A diploma mill, also known as degree mill is a bogus university or educational institution that sells college degrees and transcripts in exchange for money. Diploma mills are becoming a chronic problem in the recruiting world. In this global age, due to the emergence of distance learning courses through online universities, it has become easier for diploma mills to produce fake educational credentials and sell them at a hefty price to individuals. It has been estimated that there are 810 offline and uncountable online digital diploma mills that are alleged with the crime of tutorial file forfeiting and fraud.
According to various research, on an average, master’s degree holders earn 45% more than graduates of a bachelor’s program. In general, it takes one to two years for a candidate to complete a master’s degree from a regionally accredited institution in USA. But, now with the help of a diploma mill, a candidate can obtain the same Master’s degree in half an hour by filling in a short form containing the applicant’s intended graduation year, applicable “life” experiences and credit card information. If an employer accepts the bogus degree at face value, it provides an unfair advantage to the candidate holding the fake credentials. It ends up jeopardizing the entire purpose of recruiters to select candidates with legitimate degrees.
The growing menace of diploma mills
Diploma mills are now conducting multidimensional, transnational operations. The problem is that they are global in nature, and often highly localized in impact. In the US, there is a lack of centralized national oversight of universities. Every university has its own rule when it comes to regulating education-related matters. When you combine this lack of centralized oversight with the voluntary nature of accreditation, the education system becomes even more vulnerable. Although the country’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has regulated the use of term “accreditation” since 1998, many unaccredited operators continue to use this term. Others avoid this issue altogether, and advertise their degrees using the term “legal” rather than accredited.
Even countries with centralized education authorities other than USA face similar challenges in policing diploma or accreditation mills. Government bodies that oversee education and reputed organizations that handle accreditation find it difficult to tackle the problem of bogus institutions that claim to be located in one country, but actually operate from another country.
For example; an institution might claim to issue an American degree. But, its IP address originates from an island in the Pacific Ocean. The physical address of the operation might be another country (if it can be determined at all). In such cases, lack of clear jurisdictional authority results in lack of action against these diploma mills.
3 ways to tackle diploma mills
- The very first way to identify fake education credentials is by verifying whether the university provided by the candidate is accredited or not by visiting the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Remember, a diploma mill will provide a candidate with a degree that is not accredited by the chosen university.
- Even if you find that the university provided by the candidate on the resume is accredited, due to the emergence of the internet, diploma mills accredit the universities with bogus agencies created by themselves. The next check should be made by scrutinizing the Diploma Mill Police’s list of suspicious schools for scam reports and details on the real accreditation status of any online college. Check out this list and find out whether the prospective university has multiple complaints on file.
- If you have any doubts about an online educational institute using .edu domain, try to find out their website information by using tools like the .edu Whois server on EDUCAUSE, a non-governmental organization that has managed the domain for the U.S. Department of Commerce since 2001. This will give you a proper idea whether the educational institute you are dealing with is a diploma mill.
With every passing second, the network of diploma mills is expanding its reach on a global level. The support of these diploma mills gives candidates a much better chance of cheating recruiters and providing fake credentials. Hence, there is a growing need to conduct education background screening for candidates as a part of the pre-employment process.
It is always a good practice to do a thorough background screening of any candidate to bring on board your organization and if you have a background screening partner, they will also verify the education credentials. At cFirst, we offer tailor made background screening solutions for companies in US. So if you are not sure how to deal with fake certificates, contact us.