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May 29, 2019
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Why Lyfting the lid on war criminals is Uber important!

Failing to include a quick and low-cost Global Watchlist Check within your pre-employment screening policy can damage your reputation. Just ask Uber, Lyft, or Dulles International Airport in Washington DC!

The incredible story of how a Somali war criminal managed to pass at least three background checks in the US, despite being deported from Canada for "serious human rights abuses", demonstrates the importance of including the right background checks in your employment screening programme. 

In 2016, when CNN sensationally revealed that an alleged Somali war criminal was working as a security guard at the tenth busiest airport in the United States (this video contains content that some viewers may find disturbing), it exposed a gaping hole in the airport’s screening process. Having passed the Airport Authority’s background check, Yusuf Abdi Ali was fired shortly after news broke about the brutalities he was alleged to have committed during his five years as a military commander in Somalia. During this time he was known as “Colonel Tukeh” (meaning “The Crow”) serving under former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre during a vicious civil war. He is accused by many Somali villagers of being responsible for multiple atrocities in the 1980s.

Last week, while standing trial in a civil lawsuit in Virginia, facing charges of torture and having been accused of crimes against humanity, another CNN exposé reported that Ali had been working full-time as a driver for ride-hailing firms for the last 18 months. Undercover filming by CNN revealed Ali proudly announcing how quick and easy it was to get through Uber and Lyft’s background check process in just a day or two.

The trial lasted a week, during which the defendant Farhan Mohamoud Tani Warfaa testified that Ali ordered his soldiers to torture and beat him before Ali shot him five times at point blank range in 1988. Warfaa testified that he only survived because he bribed the gravediggers to ransom him back to his family. The jury issued a split ruling, finding Ali guilty of torture but unable to unanimously conclude that Ali attempted to kill Warfaa extrajudicially.

Ali has been banned permanently from driving for both Uber and Lyft and ordered to pay Warfaa $500,000 in damages but escapes any prison sentence. This case took 15 years to get to court, but the law (Torture Victim Protections Act) only allows for financial compensation for claims involving events which took place outside of the US.

But how could Ali have sailed through so many background checks having lived in North America for the last three decades?

One answer is that many organisations place too much faith in criminal record checks alone, and fail to appreciate that criminal record checks are typically limited to the country of hire and overlook international equivalent checks. Another answer is that many firms fail to include a Global Watchlist Check in their screening policy.

A Global Watchlist Check, such as the one that Verifile offers, uses more than 40,000 data sources worldwide, including sanctions lists, law enforcement lists, financial regulators, Politically Exposed Person (PEP) databases, and global media sources. While admittedly the “hit rate” for such checks returns one of the lowest percentages of all background check types, when there is a result, it tends to be newsworthy, flagging fraudsters, terrorists, drug-smugglers, arms-dealers, as well as Politically Exposed Persons who would otherwise have gone undetected in the screening process, as Lyft, Uber and Dulles International Airport discovered.

It is highly unlikely that a Global Watchlist Check was included in either of the ride-hailing giants’ background check programmes. A review of the current content of both background screening policies indicates that both Uber and Lyft include nothing other than standard Driver Motor vehicle driving licence and criminal record checks. CNN’s original report also stated that Ali was able to pass the background checks at Dulles International Airport because he had faced no criminal charges in the United States.

However, perhaps the biggest take-home from this story is that whether or not any of Yusuf Abdi Ali’s former employers include a Global Watchlist Check as part of their screening programme, it would be more of a surprise if they had included one!

Unfortunately, many organisations worldwide do not consider this simple, low-cost check important enough to include it in their employment screening policy. This check is not even mandatory in most of the UK’s background screening standards for the various regulated industries either (although BS7858 security screening for the security sector at least makes this check a recommendation). 

