Last year we named and shamed Robert Gordon International University which was quickly shut down and last week Newcastle International University was red flagged by the real Newcastle University as a bogus university.
The website uses real photographs of Newcastle University including one showing students wearing their Newcastle University IDs, but was entirely fabricated.
The university raised the alarm and took action when an applicant tweeted a question about the institution.
The website asks potential students to hand over credit card details on the website to pay for courses. No genuine UK university would do this and students need to question it if they are asked for payments online for courses.
Many universities have international offices and overseas campuses and increasingly offer opportunities for distance learning. This kind of copy-cat website exploits the fact that international students may not be as familiar with UK universities as domestic applicants. They steal text and images from the real institution websites in an effort to extort monies. This is completely illegal and the websites can be shut down if the alarm is raised. Contact the degree fraud team at Hedd if you have any concerns or wish to report a website.
Our top tips for students to spot bogus universities:
If it’s not featured on the official Government list of degree awarding bodies it is not a valid UK university.
If it doesn’t have a .ac.uk web address it is not a valid UK university.
If it asks you to submit credit card or passport details on the website it is not a valid UK university.
If it uses American phrases; prices in US Dollars; poor grammar or spelling it is not a valid UK university
If the contact details don’t look right e.g. premium phone numbers, PO Box mailing addresses or personal email addresses like Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo it is not a valid UK university.
If Google Street View for the campus shows you an empty shop front, industrial park or two-bedroomed semi-detached house in Suburbia it is not a valid UK university.
Mohammed Dar claims he was offering fake university IDs for students to help them get into student union bars to buy cheap beer.
Searching his home in Stretford Manchester, police recovered:
- 152 completed forgeries of Manchester Metropolitan University ID cards
- 42 fake Brunel University cards
- 7 fake University of Manchester cards
- 6 fake University of Liverpool cards
- 4 fake University of Leeds cards.
It reads like a present list on the 12 Days of Fraudmass, but in sentencing Dar to prison the judge nailed it with his comments:
‘You can open a false bank account with a photo ID and an electricity bill….This country and its institutions operate on the basis of trust – trust in documents. Organisations don’t have the time or the resources to go and check whether every document is genuine.’
Fun fact: Prospects verification service Hedd allows enquirers to verify current university students as well as certificates and transcripts from graduates. As an employer if an applicant uses student ID to prove their identity you can quickly establish the truth online at www.hedd.ac.uk. Already covering 2/3 of graduates from UK institutions and expanding all the time Hedd is the UK’s official HE verification service with over 75 universities available on the system.
A few months ago we received an enquiry from colleagues in Denmark who had concerns about a UK student applying to work for them. Here’s the ID she provided to them:
Her fake passport wasn’t much better quality, but the employer still needed to be sure.
As well as the student ID cards, Dar was using a specialist printer and editor to sell hundreds of items for as little as £20. His phone was full of evidence of customers buying a variety of documents.
Check job or course applicants every time or it could cost your business a lot more than the price of a cheap pint.
‘Dr’ Jon Andrewes – the ‘Walter Mitty’ character we flagged a couple of weeks ago has now been sentenced and will spend the next two years in prison.
The full extent of the lies about his qualifications has come to light and is staggering in its impudence. As Mad Dog says in The Cannonball Run – ‘If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly!’
- First Class degree from Bristol
- Masters degree from Bristol
- MBA from Edinburgh
- PhD from Heriot-Watt
- PhD from Plymouth
All completely untrue.
He lied about working for the Home Office and HMRC and being a partner in a technology firm, when in fact he started out as a builder.
Using his embellished CV he obtained a senior position in the NHS in 2004 and went on to earn over £1million in a 10 year period in other senior NHS roles before his bosses finally questioned him in 2016.
In court he also admitted to tinkering with his daughter’s degree certificate from the University of London.
It’s never too late to check the people working for you. HEDD’s Toolkit for Employers can be downloaded here.
