A fake certificate is any document that poses as a certification in a specific career field that is obtained through an unaccredited school, or diploma mill. The certificate is fake because the school:
- is not accredited with the relevant accreditation entities or authorities
- there are no required courses or credits for graduation
- does not have a curriculum, does not have a faculty, and does not have a physical address that is valid
- promises to give a degree in exchange for “life experience”
- promises to give a degree in an unusually short amount of time. For example, they promise you can get a four-year degree in a matter of months.
- only requires you to pay for a diploma without asking for records of your previous education.
Having a fake certificate can negatively impact your career.
Your employer can find out that your “degree” is from a diploma mill, which will probably get you fired. Fake certificates cannot be listed in resumes or job applications because they are not valid. Obtaining employment by pretending to have a degree that you do not possess is fraudulent behavior. Since many diploma mills operate outside of North America and because government departments such as the US Department of Education do not have the power and authority to demand accreditation from these institutions, prospective students need to research the online university well before enrolling.
Not everyone who obtains a fake certificate does so to defraud an employer. Many students are unaware that their certificate or degree are fake. They “enrolled” in programs that, to them, looked legitimate and they often find out later that the degree they paid for is fake.
Those who did not finish school, whether it is undergraduate or postgraduate school, are most vulnerable to these types of scams. Often, individuals who did not finish their degrees need to gain a diploma so they can be promoted at work or search for better employment opportunities. High school diplomas have been devaluated in recent years, which means that it is more difficult to find meaningful employment with a high school diploma than it is with a certificate, degree, or diploma. Going to college matters: it makes a difference in employability and in future earnings. Getting a degree for less money and less requirements is an attractive offer to those who really wish to improve their career and financial prospects.
Fake certificates can also be bought from fake or novelty diploma shops. These type of shops advertise their diplomas as fake, so the buyer is not expecting for a legitimate degree. Rather, it is the type of diploma bought only as a fun or curious item, as a gift to others, or as a way of replacing a legitimate diploma that has been lost or damaged. Diplomas bought from fake diploma shops should not be used for fraudulent purposes: they are not meant to be a legitimate degree! Although these shops produce high-quality, official-looking diplomas, it is easy for an employer to verify if the individual has the degree that they claim they have.