Just how easy is it to find, purchase and use a fraudulent degree to advance in your career field? After surfing the Internet for only 5 minutes, I found a site that would “award” a bachelor’s degree to me in 7 days for approximately $500. All I would need to do is “apply” to the “accredited” institution by presenting a “life experience” portfolio of just four years work “relevant” to my major of choice. This institution can be referred to as a diploma mill (or degree mill). No studying, no exams, and, essentially, no cost. Let’s get real – anything too good to be true, is. What I picture as real in this case is some average employee at this so-called “accredited” institution sitting in a dark, corner cubical printing off and signing my fraudulent bachelor’s degree. Am I really to believe that this degree is going to convince my potential employer that I am a better candidate than someone who spent thousands of dollars and studied numerous years for a valid degree? Believe it or not, diploma mills are everywhere and in large numbers. Thousands of people every year fall victim to the diploma mill scam. Don’t be one of them. Learn the facts, and find out how to spot a fraudulent school or accrediting agency.

According to Wikipedia, the world-wide online encyclopedia, there are currently over 300 unaccredited “colleges, universities, and seminaries” offering fraudulent degrees in the United States. Some of these “institutions” are “accredited” by one of the 98 fake accreditation agencies also deceptively operating in the U.S. today. Diploma mills are by no means new to the U.S. and have been defrauding people for over 50 years. The widespread use of the Internet has added fuel to this fire as the inscrutability of the Web allows new hackers to discretely create and maintain diploma mills. Another loophole encouraging widespread success for these hackers is the use of religion in carrying out degree scams. The separation of church and state established in the United States Constitution prohibits preference of religion in regards to law. Many diploma mills make the most of this separation by creating “religious” institutions or Bible colleges. The government is hesitant to monitor and pass laws against religious dealings.

So what steps has the United States Government taken to minimize the effects or growth of these diploma mills? In the 1980′s the FBI conducted an operation (DIPSCAM) to find and shut down well known diploma mills. The operation was deemed as somewhat successful as 40 mills were closed, but due to lack of progressing law enforcement and the growing use of the Internet, the operation was also put to an end. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Education introduced a website listing institutions with valid accreditation to aid future students in search of legitimate collegiate programs. Individual states have also passed bills to punish schools that knowingly grant or promote fraudulent degrees. For example, in the state of Washington, penalties start at up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for these diploma mill crimes.

You decided to take the easy route and purchase a fraudulent degree. Let’s just imagine for a moment that you were hired by a major corporation that failed to research your credentials. Everything is great! You got your dream job, baby! After looking over some of your documents about a year later, your manager discovers your secret. What happens to you now that you are caught in the act of using a fake degree for career advancement? As stated above, each state differs in charges for using or granting fraudulent degrees. If you were caught using your fake degree in North Dakota, for instance, you could be charged with at Class A Misdemeanor which is left to the courts to freely administer fines and/or jail time. There are many examples of prominent people who made the mistake of exploiting fake degrees in their careers. Their momentary successful career advancement turned to shame and embarrassment, crushing their dreams and future. In some instances, not only was the life of the degree holder destroyed, but the lives of others were shattered forever. In 1999, a woman took her 8-year-old daughter to a “diabetic specialist.” The doctor seemed reputable with many degrees and awards displayed in his office. Needless to say, the “doctor’s” recommendation took the life of the precious 8-year-old girl.

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Avoid making the mistake of destroying your future career by enrolling in an accredited program with a valid institution. While researching your institution of choice, make sure the college or university is not on the list of unaccredited institutions. Take the time to talk to representatives and former students. Ask questions about the accrediting agency, and find out if it is recognized by the United States Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Cross reference the institution’s contact and background information to confirm the legitimacy of the school. Earning an authentic degree is just that – you will need to earn it. Just remember, above all, that if something is too good to be true, it usually is.

Where to look for listing of fraudulent schools and accrediting agencies:

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United States Department of Education Diploma Mill/Accreditation Resources

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Wikipedia List of Unaccredited Schools (Possible Diploma Mills)

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Wikipedia List of Unrecognized Accreditation Associations

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