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July 13, 2012

The BIG business of Fraudulent Degrees

Little white lies…… Stretching the truth.….. Innocent exaggerations……

Well, those are not the kind of lies we are going to be talking about today.

Today’s topic is a big, bold-faced whopper: diploma fraud. And fake degrees are more prevalent, easier to obtain, and more difficult to detect than you think.

What is diploma fraud?

In short, diploma fraud occurs when a person decides to buy ‘proof’ that they obtained a degree from a college or university. The person may have gone to the institution but just not finished, or he may have never enrolled in a class. Either way, degrees and transcripts can be easily obtained for a price.

A simple web search will turn up multiple websites that provide degree fakery. A person simply enters his name, information, the degree they desire, and Presto! a few weeks later a degree shows up in the mail. These diplomas look authentic, but are completely fraudulent. In addition, some of these websites sell entire transcripts, complete with classes and grades!

Diploma fraud is BIG business. While no concrete figures are available, it is estimated that the companies behind these practices rake in 1 billion per year! George Gollin, a board member of the U.S.-based Council for Higher Education Accreditation, told CNN he estimates that more than 100,000 fake degrees are sold each year in the U.S. alone (source:

Why would a person do it?

They are desperate. In the current economic climate, job seekers are vigorously competing with one another for any open position. This may tempt a person without a degree to employ unsavory tactics to get a leg up on the competition.

It is easy. Shelling out several hundred dollars for a ‘degree’ is easier and much less time consuming than spending thousands of dollars and several years getting an actual degree.

The consequences of hiring someone with a fake degree can be dire to a company’s wellbeing.

- Missing skills: The person may not have the skills that would have been obtained within the coursework of an actual degree. Having someone on staff who doesn’t know what they are doing can cost a company big-time.

- Public embarrassment: Everyone has seen the news of a high ranking executive being exposed for faking his degree. Publicly uncovering an employee who lied about his credentials is extremely detrimental to a company’s reputation, and sometimes it takes years to recover.

- Dishonesty: Let’s face it, if a person will lie about their education, what is stopping them from committing other fraudulent (stealing money, trade secrets, etc) acts once they are hired?

What companies can do to protect themselves?

Be aware of the situation. Knowing that fake degrees are floating around out there is the first step.

Look at any claim of education with a critical eye. Examine dates the degree was allegedly acquired, and compare them with dates of employment, address information, and so forth. Follow up on any discrepancies

Perform an Education Verification. If the open position requires a degree, take the extra time to have a professional background screening company verify the education. A reputable background screener will be able to solidly verify the school is in existence and accredited, the classes and dates the applicant attended, and whether or not they received a degree.

It is imperative to put measures in place to minimize the risk of hiring a person who is unqualified for a position. The issue of job seekers faking their degrees is not going away anytime soon. Don't fall victim to this scam!

~~Susan McCullah is the Product Development Director for Data Facts, a 23 year old Memphis-based company that provides employment screening solutions to companies nationwide. Check our our website for a complete explanation of our services.

Lisa May

Lisa May is the Executive Vice President for Data Facts.

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