Doctors of Deception: Diploma Mills

Category: Education

Were your parents disappointed when you didn’t become a doctor or a lawyer? Well, you can make it up to them by buying degrees in these or any other professional field, without doing a lick of course work. Read on to see how bad the problem of fake degrees and online diploma mills really is...

Did Your Doctor Really Go to Medical School?

“Diploma mills” have proliferated online, and they’ve gotten much more sophisticated in the support they provide to cheating customers. This is a problem for employers, public or private. It can be expensive and traumatic for litigants and medical patients, too.

Dennis Yang, a Toronto attorney, is out an estimated $100,000 because he hired fraudster Inayat Kassam to open a new office. Kassam was referred to Yang by a trusted colleague. Kassam’s diplomas, transcripts, and references all looked authentic and excellent. The problem: neither Kassam’s law school nor his BA alma mater exist!

The school that issued Kassam’s fake BA diploma is supposedly based in Florida. But it turns out the address listed is fake and the photos of campus and faculty were stolen from other sites. This sort of chicanery can be exposed by calling accreditation agencies. But many fake schools also have fake accreditation agencies answering phone calls! References, too, can be called, but employers have no idea whether the reference contact is real or fake.

Fake Doctors and Diploma Mills

It’s estimated that diploma mills crank out $1 BILLION worth of fake degrees every year, for a few hundred dollars a pop. Additional support such as fake resumes and references cost a bit more. "There's clear evidence that more than half of the people in any given year who claim a new Ph.D. actually bought a fake one," says John Bear, an expert in online education and co-author of a book on degree mills.

A Pakistan-based IT firm called Axact seems to be the largest online diploma mill, according to a Canadian Broadcasting Company investigation. Using various fake schools, Axact issues degrees in engineering, computer science, social service counseling, and nursing, among many other majors.

Is Your Cosmetic Surgeon a Hairdresser?

"Paging Doctor Bob... Doctor Bob..." It's true that I acquired the nickname "Doctor Bob" while working at IBM in the 1980s. I'm not a Ph.D, but I do have a real degree in Computer Science. See my article Tech Support House Call to learn the story behind that, and how another "Doctor Bob" lost his job due to faking his credentials.

Social media is not the place to find a cosmetic surgeon. A recent study found that only about 17% of cosmetic surgeons posting “educational” material on Instagram (which are really patient recruitment ads) actually have the board certifications and other credentials that they claim. Some of the self-identifying cosmetic surgeons are actually dentists, hairdressers, or spa employees.

A group of high school journalists in Pittsburg, Kansas exposed their principal’s fake degrees, prompting her to resign from her $93,000 position. Her fake alma mater, Corllins University, does not exist, according to Dept. of Education records. Searches of reveal 745 people claiming degrees from Corllins -- all of them are bogus.

Federal agents have identified 12,500 fake degrees issued by 40 diploma mills under investigation. That’s a drop in the bucket; it’s estimated that more than 5,000 diploma mills are active online today.

Employers have to do extra due diligence to check the references, or even the existence, of job candidates’ alma maters, references, and past employers. Consumers should call state licensing agencies to verify the credentials of any hairdresser, engineer, lawyer, or medical professional they are considering.

The Internet has made a lot of things easier. But unfortunately, fraud is one of them. On the bright side, with just a bit of Googling, intrepid sleuths can have a lot of fun outing fake Ph.D. principals and other posers.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Doctors of Deception: Diploma Mills"

Posted by:

Edward M Lieber
15 Sep 2017

As wrong as it may be for phony PHD's to be masquerading as School Principals it is equally wrong for the members of Congress to be pretending to govern our country while they party in Washington D.C., line their pockets with ill gotten funds and do nothing for this country or it's citizens. Somewhere in the past 100 years or so this country has gone off the track it started out on and is rapidly heading to the same place that the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations wound up.

Posted by:

15 Sep 2017

For those in the viewing area, CBC Marketplace 'Fake Degrees' airs tonight Friday September 15.

Posted by:

15 Sep 2017

Home Repairs has always been a field to watch carefully, but even more so now that fake credentials are so easy to come by. Some of the workmanship that I've seen people pay good money for, could have been done better by a blindfolded monkey.

Additionally, have you noticed fake online Reviews of services and products have been getting harder to spot? Guess we're gonna have to go back to the time when we got to know and speak with our neighbors, to make a few actual friends that we could share advice with... - sigh -

Posted by:

15 Sep 2017

One small quibble. It is the Canadian Broadcasting *Corporation*, not Company.

