With the slew of fake qualifications that have plagued mainly the public sector over the past year, many school leavers will wonder if it's acceptable to make alterations to their matric certificates to increase their chances of finding a job in the new year.
One of the favourite ploys is to add desirable subjects such as mathematics and science to a matric certificate and at the same time change symbols from an E to an A or a B.
It is easier than many people may think. Police have recently arrested members of syndicates who forged everything from passports and IDs to matric certificates to permanent residence permits for illegal aliens.
Kirsten Halcrow, CEO of EMPS, the oldest background screening company in South Africa, said matric certificates were the most widely forged qualifications documents.
"There is a perception that if senior members of government can lie about their qualifications and in many cases get away with it for years, why not take a chance in the hope that nobody will take the trouble to verify the certificate with a background screening company."
Halcrow said the majority of CVs that are submitted to her company for vetting contain some embellishments ranging from non-existent matric certificates, inflated education, unfinished degrees and even fake degree certificates.
"Lying or embellishing qualifications constitutes fraud which is a criminal offence.
"Two cases that may lead to many more prosecutions is that of former police spokesman, Vincent Mdunge, 49, who was sentenced to five years in jail for fraud and forgery over a fake matric certificate.
In handing down sentence, Durban Regional Court magistrate Thandeka Fikeni said she tried to be as lenient as she could.
But, she said: "There is absolutely nothing respectable about white collar criminals and crime."
The other high profile case that highlighted the prevalence of qualifications fraud was that of Passenger Rail Agency South Africa (Prasa) former Head of Engineering services in the rail division Daniel Mtimkulu who now faces criminal charges for allegedly having lied about his qualifications.
He claimed he held a doctorate degree, among others. It also emerged that he was not registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa.
"These two cases have changed the landscape and I believe we are going to see many more prosecutions in future," Halcrow said.
Halcrow stressed that lying on a CV was not just the proverbial 'little white lie' but actual fraud and it was illegal.
She said while employers had a responsibility to verify all information on a CV, it was incumbent on the job applicant to be honest and forthright on his or her CV.
"Problems lie not only with embellishment but also with omissions. If a job seeker has a criminal record – however petty the crime may be – they are obliged to disclose it. If an employer does a proper background screening, a criminal record check will usually form part of the process and if there is a record, the check will reveal it."
"There is no question that job seekers who have few if any formal qualifications because employers are simply too lazy to do proper background checks are getting jobs for which they are not qualified.
"In addition to putting their companies at risk they are also denying qualified job seekers who have put in the blood, sweat and tears to get the necessary qualifications the opportunity to get the jobs they deserve," Halcrow said.