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.
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.
September was a record month for our degree fraud team shutting down no less than seven bogus websites.
This takes us to over 40 shutdowns since the project for the Government started last summer.
Four were bogus universities all claiming to offer UK degrees:
- Stafford University*
- Ashcroft University
- John Hever Academy
- Atlantic Pacific Mission University
Three were websites selling fake degree certificates from multiple UK universities.
Coordination with law enforcement agencies means we can suspend the websites and get the owner details to Trading Standards (if they are UK-based) in a timely fashion.
We get websites reported from multiple sources now so word is getting out. If you have any concerns over whether an institution is a genuine UK degree awarding body you can check quickly and easily on the free university look-up service here on the HEDD website. If the university isn’t listed there, call our fraudline on 0845 077 1968 or contact us online here.
*(not to be confused with the entirely genuine Staffordshire University)
Back in March we reported on Risk Advisory Group’s analysis of over 5,500 CVs revealing an astonishing level of discrepancies about education qualifications. In June we released a free toolkit for employers to help prevent and detect application fraud which is available to download here (shameless plug).
The messages are not filtering through yet as AXELOS Global have released a study of 500 HR professionals which showed that the majority of employers are still not making checks. So we’re going to spell it out.
40% of companies had spent more than £10,000 in the last three years rehiring staff after employing someone who wasn’t properly qualified.
We’ll just let that sink in……….. £10,000.
Data gathered by the UK’s Office for National Statistics reveal that, in the last three years, of 138,000 HR managers and directors in the UK 14% have dealt with at least five instances of employees not holding the certifications they claimed – the equivalent of about 100,000 job applicants. That number could be even higher if more employers made checks. In AXELOS’s study, nearly 50% didn’t. A third of employers didn’t make checks at all if the applicants had previous experience.
You can find details on how to check all UK graduates on the free university look-up service on HEDD. Don’t take the risk.
Unlike with our friends over at McAllister University or International University Robert Gordon it’s not always straightforward dealing with bogus HE providers.
A bit like the dark web, there is a network of providers operating at the fringes, lurking in the shadows.
There are providers delivering qualifications that may be broadly categorised as ‘higher education’ even though they do not lead to the award of a UK degree.
This may be because the qualification is an award delivered by a UK campus of an institution that is based overseas, or because the qualification is below degree level e.g. a diploma or certificate. These complexities can give rise to confusion among potential students and some unscrupulous providers exploit this by not giving clear information on their websites about their status, nor the status of their courses and the qualifications they offer.
The Department for Education and HEDD receive enquiries from students who believe they are following courses leading to a recognised UK degree due to misinformation from providers. This is particularly common for distance learning or online provision.
If we believe the provider is deliberately misleading students we contact them to ask them to remove information from their website or clarify their status. After 30 days we add their details to the university look up service on HEDD to make it clear they are not recognised degree-awarding bodies.
We have had a number of websites contact us to complain about being so explicit about their status – even threatening us with legal action – but we stand firm.
When a student contacts us because their parents have spent thousands of pounds, remortgaged their house and made huge sacrifices to send them to a UK university, only to find out that it’s not accredited and they have spent their money for nothing, we know we are doing the right thing.
News of our work in dealing with bogus providers is spreading far and wide. We received a report from Iran that a UK university was selling fake diplomas for £200 via an office in Iran. At the same time Robert Gordon University reported a copycat website masquerading as them when the certificate above came through HEDD for verification. We joined up the dots.
Under our naming and shaming promise I give you International University Robert Gordon and the certificate for one of their latest ‘graduates’.
On the certificate is the name and student ID number – we have blanked it out. If you visit the website and key in the ID number you get an instant verification of the candidate’s credentials.
Unfortunately for the applicant the employer contacted the real Robert Gordon University to verify it and the deceit was uncovered. Had they gone to the webpage above they could easily have been fooled into employing a fraudster.
Like many bogus websites the copycat uses a lot of information stolen from the real Robert Gordon University website and other pages from a genuine UK university in Yorkshire.
HEDD has acted swiftly, adding International University Robert Gordon to the bogus providers on the university look up service on HEDD and reported the site to Trading Standards, the National Crime Agency and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. The website http://www.inturg.com has been suspended and the owners are being investigated.