Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Con Men Internet Scams: How To Earn a College Degree Without Earning a College Degree

--Fake college degrees? A booming business for con men, with the absurdity of their "marks" cooperating with them

What's a diploma mill? Explanation is right at your finger tips. Just check out the entry in Webster's Third New International Dictionary:

"Diploma mill: An institution of higher education operating without supervision of a state or professional agency and granting diplomas which are either fraudulent or, because of the lack of proper standards, worthless..."

Many con men have found the lucrative field of diploma mills--or degree mills--to be as good as gold. In pursuing this line of con man endeavor they simply practice Harley's First Law: You can lead a horse to water, but if you can get him to float on his back, you've got something. Think of how ridiculous this whole concept is: just apply on the internet for a college degree and in a finger-snap moment, when accompanied by a small fee, you have it. No fuss. No bother. No strain. Why, then, bother to attend college for four years or longer if your college education can be this quick and easy? This whole notion is so hard to swallow--seemingly, a mystery solvable only by Scooby-Doo--yet it thrives.

Many of the "home" addresses of these hoax perpetrators are nothing more than a post office box or "mail drop." Remote regions of the U.S., like Montana, which has loose standards, are often used to locate these "institutions of higher learning." Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Wyoming, Mississippi, and California, too, have either few standards or excessive loopholes. Mississippi has no oversight at all.

Unfamiliar European locations are also popular with the con men, who, without conscience or any moral standard to guide them, simply fall back on their basic principle: that money is the root of all wealth. They then follow this path accordingly: easy as falling-off-a-log education.

Now you see it, now you don't. This particular magician's appearance / vanishing act only proves Murphy's Law of Combat #12: If your advance is going well, you are walking into an ambush. A great many people get their fake degrees revealed.

Who bites? Who actually believes that a counterfeit college education can have any benefit for them?

In analyzing why people believe this you could say, "my mother might believe that. My priest might believe that. Sponge Bob might believe that. Most people won't." Wrong! You'd be amazed at the number of people who have jumped at such "opportunities." Perhaps, like so many others, they think they are thinking when they are only rearranging their own prejudices. Envy? Jealousy.? Greed? Who knows? Off the top, here is just a sampling:

> A North Carolina man whose degree-verified medical clinic treated an 8-year old girl who died.

> Parlaying a $100 degree he'd "earned" from a British degree mill, another North Carolina man raised venture capital to market an AIDs drug. He raised millions before getting caught.

> A San Clemente, California man raked in $10,000,000. He ran a fake degree operation that was located 2,000 miles from his home, in Louisiana.

Some of these scam schools also provide a complete transcript. Some provide phone operators who will verify graduation to inquiring employers. Some will supply laminated student I.D. cards, and other proof-of-attendance records. A few even offer class rings.

With only some 35% of U.S. corporations systematically verifying degrees as factual, is it any wonder why such a big market for fake college degrees exists?

If you try to fail and succeed, which have you accomplished? That's a good question for all the people who are participating right alongside the con men in perpetrating this in-your-face scam.

This whole exercise seems like standing in a bucket and trying to lift yourself up by the handle.


Jamie said...

I've always wondered how these things work. People will do anything for a buck or a shortcut in life. Sad really.

Hope all has been well with you!

Bern said...

How can these stupid people possibly think these degrees are worth anything more than the paper they are printed on? I can't understand such craziness.

Gene Kranik said...

The figure that jumps out at me is that one third. To think, only one out of every three employers even bothers to check on these phony degrees. That's a shortcoming to be marveled at.

Ariel J said...

I think Jamie put it well, a shortcut in life. What else can be a bigger shortcut than saving years of college attendance along with the small fortune in money needed to finance it?

Bradblogging.com said...

Thanks for visiting Bradblogging.com

What a sneaky idea to play on people. Fake degrees :D

I watch a show called "The Great Hustle" and it shows all the different ways theives can scam you. A great show and this post reminded me of it.

Keep up the good work!

Patricia said...

Seems like every year we are bombarded with more and more scams in every shape, form, and size. I just wish that there was more done to stop scams. Seems like so many con artists get away with these schemes perpetrated usually on unsuspecting, albeit, naive individuals. You know so much in this area Jack...are there task forces set up in our country strictly dealing with scammers? Just curious.

Jack Payne said...

That's right, Brad. The Great Hustle, starring that ageless wonder, Robert Vaughn, is a pretty good show on scams. I watch it now and then. And, be assured, I intend to keep right on exposing these scum bags, the best I can.

Patricia, you ask about enforcement, to nail these charlatans.
The answer is short, and 2-way: Yes, steps are taken. And, no, not enough. All of the federal government agencies maintain enforcement arms. The F.B.I. issues alerts on new scams regularly, and enforces, to some extent (everything with them takes a back seat to terrorism nowadays). The S.E.C. hits back fairly well on stock scams, and the F.T.C. is good at--at least--issuing alerts as new scams develop. Policing arms of State Attorneys General offices, too, are active. Combined, they have chased some of the worst spam artists off the internet. Or, should I say, they have chased many of them into chat rooms, newsgroups, and onto bulletin boards. Where, sadly, they are even more effective.

Anonymous said...