Posted by:

Dr. Rohan H Wickramasinghe
15 Sep 2017

Thanks Dr. Bob for an incredibly helpful service. Keeps me optimistic in a difficult world.

Posted by:

15 Sep 2017

Bob, do you mean to tell me that my B.S. degree from University of Hard Knocks potentially does not contain the periods after those 2 letters?

Posted by:

15 Sep 2017

A severe prison sentence should be mandatory whenever fraudsters are caught, not just forcing them to resign their position. Medical fraudsters should get even stiffer sentences. Only very severe sentences could possibly put a stop to this.

Posted by:

15 Sep 2017

I think it's time to introduce one more degree - Master of Science Fiction (MScFi).

Posted by:

Jay R
15 Sep 2017

Should English teachers with fraudulent degrees get severe sentences?

Posted by:

Jonathan Skrine
16 Sep 2017

It's not just the fake colleges.

'Real' ones regularly mark students present or having arranged absence when just missing to avoid funding cuts related to attendance.

Standards are cut every year.

There has even been a proposal that qualified 'educators' with no qualifications in trade skills Carpentry, bricklaying etc., will be teaching these subjects in the near future.

At least those who buy their qualifications have some interest in the subject. Most do not and only attend to continue to get their welfare payments.

The world has gone mad!

Posted by:

16 Sep 2017

No I'm not,.....
But I did stay at a Holiday Express last night.

Posted by:

16 Sep 2017

It would be nice to see one of those phony certificate sellers get into a car accident and be treated by one of those who bought a license from him. Better if he messed up because he wouldn't be able to sue his workplace or the phony doctor. It would be like: Johnny was a chemists son, Johnny ain't no more. What Johnny thought was H2O Was H2S04.

Posted by:

Bob K
16 Sep 2017

Jay R,

Now that's clever :-)

Posted by:

Darcetha Manning
16 Sep 2017

Employers have to do extra due diligence to check the references, or even the existence, of job candidates’ alma maters, references, and past employers. Consumers should call state licensing agencies to verify the credentials of any hairdresser, engineer, lawyer, or medical professional they are considering.

The Internet has made a lot of things easier. But unfortunately, fraud is one of them. On the bright side, with just a bit of Googling, intrepid sleuths can have a lot of fun outing fake Ph.D. principals and other posers.

Dr. Bob, I agree with the statements you made above. But, I would like to add, do people realize, that colleges and universities make everyone do group projects, so the professors have less work to do?

I speak the truth, because I attended an online college. I had foreign students in my group, who could barely speak English. But, I had to make sure that they got a passing grade. When I realized what was going on, I dropped out. In my opinion, this is a form of cheating.

Posted by:

16 Sep 2017

I attended a for-profit college in search of a (real) Master's in IT to go with my (real) BA in the same field. Like Darcetha M, I also was required to "carry the load" for non-English-speaking, non-IT- proficient students as part of group projects. If I didn't go along with the assignment, I also would get a failing grade. My favorite was the most commonly cited source in the other students' research: Wikipedia. Needless to say, I only took two classes (concurrent) and then got the heck out of Dodge.

Posted by:

16 Sep 2017

Similar to Amazon eliminating bad reviews of Hillary's book.

90% plus 5 star ratings- yeah sure.

Posted by:

Kaarlo von Freymann
16 Sep 2017

Dear Mr.Lieber,
you could not have put it better. Unfortunately what you say applies not only to the US but also all countries in Europe so I feel we are witnessing the decline of Western Civilization. A German Called Spengler - your name seems to be of German origin- already about 100 years ago wrote a book called "Der Untergang des Abenlandes" The Fall of the Occident. You seem to be well versed in history. History shows no civilization has ever been able to keep going forever. Earlier just the pace of everything was much slower. Thanks for your posting Kaarlo von Freymann Helsinki Finland

Posted by:

19 Sep 2017

I was delighted to see John Bear's name as an expert. He has close to 40 years of experience with diploma mills. For me, his book was quite helpful as a reference tool when advising aspiring scholars. Bob, you always find the good references!

Posted by:

13 Oct 2017

Another thing that I always had a problem with is the National GED High School Test.
As I understand, the test is predicated upon the average test scores of tests given to entering, at random, university students, all of whom must have a high school diploma.
Their average score must be the minimum score that GED test takers must achieve in order to receive their high school diploma.
To my way of thinking, based upon the criteria mentioned above, that GED High school diploma holders, who were high school drop-outs, are better educated than the average person entering our universities & colleges.
So, instead of requiring a HS diploma as a requirement for entry into a university/college, why not just give them the GED HS test. Half would probably fail.
Just my observation.

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