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What are Fake Diploma Scams?

Obtaining an education—whether it’s secondary or postsecondary—is a mark of achievement and prestige in Western society. However, many people in the United States leave school without finishing; according to estimates, about 1.2 million people leave high school without finishing getting their diploma. That’s a rather staggering figure! What’s worse, nearly 2 million people will enter college but never finish their degrees. People can drop out school for many reasons, including family obligations, lack of motivation and opportunity, running out of funds to pay for tuition, the need to secure full-time employment, among others. Whatever the reason, individuals who do not finish college are more susceptible to fall victims of fake diploma scams. The need to get an education for employment purposes has never been more pressing and this is where opportunistic scammers strike.

Fake diploma scams are, unfortunately, common.

It is relatively easy for scammers to set up a website that looks legitimate, invent accreditations and offer easy diplomas for those in need. The US Department of Education has no regulation power over online schools; accreditation agencies, like the Middle States Association, are the ones who determine whether a higher learning institution can offer degrees and diplomas legally. Many of these fake diploma scams are based outside the United States, which makes it almost impossible for relevant authorities to shut down these websites or prosecute those responsible for scamming students.

In the diploma mill page we give more information on how to identify a diploma mill, or fake online school. However, people could also use novelty diploma shops, who mark all of their merchandise as “fake diplomas,” to cheat employers into believing that they have qualifications that they do not. It is possible to buy one of these novelty or fake diplomas online; it is also possible to buy fake transcripts.  Novelty shops are not like diploma mills: like we mentioned above, a novelty shop selling fake diplomas clearly make their product as fake. Diplomas bought from fake or novelty diploma shops should be used only for personal purposes, never to obtain unfair advantage over employers.

Prospective students should do their homework when it comes to making sure that they are enrolling at an accredited institution. It is possible to verify accreditation entities online. The prospective online school should have listings of its faculty and administration and their contacts, should clearly outline its offerings, courses, completion times, and amount of credits needed to graduate, and they should clearly state how long would it take to complete the degree online.

Any program or school that promises to give a diploma for “life experience,” offers to do a two- or four-year degree in just a few months, or refuses to answer basic questions about its curricula, offerings, and faculty is possibly a scam.

Fake diploma scams cost thousands of dollars and ruin reputations very easily. Asking questions, doing your research, and being realistic about what to expect from an online store will help you make informed choices when it comes to your novelty secondary or postsecondary choices.