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2023 marked a turning point in the way in which employers run background checks on people applying to work. 2023 saw a surge in online background checking, increased reliance on technology-driven identity checks and adaptations in response to remote working. Increasingly doing identity checks online was partly in response to the shift to home working after the pandemic, and partly in response to new government laws and technologies for checking the immigration status of foreign nationals wishing to work in the UK. However, identity checking agencies are now warning about the rise of fraudulent documents which all employers and applicants going through the process should be aware of.

Most Common Fake Documents

The most common fake document presented in connection with Right to Work and other identity checks is a passport, which made up 45% of cases of fake document detection in 2023. A passport is the key document which anyone needs to prove both identity and nationality. Spotting a fakes British passport when you have many genuine originals for comparison is more straightforward. Trying to spot a forged foreign passport is far trickier and may involve more detailed checking for anyone applying for a job.

Where Do the Fakes Come From?

Although there are still many faked international documents in circulation, 68% of all faked documents detected in 2023 were British or Irish. This fact underlines to employers that they should be conducting just as many checks on familiar documents as they do with unfamiliar passports. Both the British and Irish government have put lots of information online about the common security features to look for.


Imposter fraud is slightly different in that the documents presented are genuine – they just don’t belong to the person who is presenting them. A similar issue is found with genuine share codes proving the Right to Work being shared with people they do not refer to, usually for financial gain.

Industry Sectors

The industry most affected by identity fraud and document fraud is hospitality, with restaurant chains accounting for 20% of all detected fraud in 2023. Perhaps more worryingly, a growing industry sector targeted by identity fraud was healthcare, with 9% of all fraudulent activity. The main message is that every industry sector can be affected by document fraud, so it is the duty of every employer to check, and something that every job applicant should be aware of. If you think your employer is running more checks than they ever did previously, that’s probably true. But it’s nothing to take personally.

Bear In Mind

Employers across all industries in the UK, irrespective of size, can safeguard against identity fraud by knowing what the risks are, and taking steps to recognise fraudulent documents when they come across them. Fraudsters are clever and always coming up with something new to stay one step ahead of the detection techniques. What this means for job applicants is more rigorous checking before starting work, and perhaps more in-depth background checking, even for entry-level positions.