Identity theft comes to ad town

Kieran BrazilIn this guest post, recruiter Kieran Brazil reveals how he found himself interviewing not only an imposter, but someone who had lifted a decade of CV experience from a senior industry figure.

I’ve been recruiting in the industry for over 10 years now, and thought I had come across most scenarios from both candidates and clients, but this week was a first – and I’m still scratching my head over how he thought he could get away with it.   

It started simply enough, with a response to an ad we had placed on Mumbrella and other places for a senior strategic plannner for a creative agency. Big job, great money, fantastic challenge for an industry figure. There’s not a whole lot of these people looking at any one time, so I was more than pleasantly surprised to read an emailed application, with a very suitable looking CV. It mentioned well over ten years at multinational agency giants, plus a current tenure as a senior marketing bod at a very well known telco.

I saw that he was applying from Sydney , and the role was in Melbourne. I emailed asking him if he was aware of the location. When he responded in the positive I immediately made an arrangement to meet on the Monday following.

So, with great anticipation, I went out to reception to meet this chap, and ushered him into our boardroom.

Virtually from the first few questions / statements, my suspicions were aroused. He was nervous looking, toey, and I asked him if he needed to be somewhere else, as he was certainly giving off that impression. I tried asking him general questions, then specific, and he just wasn’t coming up with anything.

He seemed as much of a senior planner as the pot plant in the corner. I really didn’t know what to think – I asked him to go over his previous roles, he just skated over the details. I asked him if he knew his multinational Melbourne counterpart at the time (who I know) – he said he didn’t.

Confused to say the very least, I brought the interview to a halt after about ten minutes, promising I’d get back to him to set up an interview with our client.

I spoke to the client, who had also worked for the same multinational named – he had never heard of him. He mentioned the person who had fulfilled the role described, who I was aware of but didn’t actually know, so I did a LinkedIn search.

Nothing at all for my person, but a very familiar seven or eight paragraphs of experience from the actual incumbent. My “candidate” had lifted two jobs, over ten years, and multiple success stories directly – in a total cut and paste job!

I was gobsmacked at the audacity of this person. I phoned up the real possessor of the experience, who was also suitably shocked. (She has asked to remain anonymous out of respect to her current employers.)

We pondered what to do – tell the police? Conduct a physical sting? I was still pondering these questions when the “candidate” started chasing me up, by phone and email, asking when his interview was going to be.

So I spoke to him, very gently said that I was a tad confused, as his previous MD had indicated he had never heard of him – he blustered through saying there were several MDs throughout his time (not true). I then went the full monty and told him I had been speaking with the person who actually had held that position, and got a very prompt hang up.

I’m still amazed at his front as I write this – he seriously thought he may have got away with it. What did he think would happen?

All of us have decided not to pursue this. There’s been no criminal offence committed – yet. I’m just glad I didn’t embarrass myself by not working him out, and introducing him to our clients in an excited fashion.

By the way, the role is still going – and it’s a great opportunity – for someone. Preferably someone who has his or her own CV and experience of course.


  1. Anon
    25 Jun 12
    3:52 pm

  2. Maybe he’s writing a blog post about how he nearly fooled a recruiter?

  3. Lants
    25 Jun 12
    3:56 pm

  4. That is very cheeky. Especially calling up to arrange a second interview. Did you find out his real name?

  5. Advertiser
    25 Jun 12
    4:03 pm

  6. You should have set up a sting, interviewed him, offered him the job on the spot and see what happened.

  7. Martin
    25 Jun 12
    4:25 pm

  8. That’d be fraudulent use of a document and identity theft. People successful in that kind of scam who get the job and then get found out tend to do time.

  9. Kieran
    25 Jun 12
    4:31 pm

  10. I’ve got a name, email address and phone number – how much of it is real is extremely debatable!

  11. Mitchell
    25 Jun 12
    4:39 pm

  12. That happens quite a lot in the industry, more so in the Design/Art circles when viewing portfolios; lost count of the number of people who say that they have designed, creatively led the project when I know for a fact, it’s someone else’s work, sometimes even by a different agency!!

  13. jean cave
    25 Jun 12
    7:30 pm

  14. Just think how many really excellent potential employees may have slipped through the net because they are humble and unwilling to pimp their CV’s on principle? . . .

  15. Vas
    25 Jun 12
    7:39 pm

  16. People like this never get found out. It’s been going on for ages, and it will continue to go on for ages. Most hirers wouldn’t have the wherewithal to check.

    The funnier thing is – a lot of these people get jobs and KEEP THEM, ha!

