The Sting

On the face of it The University of Northern New Jersey was a model bogus university. Happy to offer student places, assisting to process student visas and issue certificates and documents with no questions asked, no requirement to attend, no campus and no faculty staff.

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Educational brokers flocked to the site to register students and obtain visas – charging students thousands of dollars which enabled them to stay in the United States, knowing full well it was all a front.

What they didn’t know was that this bogus university was itself a fake. The US Department of Homeland Security set up the fake university website in 2013 to catch criminals engaged in student visa scams. Undercover agents posed as administrators dealing with the brokers and paying them commissions of between $1200 and $2000 to recruit ‘students’ in a 3 year sting operation. 21 individuals have now been arrested and over 1000 foreign nationals mostly from India and China face deportation.

All I can hear in my head is the theme tune to ‘The Sting’ and remembering the brilliance of Paul Newman and Robert Redford in the movie. If Redford is available, I’m free.

Open and Shut Case

Manchester Open University is the latest bogus university website to be reported to our fraud hotline. With both the University of Manchester and the Open University Manchester Regional Centre based in the city, this copycat site is attempting to trade on the reputations of these genuine UK HE providers.

Here are some of the clues:

  • It’s not on the list of legitimate providers.
  • No campus on Google Streetview – because it’s non-existent.
  • The web address (www.mou-ac.com)* is designed to mimic our .ac.uk domain.
  • The website is out of date – referring to 2013-14 entry and open days.
  • The spelling and grammar is poor across the site.
  • The text that is correctly spelt is lifted from a genuine UK university’s website breaching their copyright. They have been informed.
  • No Manchester phone number – just a premium rate line (shut down by us now).
  • Claims to be a ‘not-for-profit charity’ but there’s no registration number.
  • No named staff.
  • A verification service where you can enter a student number from a certificate or transcript to get confirmation – typical of bogus providers.
  • No company registration number.

We are working with the enforcement authorities to shut down the website, which we believe is based in France, but in the meantime let’s spread the word.

*If this link is no longer working then you are too late. The site has been shut down. Please don’t be disappointed.