Last week, the New York Times featured an extraordinary in-depth investigative piece about a company in Pakistan that has allegedly created over 100 fake high school and university websites (see list) that hand out fake degrees.
Diploma mills are nothing new, but these websites are slickly produced with great graphics, and have detailed information at every link.
Many of these schools are adorned with logos from known and unknown accreditation organizations, student testimonials, and even links to reports about the schools on CNN.
This CNN iReport touts the success of Brooklyn Park University:
That report really is at CNN.com — no tricks. How did it get there? The entire iReport section is a place for average citizens to upload news stories that they witnessed. CNN has a small disclaimer on each story that it has not been verified by the network.
And then there are student testimonials on some of the college sites like this one:
What’s this kid, maybe 19 years old? That means, according to his testimonial, that he started working as a supervisor at the age of 12. And it seems he not only got a bachelor’s degree from Woodrow University (above), but he liked the experience so much that he got another bachelor’s degree from Johnstown University — all by about the age of 19.
In fact, this guy is a male model and his pictures are for sale on Shutterstock.
And the pay for professors must be pretty low because this teacher of business management coincidentally also moonlights as a model.
Scam schools attract two types of students: those trying to pull one over on others by getting a bogus degree, and those who think they are applying to a genuine school to get an online education. Both may pay thousands of dollars for something that is ultimately worthless.
And then there’s another potential victim — all of us — who may come in contact with one of these people who was hired unwittingly by an employer who took their resume at face value without further checking.
The company denied the charges in the NYT story. Nonetheless, Pakistan’s equivalent of the FBI raided the company’s offices, seized computers and arrested 45 employees the day after the story was published. And CNN has removed iReport stories about (only some of) these schools from its website.
May 27th update: The president of the company behind these schools was just arrested in Pakistan.