The Talented Ms. Hornstein & How Virtrue would have stopped her cold


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Anthony Ha did some good detective journalism in pointing out and highlighting that a Shirley Hornstein did some ok photoshop work, lied about her connections and reputation, and was able to parlay that into work at some of the top companies in Silicon Valley such as Zaarly, Dropbox, and Founders Fund.  As Anthony wrote, “When it comes to Hornstein, however, it can be hard to tell what’s true and what’s not.”  Natasha Tiku, from BetaBeat, goes even more in-depth to find some credit card fraud perpetrated by Shirley.

The fact is, Shirley Hornstein, like millions of others in the world, clearly wanted (needed?) a job.  How many of us add in a bit of extra fluff on our resumes?  How many add a bit more to our job description and our roles and responsibilities?  Millions partake in this unfortunate practice and millions more find jobs, more business, or more money using these lies.  As noted blogger Nick O’Neill makes clear in his post, “Silicon Valley is Filled with Liars,” people everywhere lie all the time.

Each lie to help yourself hurts another.  By lying, these dishonest applicants take jobs away from the people who are truly qualified.  These candidates cost the company money since their attrition is higher.  They cannot do the jobs they say they can do, they do not produce the results and success they stated they found in their last job, and therefore wash out of their new company.  That is a loss for them but they will just move on with more lies to another, unsuspecting company.  It is a greater loss for the employer who is back to square one.  It is an even bigger loss for the second top candidate who has to keep looking for a job since they lost the position to the liar.

One lie can lead to more lies.  ”Borrowing” money from the company can lead to more “borrowing” that is not approved.  Giftiki learned this the hard way (although they were luckily, after threatening suit, repaid).  As stated in the BetaBeat article, “‘[Ms. Hornstein] got access to company credit cards and actually bought things at charity auctions in the thousands of dollars,” said the source. As a marketing consultant, “she was given the credit card to buy some refreshments and so forth because they were doing an event. She retained the credit card information and used it on her own behalf.’”

Shirley was caught because she decided to commit her fraud in Silicon Valley, which is an oddly smaller world than people recognize.  Plus, Silicon Valley is an extremely collaborative and trusting world despite the competition.  Shirley was also caught because she did this too many times to too many people and someone finally spoke up.  The problem is that Shirley, like most fraudsters when caught red handed, was able to move on and do it again.  When talking about speaking about Shirley’s case, BetaBeatwrites “‘the startup [Giftiki] still declined to prosecute for fear that it would reflect poorly on Giftiki, perhaps assuming that once caught, she would be too scared to try again. “The problem,” said the source, “is that she just raised her head somewhere else and created more problems.’”  This happens all the time and fraud continues.

Another example is Scott Thompson, the former CEO of Yahoo.  He was able to perpetuate his lie for years and years until they reach such a lofty peak that they can only fall far and fast bringing their company down with them.  Scott’s lie cost Yahoo~$250 million in market capitalization.  In the end, everyone is hurt by fraud, by lying, and by dishonesty – the liar and the ones he or she lied to.

How does Virtrue stop this fraud?  Any employer using Virtrue would have quickly caught the fact that Shirley was lying about her experience and her connections.  We would have shown that Shirley did not help out Dropbox, did not work at Founders Fund, and probably spent very minimal time at Zaarly.  Yes, we still recommend an interview and interviews can be faked (especially by professional liars).  However, faking your Virtrue Verified Resume, is nearly impossible.  Smart employers are using Virtrue as a form of insurance to protect themselves, their colleagues, and their employers from fraudsters.  By doing this, they reduce attrition, save time in the hiring process (by weeding out liars), and save their company from financial fraud.  Protect yourself, protect your company, and protect the honest people in the world using Virtrue.  Become VirtrueUs!

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