December 10th, 2014 | Sterling

How To Spot A Diploma Mill Like A Pro

How To Spot A Diploma Mill Like A Pro

If you’re a hiring manager, a competitive job market might sound like music to your ears. With some basic recruiting and an online job posting, your inbox is instantly flooded with résumés and thoughtful cover letters from hopeful applicants. In fact, you might even receive a few applications from some seriously overqualified job seekers. However, a competitive job market also means that you may need to apply a little more due diligence. After completing countless online applications and attempting to connect with one too many recruiters on LinkedIn, some desperate applicants opt for the cheap and easy leg up by reaching out to – you guessed it – a diploma mill.

These fraudulent institutions specialize in duping employers and sometimes even their “students” into believing they offer legitimate education programs, when really the only degree they should be handing out is a Masters in Deceit.

Here are some of the telltale signs that you’re dealing with a diploma mill:

They openly offer credits for life experience. While accredited institutions can grant students credits for relevant experience, they will not give a student an entire degree based on work history alone. The majority of a degree is earned in the classroom.

You can’t locate a physical campus. If you’ve searched high and low for a physical address and you can only find a P.O. box on their website, consider it a red flag. It should be easy to find an address for an accredited college or university, even if they offer online correspondence.

The name sounds awfully familiar. Diploma mills are known to pick names that are very close to accredited institutions in hopes that the student or employer will confuse the two. This tactic makes spotting a fake degree on a job application tricky so ensure that you always pay attention to the minor details.

They offer custom study programs and tailor the degree to the student. Legitimate institutions offer a variety of programs for students to pick from, but post-secondary education is not a “choose your own adventure”. Students don’t get to pick the name of their degree, which academic honors they receive, or their GPA.

There is little to no actual course work required. No class and no exams? It sounds too good to be true because it is. All accredited colleges require students to do coursework, even distant learning programs.

Students are charged a flat fee to earn their degree. Although it would be nice for students to know how much that BBA will cost in advance so they can budget accordingly, real education institutions charge by credit, course or semester.

They are not accredited. The easiest way to find out if you’re dealing with a diploma mill is to find out if they are accredited. Keep in mind that a few legitimate institutions have chosen not to get accredited so just because you can’t find them on the list doesn’t mean that they are a diploma mill, simply take it as a red flag.

It’s not as easy as it seems to identify a diploma mill. In fact, many students themselves have no idea that they used a diploma mill and all they’ve got is an expensive piece of paper. Most diploma mills have very convincing websites and provide their customers (oops, I mean “students”) with official-looking degrees and transcripts. Many even go so far as to have someone from the “registrar” answering the phone to verify degree for curious employers.

If you’re hiring for a position with education criteria and you don’t want to take a gamble when hiring your next employee, consider using a professional background screening company to conduct an education verification. Background checking companies deal with diploma mills every day and are experts on spotting the fakers.

This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.