Friday, 27 July 2012


They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s true then I’m flattered.

Regular readers will remember that I’ve condemned various fake universities in the past. One in particular, “Headway University”, is part of a large Pakistani-based group of fake establishments that sell fake degrees for money without any study, exams, dissertations or coursework. All you need is a credit card and you can get a fake degree of your choice in any subject you select. Such degrees are fake, as anyone will easily understand. What’s more anyone who buys one of these degrees is a fake as well and they know it and better still many employers are now realizing this. I’ve heard recently of various people who are no longer employed because their employers discovered that their supposedly trusted employees had bought fake degrees to help them get the job or the promotion. Obtaining a financial benefit using a deception is fraud.

The growing realization that fake universities aren’t real has clearly spread far and wide and it’s causing the scammers a lot of concern.

This has clearly hurt the people behind these fake universities because a couple of months ago they even invented a fake law firm to threaten us. An email turned up from “Joyce and Nielsen” demanding that that we apologize and remove the comments we’d made on our blog. Given that everything we said was true I declined and our comments about this bunch of crooks remain there to this day.

But that didn’t stop them. These are obviously creative, imaginative people and they came up with another approach to prolong their scam.

Their fake logo
I noticed recently that someone has set up a fake Consumer Watchdog web site that closely mimics our blog. It’s full of comments about Headway saying how wonderful it is and how trustworthy they are. The clues that the Headway “university” crooks are behind this are obvious. They’ve taken comments we made about Headway and adjusted them so they say the complete opposite. For instance my comment “It's a fake university, that's for sure” is miraculously converted into “It’s not a fake university, that’s for sure”. They’ve also posted fake comments from fake visitors to support their claims that Headway is genuine. Everything about this fake site is unreal.

My comments
Their adjusted comments
It’s not just from us that they’ve stolen material. In order to give the impression of being a genuine consumer support service they’ve lifted material from other consumer sites as well. It’s all done rather well. If only they put these skills to use in a proper job instead of stealing people’s money.

So why are they doing this? What motivated them to go to all this effort? Their problem was that we’d undermined their fraudulent scam. If you did a Google search for Headway University one of the first things you found was our blog, full of negative comments about them. They simply couldn’t permit that to carry on. How would they gather more willing victims to buy their fake degrees if high up on the Google screen was some guy in Botswana saying it’s a scam? Hence their fake consumer web site saying how wonderful Headway is, how it’s genuine and how nasty people like me can’t be trusted.

I’m genuinely flattered. I’m delighted that we were having such an impact that scammers are having to spend money, time and effort in fighting back. It’s enormously pleasing.

I’m also flattered that some scammers are so upset when they’re exposed as being scammers that they try to directly sabotage us.

Last month a reader contacted us to ask about an email he’d received from “Botswana Jobs” offering him a choice of amazing jobs paying salaries of up to P2 million per year. On top of these miraculous salaries they also offered stock options, bonuses and free "Accommodation and Feeding". Clearly this was yet another recruitment scam. Sooner or later there would have been an “advance fee” that the victim would have been required to pay the scammers, either a visa fee or legal cost. The fact that they gave no phone number, only used a Gmail address and have been exposed before all confirmed their scaminess.

I posted a warning about this on our blog and just for a bit of fun I emailed the scammers with a link to my comments, saying “Congratulations, you're famous.” Maybe that was a bit cheeky of me but it certainly inspired them to respond. An email arrived shortly afterwards pretending to be an official response and inviting us to download a document that explained “the course where are currently taking to protect our local job seekers”. The file they wanted me to download was infected with a computer virus.

Unfortunately for the scammers I’m not entirely stupid. I use a Mac which is largely immune from viruses but I nevertheless still have virus protection on my computer and I don’t just run things on my computer that strangers send me.

Perhaps the best measure of success in any venture is feedback. You know you’ve done a good piece of work when your boss pats you on the back or a customer calls in to compliment you. In a well-run organization you’ll also get constructive negative feedback as well when things go wrong.

The impression I get at the moment is that some of what Consumer Watchdog is doing is having an effect. Not everyone likes it, and some of them are getting really pissed off at us but do you think I care? The more angry scammers are, the happier I am!

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