Verifile’s Global Watchlist Report for Yusuf Abdi Ali reveals his four known aliases (including Colonel Tukeh); his status as a Tier 2 PEP due to his former role as Brigade Commander in the Somali National Army; links to several articles regarding his alleged previous conduct; as well as a recent photograph to assist confirming his identification.
It is important to stress that not all Global Watchlist Checks would necessarily have flagged Yusuf Abdi Ali, as many do not include PEPs, opting to charge extra for this additional dataset. But an effective Global Watchlist Check that includes Politically Exposed Persons is a vital tool in effective risk mitigation for employers. 

Can you afford not to include a Global Watchlist Check in your employment screening programme?

Contact Verifile for further details and discuss how our International Fraud and Sanctions Lists Check can improve your employment screening policies.

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May 21, 2019
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GDPR Enforcement Actions, Fines Pile Up

AggregateIQ has been accused of violating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by using personal data of United Kingdom individuals to target them with political advertising messages on social media.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ordered the company to erase any personal data that is retained on its servers.

Meanwhile, in France, La Commission Nationale de L’Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) found that a mobile ad network illegally obtained the consent of more than 67 million people. The company was ordered to change its consent practice and purge all data collected. In other cases, fines ranging from 4,300€ to 400,000€ are being slapped on companies in violation of the GDPR. It is obvious that European Union regulators are wasting no time taking enforcement action and fining entities for violations.

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Profile Image Verifile
May 21, 2019
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Verifile turns 15!

Today Verifile is 15 years old! Technically this makes us part of generation Z, and our star sign is Taurus!

On our birth date, the US president was George W. Bush (Republican), and the UK Prime Minister was Tony Blair (Labour). Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, was one of the most viewed movies released in 2004.  Britney Spears topped the charts with ‘Toxic.’

In the last 15 years we have changed a lot and so has the business environment we operate in. Social media and the mobile internet are now part of our lives in ways we could not have imagined in 2004 when 3G had just been launched, and clamshell flip phones were all the rage.  Similarly, technology has facilitated the rise of self-employment, and the sharing economy has pushed the modern workforce to become much more flexible. This trend is still on the increase, challenging business models as well as people management. 

Technology plays a more prominent role than ever before, and for us, technology has massively transformed our business and how clients interact with us. It is fair to say that when we started, we had a manual service powered by technology, and today we are a technology business run by people. Keeping the human aspect is very important for us despite taking advantage of what technology allows us to automate and do which a decade ago was not possible.

All these and more have changed the way we do business and the way our clients use background screening in their recruitment process. The adoption of background screening among employers has accelerated considerably. Employers no longer focus on the return on investment, but how quickly can it be done and how the candidate experience can be enhanced.

Our journey started with just our founder, Eyal Ben Cohen, and a desk at Cranfield University Business Incubation Centre (CUBIC).  Now Verifile employs over 118 people who reside in two large buildings at Bedford’s Priory Business Park. 

Verifile was created after Eyal won a couple of awards for his business plan, but since then we were recognised multiple times including our recent wins of the ‘Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade’ and two SME Awards for ‘Best Enterprising Business’ and ‘Bedford Business of the Year.’

Working closely with our clients, you could argue that we’re one of the most over-accredited businesses you’ll come across. While there is no obligation to meet regulatory requirements (as there are currently none in the background screening industry), we have a desire to do the right thing. This is why we have chased certifications and accreditations such as three ISO certifications, NSI Gold, Cyber Essentials Plus, and Investors in People. 

We love our clients, and in fact, our very first client is still with us, receiving the same attention and level of service they had at the start, even though nowadays we serve thousands of clients worldwide.

The last 15 years were incredible, and we cannot wait to see what the next 15 years hold for us and our clients, partners and colleagues!

As we celebrate our birthday, we are focusing on what we can give to others. Our chosen charity of the year is Cancer Research. A number of our colleagues and their family have battled cancer in recent years, and so this cause is very close to our hearts.   If you would like to donate to this wonderful cause, please click on the logo below to donate:


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