Shortly after the first test ever was created, someone found a way to cheat on it.

Cheating on a test. It’s bad enough when students do it, but when professionals do it, it speaks volumes about their ethics—or rather their lack thereof.

When a student cheats on a test the end result is he is cheating himself. But when a professional cheats on a test that allows him to earn or keep his insurance license, a particular type of product, or perhaps a professional designation, he is cheating not only himself, but also the people who put their trust in him. That would be all of his clients and prospects.

There are many stories about the occasional star athlete in college who finds a way to have another student take a test for them. The stand-in takes and passes the test, and the star athlete gets to stay on the field.

This happens in the business world, too. Here’s an example, courtesy of William K. “Bud” Bridgers, FLMI, CLTC, a financial services professional in Pleasant Grove, Utah, who has made ethics and compliance a priority throughout his four-plus decade career.

“Because I was deeply committed to long-term care insurance at the time and well-versed in it, and because all advisors had to take an 8-unit CE class every two years in order to continue to be authorized to sell long-term care insurance, I was asked by several investment advisors to take the exam for them, for which they would pay me $100,” Bridgers said.

“Of course, I refused. But, the reaction of the advisors is what really surprised me. They were offended,” he said. “One pointed out that he had bailed me out of a problem before and that I was forgetting about that in refusing to take the test for him.”

Bridgers said that because of the way California’s CE units were earned at the time with no proctor required for taking the test, no one would actually know who had provided the answers to the test questions except the persons involved.

“None of the advisors could understand why I would refuse them,” Bridgers said. “I told them that at the end of every CE test, there was a check box that said something like, ‘By checking this box, I affirm that I was not coached or helped in any way by any one to complete this exam.’ Of the three advisors that requested me to take the test for them, one just sniggered, the second one shook his head and turned away, and the third said, ‘Thanks for nothin.’”

What adds to the ethical problem here is that the test, Bridgers said, was open-book. “In fact, some of the CE test providers even indicated the page number where the answer to each question could be found.”

Perhaps these offending advisors were a bit lazy in addition to blatantly thumbing their noses at the rules.

No question there are some insurance professionals out there who see having to earn the required CE credits to keep their licensing current as an unnecessary inconvenience not worthy of their proper attention. But if you are truly an ethical professional, you are going to play by the rules and pass the tests yourself.

It’s the only correct answer.