Saturday, 5 May 2012

The diploma mill conspiracy

Looking back I find that I’ve written about fake universities and “diploma mills” in Mmegi, The Voice and on our blog 62 times over the last five years. Some might think I’m obsessed.

Actually it’s not an obsession but it IS a mission. I feel a missionary zeal driving me to expose these fake universities mainly because I know how much hard work goes into obtaining a real degree. I know many people who worked extremely hard to get their qualifications and the people who buy fakes one from web sites are an insult to the hard-working holders of genuine qualifications.

You might think that people don’t actually buy these degrees, at least not here in Botswana. It’s just a problem affecting people overseas isn’t it? Not true. I know of a handful of people in Botswana who got jobs or promotions because of degrees they bought online. These people are frauds. They obtained a financial benefit, such as employment or a promotion as the result of a deliberate lie. That’s called fraud. Nobody smart enough to use a credit card online is so stupid that they don’t realize they’re buying a fake. Just like some of us buy pirated DVDs from the cheap stores, we know when we’ve bought something bogus. The pirated DVD will be in a crummy box with a much photocopied paper insert showing the film’s title. The quality of the DVD will be bad and often have occasional messages saying it’s not for commercial distribution. Nobody can mistake them for the real thing.

It’s exactly the same with fake degrees. Anyone who has one knows it’s a fake.

The curious thing is that almost all of the fake web-based universities I’ve seen are all remarkably similar to each other. The colors vary, the typefaces differ and detailed layout might change but they all have that certain something, that indefinable quality that suggests they’re related. However it’s the wording that gives them away. Here’s an example.

Northern Port University” gives a "case study" of someone they claim is called "Jackie Dason". Jackie says:
"Getting my higher education degree from Northern Port was one of the best decisions of my life. Northern Port not only helped me hone my skills, but also guided me through ways to change my career without any hassles. Studying at Northern Port was an amazing experience, and now I believe quality education can be attained at a low cost."
Curiously, “Panworld University” also has a “case study” coincidentally also from "Jackie Dason" which says:
"Getting my higher education degree from Panworld was one of the best decisions of my life. Panworld not only helped me hone my skills, but also guided me through ways to change my career without any hassles. Studying at Panworld was an amazing experience, and now I believe quality education can be attained at a low cost."
That’s enough of a clue, surely? Another good clue is that anyone who “registers” with one of the bogus establishments will almost immediately start receiving emails from others. There really is enough evidence to think this is a major conspiracy.

I’m not usually a follower of conspiracy theories, mainly because the sort of person who believes in them also often turns out to be the sort of person who writes emails entirely in capital letters or writes letters in green ink. The same people who believe Barack Obama isn’t really American, that the moon-landings were faked and that we’re all descended from space alien gods.

However this time there’s evidence.

It seems that an organization in Karachi, Pakistan is behind them all. Almost all of the names I’ve mentioned in the past are part of a single operation called Organization for Global Learning Education, started by a crook called Salem Kureshi. The fake establishments in Kureshi’s bogus empire include Belford, Northern Port, Panworld, Headway, Corllins, Ashwood, Rochville, MUST, OLWA and McFord so-called “universities”.

It’s not just universities that Kureshi appears to have created, it’s also an impressive range of fake accreditation bodies that the fake universities claim have accredited them. it’s an extremely well thought out enterprise that clearly convinces the gullible and fraudulent.

What’s more the whole criminal enterprise is clearly working extremely well. According to (and this I admittedly outdated):
“Kureshi and his group of co-conspirators from Pakistan earn approximately $55 million per year from Americans and another $15 million per year from Europeans, Australians, and residents of all other countries combined.”
Various people and organizations have tried to stop this scam using legal action but they just face the inevitable problem. Even if someone in the USA does get an ruling ordering Kureshi and his criminal cronies to stop their scams who is going to enforce it? He lives and operates in Pakistan and, as Mmegi readers will know, the USA and Pakistan are hardly best buddies at the moment. The Americans are hardly going to helicopter in and “do a Bin Laden” on Kureshi, are they? The Pakistani authorities clearly can’t be bothered to intervene themselves.

The only weapon that can be used against him and the others like him that run bogus educational establishments is public education. The more people who know how to spot a fake university the better. They can spread the word and prevent people from throwing money away on these fraudulent qualifications.

Of course the other weapon is the exposure of the people who’ve gained some advantage from buying a fake degree. Must I really give their names to the Police? Should I? What do you think?

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