Online companies offering authentic looking degrees from UK universities for £1,000.
The Cambridge Student can exclusively reveal that a considerable number of UK universities are undermined by companies selling fake degrees, which offer authentic look-alike degree certificates for a nominal cost.
Instead of spending £9,000 a year on a university education, it is possible to buy afake degree for around £1,000. Following a 'sting' organised by a TCS reporter (posing as one Rodion Raskolnikov, our fake Russian 'spy'), TCS can reveal that among the institutions affected by these fraudulent degree companies, the University of Southampton, Salford University and the University of Hertfordshire have all been directly targeted along with Cambridge and Oxford (albeit with varying degrees of accuracy as the "Peterhouse College" degree obtained by TCS shows above!)
The fake degrees which are available for purchase from these companies are claimed to be designed so that they will be indistinguishable from the real certificates and are of a high enough quality to be considered genuine by potential employers.
In emails shown to TCS, one online business called "verifiabledegree.com" boasts that it can order customers degrees from a choice of six UK universities.
The company claims to have a "confidential agreement with the universities" althoughthey also say that they are unable "to release the name of the schools to you. However, we guaranteed all of our degrees are legal, verifiable, recognised and accredited."
The business gives itself an aura of confidentiality, justifying their decision not to name the universities in question, stating: "We are doing this to avoid a lot of potential employers and customers to check the qualification through us and we take confidentiality seriously. I hope you can understand this. We will choose the English speaking university in the developed countries like USA, Australia, etc. We charge these bachelor degree for USD$ 200.". But for degrees from UK universities the same seller charges "USD$ 4000 each" ordering qualifications from the University of Southampton, Middlesex, Bath Spa, Coventry, Salford, and the University of Hertfordshire.
Another online business that sells fake degrees, called "Budgetdiploma.com", seeks to reassure to its customers of the legality of the site by stating that it orders "diploma replicas for the purposes of self esteem."the business describes itself in its emails as being run by "graphic designerswho specialise in the creation of diploma replicas." The emails received by TCS encourage their recipients; "When you have decided which university you would like a replica from for the purposes of self-esteem, etc. please don't hesitate to contact us and we'll do our best to help you." In a subsequent email from "Budgetdiploma.com" the same customer was also offered "a very good replica Open University degree diploma/certificate" - this 'replica' degree would cost £1,079 including overnight shipping to you in the UK. We could get this made and sent to you in 2 weeks, or less if it's expedited. However, leaving open the question as to what counts as "self-esteem" and admitting that "because of the high degree of accuracy of our replicas, which could easily be misused, we have to be very careful as to whom we sell them to. Consequently, we will not be able to help you if you tell us you will be using our replica to gain employment or for immigration purposes. I trust this clarifies our position."
The email was sent after a potential customer asked whether the degree certificates issued by "Budgetdiploma.com" could be used "for employment purposes". Budgetdiploma.com" also offers on their website "novelty UK Degrees and Transcripts made from Templates" for the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford.
Although "Budgetdiploma.com" defines these as "novelty" products, intended purely for "self-esteem" the phrasing of the site leaves the customer with little doubt as to the "high degree of accuracy" of their products. The site does not specify to the customer any circumstances in which their "novelty" products cannot be used. The sale and misuse of these certificates has led to those involved in the running of businesses which sell fake certificate degrees being jailed in the past. In 2010 a graphic designer running an online business that sold fake Open University certificates was jailed for three years, following a trial at Birmingham Crown Court.
The problem of fake degrees in the UK has recently received more attention, with leading UK background screening company Verifile releasing a case study which showed how far people had advanced themselves within their careers through using fake degree certificates. A 2011 report also labeled the UK as Europe's bogus university capital.
However, the director of Cambridge University Careers Service, Gordon Chesterman, told TCS that: "In my 15 years at the Careers Service, we have not encountered any employers commenting on fake degree certificates when recruiting first-time jobbers straight from Cambridge. Employers combine a raft of evidence to confirm an applicant's identity: references from Tutors and/or DOS transcripts - even down to their having an @cam email address." However, he did acknowledge that fake degree certificates could be "a problem with those employers taking on experienced staff with several years' experience, where the candidate may have claimed to have got a degree from Cambridge in the mid 1990s, for example."
With older-style degrees and new technological advancements, the number of fake degrees is on the rise and they are becoming increasingly difficult to spot.
Timur Cetin - Deputy News Editor