Jack – it is a very interesting subject. They had something on it on TV not long ago. They exposed some top level government people with fake degree – one was or was near cabinet level.
Amazing – huh? And don’t forget that religious liberty allows nearly anyone to confer a religious degree – freedom of religion.
Don’t forget that online education is the rave for many adults like me who want to update their credentials – yet don’t want to sit in a class room. Many top tier schools now offer online programs, even Harvard – but there are many many many – questionable programs. Never ever go into a program that is not regionally accredited without doing very good research. A lot of scam schools use scam accreditation.

Jack Payne said...

That's a good point about the many accedited online classes these days. There are plenty of these fully legitimate offerings, too. This post had only to do with the out-and-out frauds--those who offer nothing more than glossy-looking awards, in return for your cash money.

Effler said...

Believe it or not I have a son who has suggested getting one of these fool things. Thought I'd done a better job of raising him, but I guess I'll have to go back to work.

joderebe said...

Being a university student (part time mind you) anyone who want the quick fix with a fake degree deserves the outcome. Thanks Jack. Really good post.

Cyberpunk said...

I see those ads, I thought they were for distance learning classes. There are legit distance learning courses, although I'm not sure how to distinguish the legit ones from the scams.

Theresa H. Hall said...

Like my Daddy always told me " Earn it and work hard. Don't want something for nothing" Nowadays Jack, it seems there are too many lazy and dishonest folks. Glad I can exclude myself from them. Daddy would be proud.

Jack Payne said...

I share your Daddy's pride, Theresa.

And, C.P., distinguishing between the legit and illegit is ralatively easy. When checking these people out look for one of three things:

1. The flat-out fraud. Those who offer--only--glossy paper documents, pomp, and other tangible items attesting to your (supposedly) haven taken part in some curriculum--without the necessity of your actually having to do so.

2. The gray area fraud. Only qualifier being a "test" you must pass. Often these are filled with questions like "Who was the first president of the United States?"

3. The legitimate distance learning program. These generally require a considerable length of time to complete, exhaustive use of texts, and extensive testing. Also, usually provided are testimonials and proof of prestigious accreditation.

T. Cereasly said...

So many of these people with fake degrees get caught. It's a wonder there is any market left.

Anonymous said...

My granddaughter was tempted by one of these offers. I had to talk her out of it. I only admit this under the veil of anonimity.

Earl T. Clydson said...

I was a little shocked to read that Mississippi has no oversight at all. I lived there for a short time and found the state had little oversight on anything. Why is it so many states are so loose on governing this kind of fraud?

Jack Payne said...

It's hard to tell why, Earl, but many states have little oversight of various scams merely because of lobbying power--power politics, pure and simple. A strong special interest group exerts so much pressure on a state legislature to exempt them from adequate oversight. This happens time and time again, over and over and over in all the state legislatures, as well as the U.S. Congress.

In the case of Mississippi, perhaps the most effective use of lobbying-power to keep state regulatory authorities from snooping around too much was that of the Trial Lawyers. For many years Lawyers from all around the country would shop "friendly" judges to hear their class action law suits. Often, these searches pointed the way directly into Mississippi court rooms, where outrageous $100,000,000-$250,000,000 jury awards were doled out against major U.S. corporations.

backlinkburner said...

I agree with your timely observation that money is the root of all wealth.

Jimmurdoch said...

Hi Jack, Glad to see someone has the knowhow and the guts to bring this stuff into the open. And judging by this site's popularity a lot of people agree.
Good work.

Jack Payne said...

You know, Jim, 10,000,000 yearly cases of identity theft, here in the United States alone, does much to spur and maintain interest in this subject.

DIVAS said...

hey jack,
how do you prevent your posts being tagged n surrounded by ads?

Jack Payne said...

Only thing I can think of, DIVAS, is that every time I am approached to take advertising I flat-out refuse. I tell the advertisers I have no interest in monetizing my Blog. This attitude may have something to do with it.

kab625 said...

Hi Jack,

Yes, it's important to be careful. There are so many online career and training "institutes" and
"universities" that it really is mind boggling. I think you need to look for affiliation and accreditations from brick and mortar educational centers also to provide a clue. When you see and accreditation, half the time they're nebulous accreditatons at best, requiring further exploration.
Yes, if there are, for instance, no books - you may not want to enroll. You may learn something, but can you take it to an employer?

I sure hope my Nursing education measures up. I learned in the bayous of Louisiana from this woman who had a lot of dolls laying around....hmmm (lol)

Jack Payne said...

Congratulations, Kathleen. I believe this is a "first"--the first I have heard of voodoo credentials for nursing.

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Jojo said...

I saw one of the episodes in "The Investigators", a TRU TV show, about a girl that made a fake diploma. How sad! and what an ***h*le. Lazy people!

Live Love Life - Jojo

JD and Lucy said...

I'm quite surprised, Mr. Payne. I had no idea fake degrees were this big of a problem. I didn't know they were this big a business either. I always thought to get a fake degree you had to...''know people.'' I've seen plenty of college degree ADS online but I assumed they were to spend years studying online and then get a degree...from studying. Great post. Great site. I gave you a BC review too. I've been enjoying combing through your older posts also. Because of you, I might start plugging in my paper shredder and use it for something other than a little book stand.