Detecting Fraudulent Documents and Degree/Diploma Mills
The most effective and reliable way of combating fraudulent documents is to adhere to strict document requirements
and to insist on receiving credentials in the appropriate form directly from the institutions that issue them.
Documents taken from an applicant must be reviewed with great care. The presence of certain indicators dictates that
a document be sent back for verification to the institution that issued it. Some of those clues are as follows:
- The document shows grades that are very high by the standards of a system where grades are typically clustered at the lower end.
- The format of the document is unusual for the institution or the system of education.
- The document contains inconsistent typeface elements.
- The document contains spelling errors.
- The document is marked as "confidential" and yet it is submitted by an applicant.
- The transcript or diploma is a colored photocopy.
- Lines, words, numbers, etc. appear crooked on the page.
- Lines, words, numbers, etc. are missing from the use of white-out.
- The document is not signed and/or sealed.
These are blatant clues that a document may not be authentic. But as counterfeiters now use sophisticated computers and
printers, the documents that they produce can be flawless and are not easy to detect. Only strict standards for the
submission and receipt of academic credentials can help eliminate fraudulent documents.
Degree mills are shady outfits that sell degrees and transcripts that are not backed up by appropriate study or
examinations. Although they usually give themselves legitimate sounding university names, degree mills operate out of
mail drops and are difficult to trace. They are quite prevalent on the Internet where they pose as distance learning
institutions. Many degree mills claim to be 'accredited' by one or more fictitious 'national' 'international', 'worldwide' or 'global'
accrediting agencies. Some degree mill operators have been able to acquire URLs ending in <.edu> that they try to use as proof that
they are legitimate academic institutions.
Documents issued by 'universities' with addresses that are office suites or P.O. Box numbers, and whose existence cannot be
verified in any authoritative independent publication, should be rejected out-of-hand.
Establishing the existence and status of an institution is the first step in accepting any educational document. If that is
done diligently, documents from degree mills are easily detected and eliminated. The most comprehensive list of degree mills
can be found at: www.osac.state.or.us/oda/unaccredited.aspx.
The facts on document policies
Institution status, recognition and programs of study
Document authenticity and verification
Countries that issue university documents in English