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What are the risks of lying about credentials like college degrees?


The Dangers of Resume Fraud and Fake Degrees

We’ve all been tempted to stretch the truth a little on our resumes. Rounding up that GPA to 3.5, maybe adding a few impressive-sounding responsibilities to previous jobs. But outright lying about major credentials like college degrees or professional certifications is very risky business. Let’s talk about why lying about your education and credentials can seriously damage your career and even land you in legal trouble.

First off, getting caught lying about having a degree or certification can totally ruin your reputation. Even if a company doesn’t fire you right away for resume fraud, you’ll lose their trust. Colleagues will see you as dishonest and unethical. Good luck getting promotions or pay raises once your integrity is shot. Plus word spreads fast, so your reputation in your whole industry could take a major hit. Not worth it!

Now let’s talk legal consequences. Lying about credentials on your resume is illegal in many states. For example, in Texas it’s considered a misdemeanor crime punishable by thousands in fines and even jail time[1]. New Jersey also imposes big fines for fake degree claims[5]. And it’s not just criminal penalties – you can also get hit with civil lawsuits if your lies cause damages. Say you fake engineering credentials and sign off on a faulty design that collapses a building. You could be on the hook for millions in civil liability[4]. Yikes!

Common Types of Resume Fraud

What kinds of lies do people actually tell on their resumes? Here are some of the most common types of resume fraud[2]:

  • Claiming a degree you never earned
  • Making up a college or degree program that doesn’t exist
  • Exaggerating your GPA
  • Lying about dates of attendance or graduation
  • Faking professional certifications
  • Embellishing job titles and responsibilities
  • Listing “skills” you don’t really have

As you can see, some lies are more serious than others. But even little white lies can come back to bite you. And with the internet and social media, it’s easier than ever for employers to fact-check your background.

Real-Life Consequences of Resume Fraud

Need some cautionary tales? Here are a few real-life examples of people getting caught for lying about education and credentials:

  • A Yahoo CEO lost his job after it came out he didn’t really have the computer science degree listed on his resume[2].
  • A teenager in Florida went to prison for practicing medicine without a license after faking medical credentials[3].
  • An engineer was fired and faced criminal charges after faking an engineering degree and approving faulty building plans[4].

As you can see, resume lies can completely ruin careers and lead to serious legal consequences. It’s just not worth the risk.

What to Do Instead of Lying

The good news is you don’t have to lie or exaggerate on your resume. Here are some ethical alternatives if you’re worried about gaps or other resume red flags:

  • Explain employment gaps honestly – family responsibilities, health issues, travel, etc. Most employers are understanding.
  • Focus on transferable skills from jobs even if the titles weren’t glamorous.
  • Highlight non-degree training and certifications that are relevant.
  • Tout volunteer work and community leadership roles.
  • Stress soft skills like teamwork, problem-solving, and communication.

The bottom line is you can put your best foot forward on your resume without actually lying. At the end of the day, your skills and experience should speak for themselves. If you feel the need to exaggerate, it may indicate larger issues with your work history that you need to address. Resume fraud will only cover them up temporarily until you get caught.

So do yourself a favor – keep it honest! The short-term gain isn’t worth the long-term consequences. You’ll rest easier knowing your resume is factual and your conscience is clear. And isn’t that worth more than any job you’d get with a phony degree?

At the end of the day, honesty really is the best policy when it comes to your resume and credentials. Your true skills will shine through if you accurately represent your background. Resist the temptation to exaggerate or lie – it’s not worth the risk to your reputation, your career, or even your freedom!

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