  17. Ex-Candidate
    26 Jun 12
    8:34 am

  18. Jean Cave – hear hear!!

  19. Kieran
    26 Jun 12
    9:25 am

  20. Jean Cave, fair play to you, hopefully a good recruiter can see past ANY CV to identify whether the person has got talent or not. I often go out on a limb for candidates with clients if I think their CV doesn’t do them justice

    Also Mitchell, this is a somewhat more baldfaced example than the ones you’re mentioning – exaggerating of a part in the process of creating work is just about par for the course – once again you probably need experience to see past it….

  21. The Grim Reaper
    26 Jun 12
    9:34 am

  22. why did you promise the faux candidate an interview with the client?

  23. AR
    26 Jun 12
    11:13 am

  24. Isn’t it pretty standard to Google stalk a candidate before offering an interview, and call referees and ask industry associates for confidential feedback before offering a job? If you don’t do due diligence then you almost deserve to be pranked.

  25. Tbag
    26 Jun 12
    11:59 am

  26. AR, how do I like your comment

  27. Simon
    26 Jun 12
    1:28 pm

  28. I discovered another Simon Dell on Facebook the other day using my profile picture from LinkedIn but apparently ‘working’ for Facebook in the US. He’d added 200+ friends, status updates, the works. It’s a little disturbing when you find someone doing that to you, let alone going out for interviews etc.

    Simon Dell

  29. @Glebe2037
    26 Jun 12
    1:56 pm

  30. 4Chan

  31. MT
    26 Jun 12
    2:06 pm

  32. We missed your comments on #qanda last night @Glebe2037

  33. bob
    26 Jun 12
    2:17 pm

  34. its makes sense to blatantly steal an identity to claim a prize or a lotto win. but in this case he actually has to hold down the job, where in actual fact he would no doubt end up being shamefully booted out after a few weeks, with a polite press release about creative differences

  35. CheekyChappie
    26 Jun 12
    2:55 pm

  36. That’s nothing Kieran. I met Recruiters who masquerade as ……… er Recruiters!!!!! It’s shocking!

  37. Anonymous
    26 Jun 12
    3:19 pm

  38. CheekyChappie – right on! I have been working in media for 20 years, am currently looking, and have very little time (or respect) for recruiters. Many of them don’t even know what I really do, even after they tell me how great my resume is.

  39. Portugal
    26 Jun 12
    3:33 pm

  40. Come on Tim there’s enough justified banter about the quality needing to lift on Mumbrella, let’s not have self-plugging recruiters dribbling all over the blogroll with fictitious poppycock to advance their own networking efforts.

  41. mediamogul
    26 Jun 12
    3:52 pm

  42. I once interviewed someone who claimed to have had the previous job that I had at the same time that I actually had it. I confronted them in the interview and they tripped over themselves running out. Was funny but sad at the same time. This was back in 1993, before Linkedin made it easier on imposters. People have been lying about their cv’s for a long time.

  43. Jenna
    26 Jun 12
    4:17 pm

  44. I found a person on my company LinkedIn claiming to be an employee of my company. I’d never heard of him and he was somewhere in Canada (I’m in Sydney and am the only employee).

    I contacted him and asked that he remove himself. He didn’t respond (as I expected) so I asked LinkedIn to intervene and they successfully did.

    It bothers me someone would do this and potentially damage my brand and reputation.

    I encourage HR’s and MD’s to check on LinkedIn from time-to-time that people aren’t claiming to be current or past employees when they are clearly not.

  45. Kieran
    26 Jun 12
    4:42 pm

  46. cheekychappie – boom tish! I’ve met a few too!

  47. pesky recruiter
    26 Jun 12
    5:02 pm

  48. Senior marketing candidate cut and pasted job description responsibilities from my ad to her own resume as her current job and then denied it, had a meltdown and blamed me when she wasn’t forwarded to my client. Blatent plagiarism.

    My partner just caught an ex employee using his name as the author of several articles in the financial press he’d never written (he’d left the business and industry two years earlier) – we think they were written by the owner who is faily high profile and didn’t want his name attached as the views were fairly contentious. Watch out people.

  49. Paul
    26 Jun 12
    5:52 pm

  50. It almost matches the many recruiters who advertise non-existant jobs just to build up their contact portfolio ! I’ve been scammed in THAT way several times!

