By Karen Axelton

photo shiftyAre you getting ready to hire employees so you can take advantage of the coming recovery? If so, thank Jan Norman at the Orange County Register’s small business blog for alerting us to a scummy new scam: fake job-reference services.

“Fake job reference services are appearing, mostly online, to help the 8.4 million Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession,” Norman writes.

Here’s how it works: Job-seekers sign up with the sites, feed them fake information, and then give out the reference site’s phone number to potential employers. The employer calls the number and gets positive references, verification of employment that never happened and other lies that help employees with spotty job histories appear to be ideal candidates. is one such site Norman mentions, but you can bet there are others. How can you protect yourself? Experts Norman talked to advise these strategies:

  1. Don’t just call a phone number that a job candidate provides as a reference. Go to the company’s Web site and look up the phone number yourself.
  2. Ask detailed questions about the resume; you’re more likely to trip up a fake reference that way.
  3. Put a policy in writing that falsifying any information during the application process is grounds for immediate termination, and have candidates sign it.

It’s sad that companies spring up to take advantage of people in need in time of duress, but it is reality, so take steps to protect your business.