards department who discovered that he was fraudulently producing and supplying driving licences, examination certificates and work based qualification cards.  Investigators revealed that his imitation documents included fake CSCS cards across a wide range of specialisms as well as fake certificates that could be used to obtain genuine cards. 

We’ve already warned our readers about fake certification and CSCS cards in the past, but the scale  of this investigation meant that the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB, the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) and the Electrotechnical Certification Scheme had to be brought into the investigation, along with other skills card administrators and qualification awarding bodies! 

Both the CITB and CSCS have warned that the issue of fraudulently produced or obtained skills cards has been on the rise over the past year, with the CITB estimating that some fraudulent facilitators are earning as much as £60,000 per week from their fraudulent practices.  Both of these organisations have been taking measures to make it more difficult for fake cards to be produced, as have another 35 card scheme administrators who use the CSCS logo. 

The Construction Leadership Council launched an initiative titled One Industry Logo, a campaign to thwart fraudulent cards by specifying specific criteria for a card scheme to qualify for a CSCS logo.  This involves:

  • Ensuring that there is an agreed appropriate qualification to which the occupation of the card relates;
  • That the card holder must be at NVQ Level 2 as a minimum requirement;
  • That from 2020 onwards, these cards will feature smart technology.

A recent BBC Newsnight investigation revealed corruption at test centres for CSCS cards, which resulted in the CITB retesting 6,000 card holders.  Since the BBC expose, the continuing convictions we’ve seen for fraudulent card issuers has  clearly demonstrated that the industry continues to experience problems with fake CSCS cards, resulting in unskilled and untrained workers on construction sites across the UK.  These people are not qualified to be onsite and are increasing the health and safety risk to all other site workers by being there.

Despite the stringent measures taken to prevent fraud, the fraudsters are never far behind.  As workers have been moved to the current smartcard scheme which involves chips and ghostmarks, as well as requiring the qualification certificates be sent to CSCS as part of the application process, we are now seeing fraudulently obtained genuine cards!  These are legitimate cards that are obtained through fraudulent means.  This is possible due to the use of fake, high-quality qualification certificates that are difficult to spot by CSCS when issuing cards. 

Data on how effectively sites check skills cards was gained from a survey carried out in 2014 by CSCS and CITB.  Of the 829 construction workers surveyed, only 6% had their cards checked onsite via smart technology, with the rest being checked visually.  Whilst CITB states that it is difficult to give an estimate of how many construction workers are currently working with fraudulently obtained skills cards, it is believed that only a small proportion of the cards in use.