  51. Anne Miles
    26 Jun 12
    9:26 pm

  52. Anyone heard of ‘(edited by Mumbrella for legal reasons)’?

    This is how I saw it at the time: Someone, with the same name as a legend creative, was apparently inadvertently hired by an agency that shall remain nameless. The impostor was supposedly a type setter from NZ who changed his name to be ‘(edited)’ and was mistakenly hired as the CD of this agency. He went through the creative department and fired half of it in his first few weeks. He had a pink fit with a full point being too far to the right once and insisted on a reprint (tens of thousands of dollars later). He also nearly pulled a filing cabinet over in a rage when he thought the TV supers were out of title safe. He was much like Peter Sellers in ‘Being There’ only with anger issues – he was treated like a legend but never really said anything or produced anything of worth. Woo…. that was an interesting time. Funny enough his showreel that was apparently lost in the mail never arrived… he quietly disappeared with a massive payout.

  53. Lants
    27 Jun 12
    12:11 am

  54. Tough crowd.

  55. Craig
    27 Jun 12
    6:42 am

  56. This is called fraud and is illegal.

    I recommend contacting the police (and you as well Simon Dell).

    It starts with using details from someone’s resume. When they get away with it it escalates into identity theft.

    I have seen this regularly in the public sector as well, where individuals falsely claim credit for projects that they only had peripheral, or no, involvement in.

    In this case it is a breach of the code of conduct and they can be sacked and banned from further roles within the public service.

    Unfortunately some of them get away with it successfully, leading to lots of other pain.

  57. Ok then
    27 Jun 12
    7:17 am

  58. Would like to see an article from all the creatives and suits that have had to put up with the lies and harassment from recruiters.

    And not to mention the constant squeezing for info and not to mention the pathological behaviour if you don’t do what they want you to do.

  59. Esther Clerehan
    27 Jun 12
    7:56 am

  60. I’ve had countless minor and major versions of this sort of thing.

    From passing work off in a folio, to faking a cv.

    I try not to embarrass them, but I do confront candidates directly when I find anomalies and strongly advise them to correct them.

    There is a fine line sometimes between audacity and fraud.

  61. T2
    27 Jun 12
    9:42 am

  62. @pesky

    High profile owners usually DON’T write their own op-eds. They’re too busy. What makes you so sure that claim by the candidate was false?

    In fact, here we have a good example of real story, which is that only the less able scammers get caught. The very good ones get away with it, and become “high profile owners” who claim credit for the work of their anonymous staffers.

  63. I.Rony
    27 Jun 12
    12:39 pm

  64. Kieran, You are setting a bad standard for your industry. How dare you act in a professional ethical manor. You set the bar too high. In my experience most recruiters/companies provide an underwhelming service and we should be proud of this.

    I mean they go to extreme length’s to write bland recruitment advertisements for roles that sometimes don’t exist. Then never bother to acknowledge your application and in the unlikely event they contact you, don’t have the foggiest idea of what they are looking for or what questions to ask.

    I request that you immediately cease big noting your professionalism, tuck your head in and do your very best to promote the high levels of mediocrity we’ve all come to expect from the recruitment industry.

    Here’s a suggestion; Its high time we came up with an award that recognizes mediocrity. Perhaps the EXCRETA Awards for the recruitment industry.

  65. CheekyChappie
    27 Jun 12
    3:05 pm

  66. Thanks Kieran.

    I.Rony may have point though. I particularily enjoyed an “interview” I had a few months back. Responding to “Digital Brand Strategist” role I attended the offices of a “Leading Digital Recruitment” agency. The interview got offf to a great start with the “recruiter” how I would use Val Morgan to provide strategic insights. Perplexed I asked why she thought I’d be uasing a Cinema Advertising Media Production Company for Insights.!!!!

    Finally I asked in clarification if she was referring to Roy Morgan. Oh yes silly me she said.!!!When I responded I wouldn’t use as RM to define brand insights as it is a target audience media consumption habits survey I’d use Qual research she was thrown completley. Oh how we laughed as she sort clarification of what “Qual was!!! What bout Google Analytics then she retorted!!! I answered in the wearied negative.

    At that stage it was all over I was politely shown the door as “not quite right for the role!!! . I think she must have though I was a troublemaker.I wont name names but if get rhymes it was revolting!

    PS That Planner job stilll going!!

  67. EL
    27 Jun 12
    3:38 pm

  68. I agree 100% with AR. I ALWAYS Google-stalk the company and the individual employees I’m about to have my interview with. It’s part of preparing for the interview and it should work both ways. Sorry Kieran, problem could have been avoided if you did your homework.

  69. CheekyChappie
    27 Jun 12
    4:00 pm

  70. What happeened to my response to Kieran an I.Rony. It was up then down? Blatant censorship! It was true AND funny!!!!!

