Saturday 31 May 2014

Expose fakers

If you’ve read this column before you’ll know that I despise the fake degree industry almost as much as I despise scammers. My view is that they’re just as bad as scammers, perhaps even more so because they’re not only morally bankrupt themselves but they make their victims into moral bankrupts as well.

Scammers are thieves and their victims are just that: victims. Yes, they’re often naïve and sometimes foolish but they are victims nevertheless. With fake degree peddlers it’s different. If you buy a fake degree then you are just as corrupt as the fraudsters you bought it from. The corruption is contagious.

People sometimes ask where’s the harm in people buying themselves fake qualifications. Who’s harmed? The answer is simple. We all are. The person who didn’t get the job or the promotion because someone with a fake qualification got it instead by appearing to be better qualified suffers. The employer who hires or promotes someone because they think they’re genuinely qualified becomes poorer because of it, not only financially but functionally as well. They’ve employed someone who can’t do the job as well as a person who really had studied the relevant subject.

Finally you and I suffer when the companies we buy products and services from offer us the services of unqualified liars and cheats because that’s what they really are.

Ask yourself this. Is there really anyone who really thinks they can get a qualification without doing any exams, coursework, dissertations or research? Without any actual work of any sort? If they do then clearly they are the sort of person who could ONLY get a fake degree.

These days the fake degree industry is branching out in to new areas of crookedness. A reader recently asked us if he could believe the email he received from the “Gulf Project Management Association”. It started like this:
“We are pleased to announce that based on a thorough review of your previous academic and professional record; the Board at Gulf Project Management Association (Gulf PMA) has directly approved you as a 'Project Management Expert (PME).”
It went on to explain that “the Association has allocated 10 Exclusive Member Seats for the Top 3% exceptional individuals who will be allowed to bypass the 'Interview Requirement' and directly qualify as a Member” and that “Since you have officially been conferred the Gulf PMA 'Member Status' & the 'PME' Title, the Membership Kit under your Name has already been issued. You are required to claim your kit for just $399”. Later in the email they claim that the membership fee has in fact been reduced from $2,500. Sounds like a bargain?

So there it is. With no effort other than giving them a credit card number and them taking $399 he can be a member of this prestigious organization.

Sounds just like the sort of offer you’d get from a fake “university”, doesn’t it? That’s because it’s almost certainly the very same people behind them all. For instance they have the very same online chat facility than most of the fake universities have and they come up with identical explanations of how you can get this membership without any effort, without actually deserving such a thing.

In my online chat with these crooks they told me that this body has existed “since 1995” which is curious as their web site was only first registered two weeks ago. The other clue that they’re related to the fake university industry is a question you’re asked as you sign in to their online chat service: “If you are an existing student, kindly enter your Student ID”. That’s exactly the same wording you get when you try to chat with a number of fake establishments like Rochville, Hadley and Steadford “universities”. They’re cousins, if not siblings.

These are the chat windows for GCPME and Hadley "University", Can you tell the difference?

Chatting to GCPME
Chatting to Hadley "University"

Another clue that this organization isn’t legitimate is that the exact same email came to the Consumer Watchdog email address and also to an email address I set up using a fake name just for the purpose of investigating fake universities. The person doesn’t exist. If non-existent people whose name has only ever been used to check out peddlers of fake degrees are offered this membership then you know the whole thing is fake.

Here’s a challenge for everyone. Every time you read someone’s CV and you see a university or professional membership you’ve never heard of ask us to check it for you. Don’t just Google the name because the first page will be full of planted hits to make the organization seem legitimate. Dig a little deeper and see if you can’t find the name on our blog or on the Wikipedia page that lists non-accredited universities. In fact you should go a little further. Politely ask your colleagues and your boss where they got their degree, in particular if it’s a Masters or a doctorate. If it’s legitimate they’ll be proud to tell you. If they appear reluctant to tell you or if you’ve just never heard of the place then let us know and we’ll check it for you.

Who knows, you might be exposing a cheat and a liar and save your company the cost and embarrassment of later firing them when it’s finally discovered.

Wouldn’t you do this if you thought someone was stealing from the company bank account or payroll? There’s really no difference. They’re all crimes because every one of them is stealing money from their company, their colleagues and their customers. From all us in fact.

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