Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Fakes, fakes, fakes

It seems like everything can be faked.

We had a complaint recently from a consumer about a shirt. The details of the complaint are simple. The price label said P100 but when he went back later to buy the shirt he was told that the price on the label was a mistake, it should really be P150. OK, that’s fairly mundane, it happens all the time. It doesn’t make it right of course but the situation was fairly simple to resolve. After their very rude and contemptuous reaction to his complaint I suggested that he should simply never go to that store again. I also suggested that should tell all his friends, relatives and colleagues about the shabby treatment he received.

But that wasn’t the main problem I had. My problem was this quote from his email:
“I noticed they had some nice shirts, although fake, I asked for the price on one of the shirts”.
Did you see that? “although fake”? Firstly, let’s make it clear. It’s illegal to knowingly sell a fake. Ignore the fact that it’s morally wrong, it’s just illegal.

Secondly, the sort of store that knowingly sells fakes is the sort of store that will have as much contempt for you as they do for the law. A store that sells fake goods will give you fake service as well.

Lastly if ever anything goes wrong with a cheap and nasty fake (because they always ARE cheap and nasty) nobody will help you. If your fake Nike trainers fall apart after a week and you complain to Nike they’ll politely show you the door.

Then there are other sorts of fakes. Like universities.

I was forwarded an email that a reader received from “Belford University”. It began: “You are eligible for Belford University Special Scholarship Program”. The email later said:
“Belford University has long been catering needs of working adults who wish to translate their substantial experience into accredited and recognized degrees. Our unique process through which we assess and value prior experience has won many students degrees that they require most to excel in their professional lives.”
Doesn’t that smell a bit fishy to you? I took at a look at Belford University’s web page and it was immediately clear that this was a fake university. For instance, nowhere on the web page does it say where this “university” is located. That’s because it doesn’t actually exist. It’s no more than a web page and a bank account.

But it’s much more than that. This is what it says on the web page:
Add bachelor's, master's or doctorate degrees to your resume in just 15 days and open avenues to promotion and better jobs!”
A degree in just 15 days? Are they serious? Yes, all it takes to get a “degree” from these crooks is money. A Bachelors or a Masters for $549 or a PhD for $924.

Surely, you’ll ask, this place isn’t an accredited institution, is it? Ironically it IS accredited. They say that they are:
“Fully accredited by the International Accreditation Agency for Online Universities (IAAOU) and the Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation (UCOEA).”
Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Well, it would be if these so-called accreditation bodies were actually genuine. Both of these bodies are themselves fake. Their web sites were created on the same day within a few seconds of each other, by the same internet registration company, amusingly the same company that registered the Belford University web site just a few days beforehand.

Out of curiosity I decided to test the Belford University application process. Using a fake name and email address I filled in the online form and applied for a doctorate. But what subject should I choose? They offer 120 different subjects, from Accounting to Veterinary Science but I decided to go for the big one.


All I had to do was give them my contact details and a “resume” and apply. My resume for my doctorate in Medicine was this:
“I worked in hospitals for many years helping patients”
Within hours I received an email that announced:
“we are pleased to announce that … Belford University has finally approved you for PhD Degree in Medicine. You may now pay the amount from the link provided below and get your PhD Degree in Medicine within 15 days from today.”
So there we are. All I have to do is cough up $924 and I’m a doctor of Medicine. Don’t you think that’s just a little bit scary? That in a couple of weeks I can portray myself as a very highly qualified doctor? Of course I would be a fake doctor but I’m sure it’s possible that I could use that fake qualification to obtain all sorts of benefits and advantages.

But I’m not a fake like Belford University and their fake degrees. Or am I?

Just for fun I decided to award myself a free Belford University degree. Working on the assumption that there’s nothing wrong with faking a fake degree from a fake university with fake accreditation I copied a Belford University doctoral degree certificate and put my own name on it. From now on please address me as “Fake Doctor Watchdog”.

So if you are thinking of buying yourself a fake degree from Belford or any of the other fake universities out there just consider this. You’ll be as much of a fake as they are.

This week’s stars
  • Shadrack at AON for excellent service

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