In today’s hiring landscape and the global migration of skilled workers, employers run the risk of hiring candidates with false credentials. Diploma mills play a significant role in unqualified and fraudulent candidates slipping through the hiring process unnoticed. An increase in online learning, working from home and access to the internet, allows diploma mills to flourish, not to mention the technology and practices used to create realistic yet false diplomas, making it more difficult for employers to detect fraudulent certifications. With costly repercussions, the generation of these fake degrees and their infiltration into the workplace should be a considerable cause of concern for companies worldwide. 

What Is A Diploma Mill?

Diploma Mills

A diploma mill is an “unregulated institution of higher education granting degrees with few or no academic requirements.” These fraudulent accreditations have infiltrated inefficient hiring processes for years and are still an immediate threat to companies worldwide. By forging authentic-looking degrees, these mills offer credentials of no merit to their customers. They quickly deliver fraudulent credentials to paying customers looking for a cheap, underqualified and dishonest way into their next role. However, not all who purchase from diploma mills know that they are doing so. Some diploma mill websites look authentic and offer some form of learning to justify their existence; however, they are not accredited to do so. Often unsuspecting students think that these websites are legitimate and not a money-making racket. Globally, there are more than 300 counterfeit diploma websites and more than 3200 unaccredited universities and diploma mills.

The Magnitude Of The Problem

There are daily updates in the news about fraudulent degrees, ‘professional’ malpractice (due to under qualification) and reputational damage to companies associated by employment. Axact.com, based in Pakistan as “the world’s largest IT company” is the most infamous diploma mill in the world. Axact has sold qualifications such as master’s degrees, doctorates and PhDs to buyers, including NHS staff, nurses and a large defense contractor. Myanmar’s former planning and finance minister Kyaw Win boasted a fake Ph.D. from ‘Brooklyn Park’, one of Axact’s fake mills. In addition to fraudulent credentials, Axact operate other frauds, including a publishing house, job placement companies, recruitment entities, term paper, dissertation mills and research entities, ’reputation rebuilding/repair’, automobile importing and travel websites. Globally, it is estimated that diploma mills award 500 fake Ph.D. degrees monthly!  

Unqualified Employees In The Workplace

Diploma Mills

Fake credentials and degrees don’t discriminate what industries they pillage. Particularly within high-risk industries, having unqualified employees work for you affects your organization’s reputation, resources, clients, brand, not to mention the implications can even be life-threatening. A fraudulent nurse administering medicine to a critically ill patient, an unqualified engineer designing a 50ft residential tower, or a dishonest financier acting as a wealth manager for a top client’s account is not a standard to associate with. When recruiting internationally, employers should have thorough and streamlined hiring processes to eliminate the chances of any dishonest credentials or applicants making their way through the recruitment pipeline. 

An under-qualified employee acting under your company’s brand could cause irreversible reputational damage, lawsuits, imprisonment, financial troubles and in extreme cases, a loss of life. If a candidate’s application and credentials seem too good to be true or a little bit ‘off’, background screening will give the hiring party peace of mind

Throwing Money Away

Diploma Mills

It’s essential to consider the delegation of financial resources. Qualified employees, depending on their level of experience and expertise, are awarded their salaries accordingly. It’s daylight robbery for a company to grant an uncredentialed and fraudulent employee compensation they are undeserving of. Is the salary being paid on par with the expertise contributed? If not, it’s time to audit the hiring process and its tools and figure out how to mitigate unqualified applicants permeating a company’s workforce. Perhaps this may go unquestioned within specific industries with a low-barrier to entry. However, high-risk industries cannot afford to associate themselves with fraudulent ‘professionals’ practicing on their behalf. 

Suppose an employer doesn’t have a streamlined hiring process or a candidate verification solution in place. In that case, an unqualified applicant could get hired, and sooner or later, the repercussions of this bad hire will become evident. Consider the costs of onboarding an employee. Time has been allocated to recruit, interview and onboard. If they have been hired internationally, consider the visa, flight, accommodation and transport costs. They all add up. The realization three months into a new role that they are unqualified is wasted time, energy, resources and cost. Verifying a candidate’s identity and credentials long before any of these costs are paid out protects an employer’s reputation, clients and pockets! 

Spotting Fake Degrees

Diploma Mills

Depending on the volume of applicants for a role, spotting fake degrees takes time, effort and an observant eye. Here are some red flags to watch out for when sifting through piles of applications:

– Unreasonable timeline to obtain a degree. Do the dates on the application match up with the standard length of time it would take to complete a bachelor’s or a master’s degree?

– Logical timeline. Has the applicant gone from high school to a doctorate with no bachelor’s degree or work experience?

– Does the name of the issuing authority look unfamiliar? When in doubt, search for the title of the ‘issuing authority’ online alongside the words ‘diploma mill’. This could give you an answer very quickly as to whether the credentials are legitimate or not. Alternatively, you can check the name against lists of diploma mills like this one here

– If the university has a physical location, see whether the applicant’s address was near enough for daily commuting to classes.

– All potential employees should be verified, particularly in high-risk positions so, contact the institution directly. Does the phone number work? Is the person on the end of the line knowledgeable about the course, dates, timeline, student, transcripts, etc.?

Handling Fraudulent Credentials From Diploma Mills

6% of educational degrees are forged and 53% of job applications contain false information. These statistics are too high to ignore. Fortify and streamline local, internal and international hiring processes using state-of-the-art recruitment and verification tools. For a long-lasting, transparent and trustworthy relationship, verify a candidate’s identity and credentials early on in the recruitment process by conducting background screening. Companies can also reduce the time-to-hire and mitigate diploma mill risk by only sourcing candidates from pre-verified pools of talent available.

The diploma mill epidemic leaves no industry unaffected. If verification is something you need to add to your hiring process, TrueProfile.io can offer you tailored solutions.

– If you’re hiring pre-verified candidates, sign up for your TrueProfile.io Recruiting 7-day FREE trial here

– If you want to verify a new employee, contact a member of our team via businesspartner@trueprofile.io today!