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What is a Phony Diploma?

A phony diploma is a diploma obtained from an institution that is not accredited by an official accreditation entity in the United States or in other countries, that requires individuals to pay upfront for the whole degree without giving courses, that usually gives diplomas to whomever can prove his or her life experience, that does not have any organized curricula or contact time with professors, and that does not require official transcripts from previous educational institutions. Phony diplomas are bought online and have no legality with employers or others accredited higher learning institutions.

A phony diploma can also refer to a novelty diploma, which is also bought online. Novelty diplomas have an individual’s name, the name of a university, of a specific major and degree, and they look like official documents, but they are not meant to substitute educational experience nor they are meant to be used as official documents to obtain a job or to enter a higher learning institution. These novelty items are for display only and for entertainment purposes.

With the high competitiveness for jobs, many individuals that did not finish high school or their four-year degrees might feel compelled to enroll at an online institution that promise them a degree in exchange for little requirements. However, individuals that are considering enrolling in an online higher education institution need to be vigilant about the online school’s credentials, accreditations, and curriculum. Accredited online universities will provide clear details about their course offerings, faculty and staff, their costs per credit, financial aid, and graduation requirements. They often have a physical address. Unaccredited institutions, better known as diploma mills, do not have these qualities and will often make grandiose promises in exchange of payment in full for their phony degree. This is applicable to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees as well as high school diplomas, GEDs, and other certificates.

Novelty diplomas, on the other hand, are obtained online and are customized pieces of paper that are meant for entertainment purposes. In some instances, novelty or fake diplomas can be obviously fake: they include degrees that do not exist or universities with funny names. However, in other cases the purpose of buying a fake diploma is to substitute a diploma legally obtained and that has been damaged or lost. It can also serve as a duplicate in case that the original has already been framed professionally and the individual in questions needs a copy of if for framing or for other purposes. In either case, a phony diploma should not be used illegally.