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The Accredibase 2011 Report

ACCREDIBASE REPORT FOR 2011 REVEALS 48% INCREASE IN FAKE UNIVERSITIES

Accredibase Report 2011
Verifile Limited’s second annual Accredibase report into diploma and accreditation mill activity has revealed an astounding 48% increase worldwide in the number of known diploma and accreditation mills in the last year. As the Internet is the primary home for these bogus education and accreditation providers, little action is taken to stop them from helping unscrupulous candidates deceive unsuspecting employers.

According to the 2011 report, the USA remains the world’s fake college capital. This year has seen a 20% increase in known diploma mills in the US, with the number rising from 810 to 1,008. While more than 40% percent of the diploma mills operate in California, Hawaii, Washington and Florida, the report reveals that District of Columbia has seen the sharpest increase among US states with 74%, rising from 19 to 33 mills over the past year.

Country

Number

% Change

California

147

10

Hawaii

98

4

Washington

91

5

Florida

84

47

Texas

68

28

New York

55

25

Arizona

44

57

Louisiana

42

8

Delaware

37

42

District of Columbia

33

74




The UK remains Europe’s bogus university capital with 57% percent of European diploma mills claiming to operate from its shores. This year has seen a 25% increase in known diploma mills in the UK, with the number rising from 271 to 339, whilst in Europe as a whole the total number has risen from 454 to 593, an increase of 31%.



Country

Number

% Change

United Kingdom

339

25

Italy

43

207

Belgium

36

33

Netherlands

34

13

Switzerland

21

31

Ireland

20

25

Germany

13

0

Spain

12

33

Austria
11
0

France

11

57


Diploma mills are largely online entities whose degrees are worthless due to the lack of valid accreditation and recognition. The wide reach and anonymity of the Internet offers these operations the perfect market to exploit, which is alarming not just for prospective employers but for society as a whole.

Perhaps the largest and longest running network of diploma mills, University Degree Program, is still thriving despite action by the US Federal Trade Commission back in 2003. Accredibase found 18 active ”university and ”accrediting agency web sites linked to UDP, all hosted on the same IP address. Whilst many of these UDP mills claim to be based in the UK or have UK sounding names (eg. Chelsea University), there has been no action against them by the UK Government.

In the United States, high school diploma mills are of particular concern and appear to be a growing segment in this unscrupulous market. These institutions target adults who did not graduate from high school and offer diplomas in just a few days for around $200 based on passing online tests. Candidates are often given the answers to the online tests and are allowed to take it as many times as necessary in order to pass. One such example is the ”Capitol High School network which operates at least 11 online high schools, all linked to a PO Box address in Arizona.

Eyal Ben Cohen, Managing Director of Verifile Limited said: ”The most effective way to combat credential fraud is to share information on diploma mills through international cooperation and raise awareness of the problem. This year’s Accredibase report examines the current status of the diploma mill situation and considers what can be done to protect the public and businesses. Information resources like Accredibase make it easier for regulators, law enforcement agencies and the private sector to access information on bogus institutions and aid in the detection of diploma mills.

The Accredibase report identifies the following red flags that may help in the identification of diploma mills*:

• The institution does not have authority to operate or grant degrees from the education authorities where it claims to be based.
• Degrees are delivered in a very short space of time - sometimes just a few days.
• Degrees are granted based entirely on work or life experience.
• Contact details are limited to an email address and the institution is vague about its location.
• The institution will allow the student to choose his/her own course title and specify the graduation year to appear on the certificate.
• Sample certificates, transcripts or verification letters are available to view on the website.
• Institutions make over-complicated or misleading claims about accreditation or recognition.
• The institution’s name is similar to that of a recognised and respected education institution.
• Internet domain names are misleading - such as ’.ac’ instead of the regulated ’.ac.uk’ used by higher education institutions in the United Kingdom.
• The website is poorly designed, has poor spelling and grammar or it plagiarises copy from other institutions.

Verifile’s proprietary database of diploma and accreditation mills, Accredibase, keeps track of the credential fraud industry. Verifile’s Accredibase has identified approximately 5000 suspect educational institutions and accreditors, including 2,615 known bogus education and accreditation providers. In addition to the huge number of confirmed mills known to Accredibase, new suspect institutions are discovered on a daily basis - more than 2,000 are currently under investigation by Accredibase for inclusion in the database.



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