A former college instructor was recently arrested in Maryland following a fraud investigation of his falsified degrees, military experience and other personal details, according to TBD.com. Bill Hillar had been teaching, leading workshops, giving speeches and conducting training for at least a decade based on his fabricated biography.
Hillar instructed at Middlebury College on drug trafficking, human trafficking and other college summer classes to hundreds of students. An investigation was launched when student veterans who were taking Hillar’s class challenged his credentials as a retired U.S. Army Special Forces colonel and holder of a doctorate, saying he did not exhibit the mannerisms of a high-ranking army officer.
When Middlebury tried to verify his credentials, they found he did not have the Ph.D. he claimed and his military experience was substantially exaggerated. In reality, he’d served for eight years as an enlisted sailor in the Coast Guard, but did not serve in any of the locations or hold the ranks or conduct any of the duties he claimed.
A college official told the FBI she’d hired Hillar based on his resume and website biography and that a background check hadn’t been conducted since Hillar was not a formal employee.
Middlebury’s mistake is a very common one made not only by higher education institutions, but by a wide range of organizations as well – not conducting a background check on contingent workers.
Even organizations that have an extensive background checking program in place often can miss this major security gap and neglect to screen consultants, contractors, partner and vendor employees, and temporary workers. This workforce, however, can represent considerable risks for organizations – as they can serve in highly responsible positions, and have access to personnel, facilities and sensitive data.
It’s a best practice to ensure that the background screening policies cover contingent workers, to avoid both security and business liabilities. By performing a background check including education and employment verification on Hillar, this incident likely would have been prevented.
Organizations should implement the same background screening procedures and requirements for the entire workforce, including contractors, consultants and vendor employees. Background screening requirements should be explicitly laid out in contracts, conducted and enforced through regular audits.
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