Bogus high school diplomas are no shortcut to graduation: Internet Scambusters #625
There's no shortcut to earning your high school diploma -- and certainly not by paying for one on the Internet.
In this week's issue, we show how rogue diploma mills that churn out fake college degrees have started selling high school diplomas, too.
We also have an alert about an email that claims your PC has critical errors that need a Microsoft update.
Now, here we go...
Degree Forgers Switch to Fake High School Diplomas
High schools students who failed to graduate are being offered a sneaky and dishonest way out -- the chance to buy a fake high school diploma.
This is the latest trick in the booming diploma mills business, where all sorts of dubious accreditations are offered, usually for a couple hundred dollars.
We've previously explained in a past issue, Old School Standards - How To Spot a Distance Learning Scam, how some of these shady "colleges" and "universities" work, often with respectable sounding names and promoting themselves in respected publications.
They use what they loosely describe as "distance" learning to "qualify" their students in a matter of weeks, often counting in what they call "life experience" as the main credentials for qualifying.
Most of these operations are illegal because their diplomas are just misleading and intended to deceive.
Sometimes, too, they confer obscure qualifications, which may strictly be legitimate but are actually meaningless.
But there's nothing obscure about a high school diploma.
Crooks offer what they label as "high school equivalency" credentials, and their names often include the tag "Online High School" or "High School Online" coupled with a respectable sounding name.
And, it seems, there's no shortage of customers.
In September, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) halted the operations of just such an organization that allegedly grossed $11 million for selling fake high school diplomas online throughout the US.
It also froze their assets as part of an effort to return fees to victims.
In this case, the alleged diploma mill had been operating since 2006, using multiple names and claiming students could earn "official" and accredited high school diplomas and use them to enroll in college or the military, or to apply for jobs. Not true.
The diplomas cost between $200 and $300.
The FTC says the owners of the operation actually fabricated a phony accreditation body to make their operation seem legitimate.
"A high school diploma is necessary for entry into college, the military, and many jobs," says Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "These defendants took students' money but only provided a worthless credential that won't help their future plans."
The point is clear: If you or a family member were unfortunate enough not to graduate from high school, there's no shortcut to earning your GED. You have to work for it.
And if you were duped into paying for a fake (or worse, knowingly bought one), this either won't pass muster or might come back to haunt you if the scam is discovered.
As with other college diplomas, beware of any offers that charge a flat fee for a qualification, claim you can qualify easily and in a short time, require next to no course work, and give undue weight to your "life experience."
Also, beware of overseas "colleges" offering qualifications if they don't have an established reputation.
They may be out of reach of law enforcement in the U.S., but if you try to present one of these as a credential, most organizations will have them checked for equivalency with U.S. qualifications and might invite the holder to take a further exam.
The U.S. Department of Education has a useful article, Diploma Mills and Accreditation, explaining how diploma mills work, with guidance on what to do if you suspect you might have been duped.
In particular, it points out that some dubious organizations still use Internet addresses that include ".edu" to give themselves an air of respectability.
Although the rules on who can use this in their address have been tightened up, some illegitimate ones who owned domains with ".edu" before the new rules may still be operating.
"Whether an institution uses an .edu or not, it's important to know as much about the institution as possible before enrolling," it says.
As an aside, when we were researching this issue, we came across numerous sites openly offering online fake diploma generators.
At least one offers to replicate diplomas from most major universities and colleges, but anyone who clicks on this particular site will actually download malware onto their PCs.
Others might claim their services are just for fun, which gives them a cloak of legitimacy. But why would anyone, with legitimate intentions, want to fake a qualification?
Whether you're downloading malware or a fake degree or high school diploma, you're not going to do yourself any favors!
Alert of the Week
Has an email dropped into your inbox recently with the subject line: "Critical PC Error Alert: Microsoft Updates Required"?
It's spam that offers a download it claims will improve the performance of your PC. We have no idea whether it does or not, but we do know that the sender has no way of knowing if you have errors or require a Microsoft update.
Give it a miss. If you want to check your PC for updates use the "Windows Update" application in your PC's control panel.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.