On graduation day, it’s normal to see students posing for photos, especially with the fruit of all their labor – their degree certificate.
But experts are cautioning against posting “degree selfies” to social media, as fraudsters working for fake degree certificate websites have been using them to cook up falsified qualifications for a good price.
Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD), a government-funded agency in the UK, has been responsible for shutting down a number of such websites in a large-scale crackdown against the spread of counterfeit university degrees.
Over the course of its investigation, HEDD has identified 220 fraudulent higher education institutions which are used as a front to offer bogus courses and sell fake certificates.
Dozens of fake degree certificate websites shut down amid crack down on bogus awards https://t.co/3xritGXcAK
— Telegraph Education (@tele_education) January 3, 2017
Jayne Rowley, deputy chief executive of Prospects, a division of Universities UK which runs HEDD, told the Telegraph that the “Twitter selfie problem” was becoming a concern.
“This plays into the hands of fraudsters. If someone wants to copy the certificate, they will be able to tell what colour the certificate is, what it looks like, the Vice Chancellor’s signature and so on,” she said.
Rowley added that last summer, the agency spent “a lot of time” urging universities to inform their graduating students not to take photos with their certificates or upload them to social media.
According to the Telegraph, HEDD has received funding from the Department for Education since 2015 and is tasked with monitoring and investigating suspicious activities in regard to academic fraud.
It has so far helped to close down up to 40 websites involved in running university scams.
“Some are copycat websites, where they have a similar name to an existing universities, like Cambridgeshire University or Manchester Open University.
“Some advertise ‘distance learning’ courses and send fake coursework assignments by email. People are being conned out of thousands, thinking they are actually studying,” said Rowley.
— The OBHE (@theobhe) January 4, 2017
While any illegal activities HEDD detects within the UK are referred on to Trading Standards or the police, those involving setups based overseas will be passed on to relevant authorities of the country in question.
The agency has found that while UK-based operations are usually run by individuals from their homes, overseas operations are much more sophisticated and involve millions of pounds in profits.
In 2015, a diploma mill operating from Pakistan was busted after being found to have cheated millions of dollars off of unsuspecting students and professionals by selling degrees from hundreds of non-existent universities.
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