  71. I.Rony
    27 Jun 12
    5:32 pm

  72. Nice one @pesky 😉
    CheekyChappie is it worth identifying the “best of the worst-the cream of the crap?”. I mean they are the UN-sung heroes after all

  73. Inter Blue
    28 Jun 12
    10:18 am

  74. Whilst there are very poor recruiters out there, there are also awesome ones too.

    Part of the responsibility when using a recruiter is to manage the recruiter! Have a meeting with them and tell them exactly who you want for a certain role and also make it absolutely clear that if they send you somebody who is simply not suitable, you will never use their services again.

    Larger recruiters (I find) tend to be poor and play a numbers game. The more boutique agencies, for me, do seem to be the go. They tend to truly dig hard to understand my business needs and are sincere, honest and upfront.

    “I haven’t got anyone suitable for you at the moment” is better than 3 crap cv’s!!!

    As for identity fraud – h’mmm?

  75. CheekyChappie
    28 Jun 12
    12:16 pm

  76. I must apologize for my poor grammar and spelling in my last post but I think you can get the drift! Unfortunately I am blessed with large thumbs that the iPhone keyboard mercilessly convolutes in to rambling prose complete with errors!

    Nevertheless I think I.Rony has an additional point that the montage of mediocrity of the recruitment should be celebrated their dynamism and vibrancy enriches us all with a diversity of utter rubbish. A veritable plethora of self preening procrastination platitudes and pond scum. Let us all celebrate it!!!!

  77. CheekyChappie
    28 Jun 12
    12:18 pm

  78. PS My inability to manage my iPhone keypad is clearly enough to discount me as a “Digital Brand Strategist”. I sees that now!! Sigh!!!!!

  79. Anonymous
    28 Jun 12
    3:07 pm

  80. T2 – she had cut and pasted from the ad directly so it was word for word – she had changed the font to match the rest of her resume so I’ll give her that much. She didn’t have what she claimed to have because I know what I’m doing, I know how to interview and I know how check facts. I also help candidates write or re-write their resumes when they’re too busy. She wasn;

    I understand when a candidate are busy and often help them re write their resumes or bio’s (with permission) but this was blatent. I agree with other posters that most copy on job ads could be classed as mediocre, poor, not very exciting but we are recruiters, not copywriters. I also agree that generally the bigger the agency the worse will get spammed with irrelevant resumes, poor service and often very little understanding of the job you are trying to relay to them and fill. Talk to smaller agencies or independents that are owned and run by ex industry and even better get referrals for good ones. They are out there.

    It’s interesting that recruiters are fast becoming universally almost as detested as people who work…in advertising.. Can’t wait to go back to psych nursing although it’s been very useful experience for this.

  81. pesky
    28 Jun 12
    4:30 pm

  82. I really must have delusions of adequacy to have stayed in this business for so long. Recruiters are becoming as universally detested as people who decide to work in detention centres, tobacco, gaming and..and advertising. Isn’t what you do trying to help sell (often questionable) stuff that you don’t really like and woudn’t normally buy buy but have found it within you the ability to put aside your own judgements to help your client reach their goals?

    T2 she cut and pasted the copy directly from the ad I’d written (which admitedly was shokingly boring – anyways, we can’t all be wordsmiths). She did change the font to match the rest of the document Inter Blue is right. Use the smaller agencies or independents with owners or consultants that have a background in the industry, are trained. competant and ethical.

  83. Media Exec
    5 Jul 12
    11:24 am

  84. Kieran, I think this individual should have been named and shamed. He was stealing some else’s skills, credentials, name and accomplishments to win something he didnt deserve. In any other circle this would be illegal and I think we need to make our industry more accountable by holding these people to task.

    I’ve had more than one manager or colleague blatantly take credit for work that wasnt theirs, and its important the industry communicate that this type of behaviour isnt acceptable or legal.

  85. Anne Miles
    5 Jul 12
    12:10 pm

  86. @Media Exec, you’ve just reminded me – once I knew of a writer that came to an interview with a CD and stupidly had the CD’s own work on the showreel!

    I’m not sure what is more stupid – this writer, or the CD who eventually hired him after the writer convinced the CD that the work was on there ‘to show the type of work he wanted to be doing’. Quick thinking paid off in this case.

  87. Wild Oscar
    12 Jul 12
    4:10 pm

  88. I might imitate one of the above commentators. Could be fun.

  89. Anne Miles
    12 Jul 12
    4:10 pm

  90. Here goes

  91. Wild Oscar
    12 Jul 12
    4:11 pm

  92. I might imitate one of the above commentators. It could be fun.

  93. Wild Oscar
    12 Jul 12
    4:12 pm

  94. There we go

  95. Anne Miles (The real one)
    12 Jul 12
    8:35 pm

  96. Very funny, fake @Anne Miles!

    Smart thinking.. although creepy.