Saturday, 1 June 2013

Fake everything

It’s been a week of fakes.

You only have to visit many of the cheaper stores in the less flashy shopping malls and you’ll find racks of pirated CDs and DVDs, all with badly copied covers, poor quality boxes and hastily printed discs. When you watch these DVDs you’ll soon see why they’re so cheap. The quality is usually abysmal.

I oppose piracy like this and so should you. Buying a fake CD or DVD is stealing and I think everyone knows this. It’s not “cost-saving”, it’s just theft. It’s really no different to buying a stolen laptop from a stranger in a bar.

Sometimes it’s not just the slightly suspicious stores that sell pirated things. A reader contacted us a couple of weeks ago shortly after buying a brand new laptop. While she was in the store the assistant told her about Microsoft Office and how much it would cost. However, he suggested, there was a cheaper way to get Office. Just give him P500 in cash and he’d install it for her from his memory stick. Not being an expert she didn’t see anything wrong with this and went ahead with it. It was only later when she mentioned this to friends that she began to understand that this might not have been entirely legit.

She got in touch and I immediately contacted to the store. To their credit they took this extremely seriously and within moments the manager got involved, investigated and suspended the employee in question. They had no choice, he was stealing from everybody in sight. He stole P500 from a customer, he stole the cost of Office from Microsoft and he stole the store’s profit from selling it as well. A triple thief. He’s lucky not to have been arrested and charged.

You have to wonder how many times he’s done this. P500 each time and I imagine he was earning more from this side-line than his conventional salary. He can probably afford to be unemployed for a while.

He’s not the only peddler of fakes who deserves to be unemployed. There are people out there in both private and public sector jobs who don’t deserve to keep their jobs. The ones with fake degrees. This week I was told of yet another person in a senior position claiming to have qualifications from Rochville “University” a well-known fake. I also heard, for the first time from a new one, “Riverbanks University”. It’s exactly the same as all the others, offering degrees as high as doctorates on the basis of nothing more than “life experience”. Worryingly, like many of the other fakes, they offer pretend qualifications not just in benign subjects like Business & Management and Computer Science but also in potentially dangerous areas like Nursing, Education and Social Services. A fraud with one of these so-called degrees might end up teaching your kids, making a decision about the welfare of the kids next door or even treating one of mine. It’s scary.

But, you think, employers check these things, don’t they? They carefully research the qualifications of the people they hire, don’t they?

No, they don’t. If they did then there wouldn’t be anyone with any of these fake degrees currently employed, would there? Are there are. I know of several including parastatal Board members, teachers and lecturers, people pretending to be psychologists, pastors and business people. Some even claim to have several degrees all of which are fake.

What I don’t understand is how people have the nerve to do this. Surely anyone smart enough to get a credit card and use the internet and WANT to get a degree knows that you get one by studying, doing exams and coursework and actually working hard, not just giving a credit card number over the internet and getting a degree two weeks later? Even when you make contact with these supposed universities they’re perfectly clear. Riverbanks told me online that “You can certainly apply for a Masters now. The process will take 10 working days for you to receive the documents”. When I asked to confirm the price, “So I get a Masters degree for just $298?” their answer was simple. “yes”.

Everyone knows this by now, don’t they?

It works the same with many so-called “awards” that people and companies can “win”. The so-called “International Biographical Centre” will give you all sorts of awards including the “International Order of Merit” and the “Twentieth Century Achievement Award” and will even include you in their list of “2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century”. All you have to do is nominate yourself and you can be included in these ridiculous lists. All you need do is pay them $315 for a copy of the book. Nobody checks anything, nobody even checks that the person nominated even exists. I know this because I nominated an entirely fake identity to be included in their ludicrous “2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century”. Shortly afterwards I got a letter inviting me to send them $255 (this was last year). They also offered me a "Suite of diplomas", a "Citation of Meritorious Achievement" and "Medal of Intellect", all for more money.

The Department of Commerce in the Government of Western Australia says that this company produce no more than "phone books with fake leather covers" and that the "awards" are "an ego boost which isn’t necessarily worth the paper it is written on". I agree.

They’re a bit like those service awards you often see companies bragging about. You know companies pay for them, don’t you? They either cough up cash for a table at a gala dinner or they sometimes are more indirect, requiring the company to buy the awarder’s services in order to be included. I know this because one of these companies approached us last year inviting us to do the research for their awards ceremony for them. We politely declined.

These awards are just as fake as bogus degrees or pirated software. Don’t buy one, you’re buying a lie.

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