- 1 Why are CSCS cards so desirable?
- 2 What risks are linked to purchasing a fake card?
- 3 How do I identify a fake CSCS card?
- 4 What do I do if I identify a fake CSCS card?
- 5 What happens if I get caught owning or circulating fake CSCS cards?
- 6 In Summary
There is a range of available CSCS cards, which represent individuals with varying experience and capability. CSCS cards validate a worker’s credentials, as in most cases a set of qualifications are required in order to possess a particular card.
It isn’t a legal requirement to own a CSCS card in order to gain access to construction environments. However, most employers make it a mandatory stipulation to possess the relevant CSCS card for your role. For on-site supervisors and managers, they’ll often need to acquire the higher graded black or gold card(s). Those in technical occupations will most likely be in possession of a blue skilled workers’ card. Labourers connected to the construction industry tend to use the green card to identify their job role. Those in training, whether in an apprenticeship capacity or otherwise, will carry one of the five red CSCS cards available.
Why are CSCS cards so desirable?
Given that membership to a CSCS programme is an industry-recognised measure of skill, competence, and health & safety awareness, CSCS cards are in high demand. If you’ve already managed to acquire a card, particularly one which is above the red card grading, you’ll know that a substantial amount of hard work has gone into this endeavour. Indeed, virtually every card’s criterion states that applicants must have a construction-related NVQ qualification. Earning this type of certification involves time, effort and money. Unfortunately, as is the case with any difficult item to acquire, a black market subsequently materialises. This has sought to undermine the integrity of the CSCS card programme.
Forged cards – an unsavoury business
Criminals, understanding the desire for cards, have produced forgeries in a bid to deceive employers and clients alike. It may be tempting to buy a card from a forger, potentially saving considerable work and financial resources. However, the consequences of purchasing a fraudulent card may be catastrophic.
Here, we describe the risks of using fake CSCS cards, how to accurately identify one, and what to do should you come across one. Hopefully, by the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll be fully aware of the hallmarks of a fraudulent card. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, we also hope you’re convinced that pursuing a fake CSCS card is an entirely pointless, dishonest, and dangerous enterprise.
Construction sites facilitate some of the most dangerous workplace conditions of any occupation. Workers undertake rigorous health and safety compliance training, and are upskilled on the various technical aspects of their role. Their work can often involve operating heavy machinery, and handling biohazardous chemicals. Indeed, most construction site operatives are never too far away from a substantial threat.
The CSCS programme validates a workers’ credentials to work in such environments. A person’s training qualifications demonstrate their capability to operate any equipment or tools relating to their job. Furthermore, the compulsory CITB test attached to any CSCS card application demonstrates an appropriate level of health & safety awareness.
Therefore, if you were to acquire a CSCS card through fraudulent means, you could in effect skip all of the card’s mandated training requirements. Therefore, you could be ultimately jeopardising the welfare of yourself, your colleagues, and your clients. Indeed, failure to complete the aforementioned learning to the expected standard will serve to increase the level of risk on-site and could lead to grave consequences. Without exaggeration, this set of circumstances could result in the serious injury, or even death, of an individual in your workplace.
If you’re a member of the site leadership team, and are complicit in the distribution and acceptance of fake CSCS cards, your company will also be liable to pay insurance costs in the event of an unfortunate incident. This includes occasions where company property is damaged, or the wellbeing of a worker has been compromised.
Don’t endanger the life of yourself or others
In summary, using a fake CSCS card is a highly irresponsible and selfish act, and can put innocent lives at risk. If you’re not prepared to put in the hard yards to acquire a CSCS card, then it would be far preferable to explore an alternate career path, then acquire a card through deceitful means. Apart from endangering those around you, the manufacturing of fake CSCS cards also serves to compromise the reputation of the construction industry. Given the nature of work being carried out on building sites, it’s crucial that members of the public feel that they can trust construction workers to conduct tasks in a safe and compliant manner. The presence of fake cards contradicts this objective.
Irrespective of circumstance, you should never support the production, circulation, or approval of fraudulent CSCS cards. Engaging in this behaviour is a serious criminal offence, punishable under the Fraud Act of 2006.
How do I identify a fake CSCS card?
There are a number of tell-tale signs that a CSCS card is fraudulent. However, some of these are more obvious than others.
In order to spot inconsistencies, it’s useful to be familiar with subtle changes made to the appearance of cards over the last few years. Since late 2019, CSCS cards have undergone three relatively modest transformations. If you were to observe a card produced in November 2019, compared to one of which created in July 2020, you would be able to identify several noticeable changes. These amendments apply to all CSCS cards, regardless of colour, grading, or validation period. Please read and digest the following key differences between card versions:
- Previously, the card holder’s name was represented by their prefix, first initial, and surname. Now, a person’s full name is printed onto their card.
- Prior to 2020, a holofoil with the words ‘H&S Tested’ were visible on the front of the card. This was to confirm their successful completion of the CITB Health, Safety and Environment Test. Although it’s still a compulsory requirement to successfully pass this assessment, this holofoil marker is no longer present on cards.
- The card’s integrated smart chip, deployed in order to efficiently identify the owner of the card, is no longer visible. Previously, this clear, gold chip was positioned fairly centrally on the pass, giving it the appearance of a traditional bank card. As this technology is now integrated directly into the card, this chip has been removed. It has been replaced by a contactless symbol, which sits directly next to the candidate photograph.
Using expiry dates wisely
All cards, with the exemption of the five associated with the red CSCS programme, have a five-year validation period. Therefore, by working backwards five years from the expiry date written on the front of the card, you’ll be able to identify the month and year of production. Clearly, if any of the card’s features are at odds with the approved format at the time of printing, it’s highly likely that the card is a fake.