We already advise graduates not to post pictures of their degree certificates online – the ‘Twitter Selfie’ as we like to call it. Not only does this reveal personal information about an individual it also gives fraudsters perfect templates to create, sell and/or use fake degree certificates.
A suspicious certificate was reported to the HEDD fraud team this week by our verification team as the dates on the certificate did not match the years the course was run.
A Google image search revealed a potential source of the fake certificate to be the university’s own online shop. The institution in question offers an online service to its graduates to purchase replacement certificates, transcripts and letters of verification and has sample images of the documents on its website.
The assumption is that the image will only be seen by students visiting the page.
The truth is that it joins the infinite internet universe of searchable images to be copied, saved and used by anyone with access to an online device.
We have contacted colleagues at the university to advise them to remove the images and we’re urging other universities to do the same.
We are delighted to report more success shutting down bogus providers and grateful for the vigilance of our partners in Naric and in universities in spotting these pretenders and notifying us. Both perpetrators were using Ascension Islands .ac domains to mimic our real UK academic .ac.uk domains.
Hashford London University, using pictures of the glorious Coombe Abbey and gardens in Warwickshire as its campus, was reported by one of our UK universities for using text from their website. On closer inspection the website contained references to a number of UK universities despite having no connections with them. They also claimed an association with the Higher Education Academy who have confirmed to us that no such link exists. The owners are based in Malaysia and out of reach of UK law. They appear to have links with other defunct learning institutions.
Ridgeshire University of London claimed to be a private elearning institution but listed campus locations in the UK and had addresses and phone numbers for the Faroe islands and Aberdeen. Colleagues in Sweden reported this to us when one of its degree certificates came to them for verification. The certificate gives details of how to verify its authenticity on the university website, which worked when we tested it – another example of a website existing to back up paper credentials.
By the way, the name on the certificate was Happy – I suspect that’s not how the individual feels now they’ve been found out.
The websites are offline and the details have been added to the bogus provider database on hedd.ac.uk
8 providers were reported to us in January for investigation so please check back here for progress.
Comments on this blog are most welcome and means someone is reading and engaging with our messages. Thank you commenters all.
Today’s commenter deserves a special prize.
Let’s see who our new number one fan is…..
Are they filled with remorse? Turning themselves in?
The folks over at Custom Diploma think this is a site endorsing fake diplomas and want us to advertise their wares!*
Thanks to WordPress we have their IP address and email clearly displayed, so our fraud team will be reporting them immediately.
We just couldn’t resist sharing. Happy Tuesday everyone.
*Other fake certificate websites are available**
**But not for long.
It’s good to see the NHS taking a strong position on application fraud right up to senior levels and prosecuting offenders.
This month sees two men who lied about their qualifications – including possessing fake degree certificates to obtain senior positions in the NHS, back in court.
Conrad de Souza had already been imprisoned for 27 months in 2011 for faking medical qualifications in order to hold clinical guidance roles and was also ordered to repay the NHS £270,000. After his release he repeatedly lied about his qualifications on applications for a number of senior positions in the NHS and was convicted of 6 counts of fraud in December. This week he has been sent back to prison for 17 months.
Dr. Jon Andrewes is a former NHS trust chairman who lied spectacularly about his qualifications to get two top NHS jobs as chairman of the Torbay NHS Care Trust and later the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust. According to his online biography he is Dr. Jon Andrewes with a PhD from Heriot-Watt University where he specialised in researching leadership, management and success attributes in the commercial sector. His first degree is in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and he also has an MBA with a finance specialism from the University of Bristol. All these claims are false. He pleaded guilty at Exeter Crown Court recently and will be sentenced on the 1st March. At the time of recruiting him into these senior roles the NHS checked his references, but not his degrees.
The advice here is simple. Check qualifications for everyone you hire – regardless of seniority, fine CVs and track records. Fraudsters come in all guises.