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.
July is the busiest month of the year on HEDD as employers check up on their newly-graduated soon-to-be employees – or 20% of them do.
As Jack Whitehall’s character demonstrates on the final episode of Channel 4 student comedy ‘Fresh Meat‘, what you see is not always what you get….
‘Get In – I’ve only gone and got a bloody 2:1’
‘No you have not!’
‘Well, no. I got a 3rd. But it will say 2:1 on my CV’
As part of the government degree fraud project we are campaigning to raise awareness and encourage employers to make more checks.
HEDD has launched a free toolkit to help employers protect themselves from fraudulent applicants.
The only way to be sure a candidate is qualified to do a job is to check their claims with the awarding university. Just one incompetent or deceitful person in a business can have fatal consequences.
Smaller businesses are among the most at risk of falling victim to degree fraud. They are less likely to be aware of the threats and how to protect themselves.
Top tips for businesses
- Notify applicants that you verify qualifications – if they refuse it could be a signal that something is off-kilter
- Only accept original – not photocopied – certificates
- Check certificates with the issuing university or via HEDD
- Don’t be duped by official-looking stamps
- Remember a notary will only confirm sight of an original document, not whether it’s genuine
- Check the legitimacy of a university on hedd.ac.uk – if it’s not listed it’s likely to be fake
Download your free copy of the toolkit here.
As the Twitterverse wondered mischievously last week whether Andrea Leadsom would be adding Prime Minister and winning Euro 2016 goalscorer to her stated career achievements, she must be rueing the day the Times took a close look at the City credentials in her CV. The media were vicious in their taunting and once outed, this will haunt her forever.
Whether it’s inflating your grades, your salary, job title or level of responsibility it’s not worth the risk in the long run. Robust credential checking will uncover the truth and could cost you your job as well as your reputation.
It’s that time of year when mothers wear big hats and graduates don caps and gowns to shake hands with their university Chancellors.
The temptation to pose for photos with that certificate in hand, then share share share on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat is overwhelming and understandable.
Last year we warned against posting certificate selfies as they give fraudsters perfect templates to produce fake degree certificates. Google Images scoops them up and parades them online for eternity. We have issued a press release today to remind people, which media platforms are thankfully picking up.
We’re contacting all university social media teams to ask them to get the message out to their students and also not to re-tweet pictures of their graduates holding certificates.
It’s not just about fake certificates.There’s a serious, personal risk here too. As CIFAS reported today social media platforms are hunting grounds for identity thieves and there has been a 52% increase in identity fraud against under 30’s in the last 12 months alone.
Degree certificates contain personal information – full names, dates of birth (in some cases), places of study, titles, year of graduation. Information like this can be used to piece together someone’s identity for fraud and is as precious and private as a passport, a driving licence or bank details. None of us would put our passports online and we should treat certificates in the same way.
Post smiles, not certificates and stay safe.
Congratulations and appropriate emoticons, by the way.
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.
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.
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.
Employment screening professionals, the Risk Advisory Group published their annual report into CV fraud last week. It’s a sobering read and demonstrates that there is a long way to go to eliminate this, despite the work we have been doing at HEDD for the past 4 years. The report is available to download from their website.
After analysing 5,500 CVs submitted by jobseekers, 70% were found to contain some form of inaccuracy – a rise of 7% on last year.
2/3 of the discrepancies were about academic background – by far the most common lies. 10% of candidates falsify their grades.
The report includes case studies showing candidates who had been expelled from their university, but claimed the degree anyway and MBAs from bogus universities. All too familiar.
To put it in real terms – if you receive 200 CV applications for a job 88 of them will have lies about education qualifications. 20 of them will have false grades.
The need to make checks has never been greater. 3 simple steps in your recruitment practices can make all the difference:
- Tell candidates you will check all qualifications.
- Ask to see certificates – don’t rely on CVs or application forms.
- Check the certificates with the awarding institutions – beware fakes.
Risk Advisory report that the message is getting through with more employers introducing verification measures when hiring. The more we can highlight the levels of fraud, the higher that number will be.