The Rising Threat of Fraud in the Industry

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Over the last few years, the rules surrounding the Construction Skills Certification Scheme card have changed a lot, which means the way fraudsters are working have changed a lot too.

Before 2014, the procedure for obtaining a construction skills card bearing the CSCS logo was relatively straightforward. You could go to the CITB test centre, sit their health, safety and environment test, pass the test and have a card within 48 hours. But as the rules have changed, going as far as chips and ghost marks as well as requiring qualification certificates to be sent into CSCS as part of an application, fraudsters have evolved.

The CITB fraud team have stepped up their search recently as the industry is being targeted more by human traffickers and organised crime rings, due to it being relatively low-risk but high reward. On most of the cases the CITB fraud team are working on, they found that perpetrators using counterfeit skills cards and qualifications often have ties with organised crime groups that are linked to trafficking and modern slavery. One ongoing case has shown that facilitators are making £50,000 – £60,000 a week on this type of activity. There have also been instances where illegally trafficked people found to be in possession of fake cards will admit they didn’t take the test and they sent their photo as part of a package before leaving their country of origin. It really is as organised and calculated as that, and it needs to stop.

It is currently difficult to estimate the number of individuals working with fraudulently obtained skills cards, but the CITB fraud manager, Ian Sidney, believes it is only a small proportion. However, even if it’s just 1 or 2% that’s still too many, that’s hundreds or thousands of people who aren’t trained and are putting themselves and others in danger when working on site.

Clearly, this is not an issue the industry can tackle alone, but there are ways in which we can help. Cards can now be read electronically, something all site managers should be doing. This will alert them to a situation where fraud has been detected and a card cancelled. I understand that a lot of sites still operate with a visual inspection, but that’s where things need to change. We’re all creatures of habit but if it’s going to help with bigger criminal cases, it’s something we need to be doing to protect our industry. The way in which CSCS operates has been radically overhauled in the last seven years and we should be moving with them. The CSCS are now in a position where pretty much all cards are being issued on the basis of a qualification and by 2020, they all will be – so with more effort from industry workers, we should definitely see a change in the next few years.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.