Page navigation

Qualification fraud in construction

June 2022

Fake certificates are a particular risk to the construction industry, so tackling qualification fraud and ensuring workers have undertaken legitimate training is vital

As the economy ground to a standstill during lockdown, many construction projects remained open making it an attractive proposition for those out of work.

However, working in high-risk environments such as building sites comes with strict training and qualification requirements. Criminals soon jumped on the opportunity to make money out of those looking for employment in construction by offering to provide fake qualification certificates for construction jobs.

Fake certificates have been used to falsely obtain CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) cards. A CSCS card is a requirement for most principal contractors and major house builders. The card provides proof that individuals working on construction sites have the appropriate training and qualifications for the job they do on site.

High stakes

Fake certificates are a particular risk to the construction industry as the stakes are high when letting an unqualified person onto a construction site. According to the Health and Safety Executive, last year there were 61,000 cases of non-fatal work-related injury.1

'It is CSCS's firm belief that to ensure construction sites remain safe, workers must have legitimate training and qualifications before allowed to work on site. If people aren't trained correctly there is a high chance of injury on site. That is why ensuring workers have the appropriate qualifications is so important,' explained Angeleen Hill, scheme manager at CSCS.

'Some employers recruit based on the belief that a qualification certificate is genuine without completing the necessary verification check with the relevant awarding body. This is mainly down to a limited understanding of how to verify a qualification and also trust that the individual has provided a genuine qualification certificate,' Angeleen added.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon practice. A survey by degree verification and fraud service Prospects Hedd found that while 83% of employers believed that some of their hires have lied about their degrees, a fifth did not go as far as to check qualifications with the awarding body.

Some employers reported that they spoke to tutors or used references instead, while others assumed integrity or valued interview performance over qualifications.

Unknown consequences

It may seem small to fake a qualification, inflate a grade or change dates on a CV, but this practice is illegal and can lead to jail sentences. 

'This isn't just about buying fake documents online. Anyone who alters a genuine certificate and presents it as the real deal in a job application is committing fraud. Awareness is an issue as many people don't realise that misrepresenting qualifications is illegal. Fraud by false representation can lead to prosecution resulting in prison sentences of up to ten years,' explained Chris Rea, who heads up the fraud service at Prospects Hedd.

Falsified qualification documentation can be hard to spot as many are based on a genuine awarding body. In fact, the only way to verify their authenticity is to check with the issuing body.

Prospects Hedd provides a central verification service for UK degrees, but this doesn’t solve all of the challenges in construction.

Challenges in construction

There are more than 400 occupations in construction spanning areas such as technology, building design, architecture and engineering. Within these are myriad qualifications and awarding bodies.

Alongside the university degrees and postgraduate qualifications, there are NVQ/SVQs, T-levels and apprenticeships as well as health and safety qualifications such as NEBOSH Construction Certificate and NCRQ. There are also construction-specific professional memberships such as that offered by the Institution of Civil Engineers.

There is no easy way to verify all these qualifications. 'With hundreds of job roles to account for, the skillset is broad and the qualification awarding bodies are fragmented. There's no central way to verify all of the different qualifications. Some have not moved digital, so as you can imagine, it's a lengthy process to check back through paper files manually. Counterfeit certificates and fraudulently amended genuine certificates are a concern,' explained Angeleen.

'This is an issue in construction because of the risks involved. There is a big drive on raising awareness around this issue. We're also collaborating with the authorities and have launched a CSCS Smart Check app to help employers spot cards that have been cancelled due to the identification of fake certificates,' she added.

Qualification fraud is a multi-million pound industry and construction workers are among its victims. Those who have invested in genuine qualifications and training should not be at risk of injury from the fraudsters trying to make a quick buck.


  1. Health and Safety Executive Construction Statistics in Great Britain, 2021

Get insights in your inbox!

Related articles

Loading articles...





This article is tagged with:

Event: {{}}



This event is tagged with:

Loading articles...