There are also other methods to help you reveal invalid CSCS cards. Although several may seem relatively straightforward, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the most obvious indicators. Therefore, please review all of the considerations referenced below.
It’s quite common that piers, friends, and relatives to use each other’s identification to gain access to a particular building or event. This rule also applies in the deployment of CSCS cards. If you’re in doubt about the validity of a particular card, it may be worth cross-checking their name against an official identification document. To do this, you may need to request access to see their passport, driving licence, or other approved source.
Please note that using someone else’s ID for the purposes of deception is also a criminal offence under the Fraud Act of 2006.
As previously referenced, all CSCS cards (except some red card variants) expire after a duration of five years. Clearly, if the present year is more than five years earlier than the one expressed on the card, you’ve probably unearthed a fake. For the validation period of the five, individual red CSCS cards, please visit the ‘Types of cards’ page on the official CSCS website, and click on the appropriate links.
All cards should convey a registration number, which is given to every cardholder upon approval to the scheme. You’ll be able to check the validity of this number by entering it into the CITB’s online card checker. The CITB, or Construction Industry Training Board, is the parent organisation of CSCS, and holds all card owner details on a central database.
If the individual’s registration number generates a match between the profile information on the system and that inscribed on the card, you’ll know that the person is in legitimate possession of the card. For reference, the online card checker is sometimes referred to as the ‘Construction Training Register’.
Smart Card Microchip
Although, as alluded to earlier, no longer visible, a smart card microchip is integrated into every CSCS card. You can use an NFC reader to check that this chip is live, and accurately reflects the credentials of the cardholder.
Apart from obviously checking that the photograph on the card is reflective of the person presenting the card, images should also follow a standardized format. The card photo should be passport-sized, with the candidate pictured in front of a plain background.
All cards should also have the CSCS hologram, positioned in the top left-hand corner of the card. The hologram is a visual indicator that the card has been endorsed by the CSCS organization. It is something also found on CPCS and NPORS cards, which are subsidiary schemes used by plant operatives.
Although the hologram is renowned for being difficult to replicate, this does not detract some forgers from trying their luck. Therefore, it’s always worth double-checking the presence and appearance of this marker.
What do I do if I identify a fake CSCS card?
Whenever you come across a fake card, it’s vitally important that you report the issue to the correct authorities. If you fail to do this, you’re ultimately indirectly supporting those associated with the use and distribution of fraudulent cards.
If you do identify a fake card, we would encourage you to follow this simple procedure. This will help you deal with the immediate discovery of the card professionally and appropriately. It will also guide you in subsequently reporting the incident to the relevant authorities.
- Keep hold of the card. Politely explain to the current holder that their card is suspected to be fraudulent and that in this scenario you’re obliged to retain the card.
- Make a copy of the front and back of the card.
- Make a note of the cardholder’s full name and address details.
- Politely ask how the cardholder came to acquire the card.
- Your company policy may be to deny access to any individual not in possession of a valid CSCS card. If this is the case, then inform a manager, and do not let the cardholder enter the site.
- Report the incident to your local police force, sharing as much information as possible about the card, the current holder, and any other relevant details.
- Send hard or digital copies of the evidence you’ve collated to the CSCS.
If sending via post, forward the documents to:
The Operations Team,
85 Tottenham Court Road,
Please make a note on the envelope stating, ‘Suspected Fraudulent Card’
To send via e-mail, please send your evidence documents to firstname.lastname@example.org
However, please remember that your personal comfort and safety are of paramount importance, and this should not be compromised during this process. Therefore, do not put yourself in a position where you feel under threat at any stage of this procedure.
What happens if I get caught owning or circulating fake CSCS cards?
Participating in the use or distribution of fraudulent cards could result in you incurring a heavy fine, or worse, a custodial sentence. As previously explained, imitating someone who has received the suitable qualifications to work in a high-risk occupation is a serious criminal offence. Therefore, punishments are proportionately severe.
Andrew Weeks, a serial forger of qualification certification, is perhaps the most well-known individual prosecuted for producing fake documentation. His repertoire of forgery included manufacturing fraudulent CSCS cards. For his illicit activities, Weeks was sentenced to three years and eight months imprisonment, and ordered to pay £6,000 in fines. His crimes were adjudged to have infringed copyright law.
If you’re unsure about how to legitimately apply for a card, please visit the relevant page of the CSCS website. Here, you can learn how to register for the CSCS online application service, which makes the process of applying for a card easy. Nevertheless, you’ll need to review each card’s qualifying criteria before applying, otherwise, you could risk wasting time, effort, and money. This information can also be found on the official CSCS site.
We now hope that you’re fully aware of the dangers of fake CSCS cards. Duping piers and employers into thinking you have the necessary credentials to perform your role is an entirely selfish endeavour. If you’re not appropriately trained to conduct your duties, you automatically risk the welfare and well-being of those around you.
If you’re a site supervisor or member of management, you are chiefly responsible for the safety of your operatives. Therefore, you must remain vigilant towards the prospect of identifying fraudulent cards at all times (as should all workers). Keep them off your building site!
We’ve also discussed ways of noticing fake CSCS cards. Please ensure you familiarise yourself with these markers, and take appropriate time when reviewing a card’s validity. If you do spot a fraudulent card, please follow the confiscation and reporting procedure articulated in the earlier notes. However, please only do this if it is safe for you to do so.
Pursuing the usage of fake CSCS cards also leaves you vulnerable to criminal prosecution. The Andrew Weeks example referenced in the previous section serves to highlight how severe the legal response can be. It’s easy to apply for your required CSCS card through the organisation’s online application service- so, no excuses!
For a number of reasons, we hope your future career in the construction industry brings you limited interaction with fraudulent cards! Best of luck, and, remember, owning a fake CSCS card is not worth the risk!