“Contact us NOW to receive your diploma within days, and start improving your life!” That’s how thousands of South Africans are regularly solicited by e-mail to buy fake degrees from degree mills on the Internet.
Offering “Bachelors, Masters, MBA and/or Doctorate (PhD)” degrees “24 hours a day 7 days a week” the e-mails usually include a toll free number and promise that “no one will be turned down”.
Danie Strydom, MD of Stellenbosch-based Qualifications Verification Services company QVS, says a growing number of “degrees and diplomas” issued by non accredited institutions were being discovered during the qualifications verification process when prospective employers verified the credentials of the applicant.
“The lure of big money has become a powerful magnet for many desperate job seekers.”
Strydom, whose company now offers an electronic verification service for seven major tertiary institutions with several more to come in 2011, says it is a major problem if a company employed someone who claims to have a degree which later turns out to be bogus. The universities on the QVS system include University of Johannesburg, Tshwane University of Technology, University of the Free State, University of Stellenbosch, Durban University of Technology, North West University and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
“The only foolproof method is to verify the authenticity of the job applicant’s degree or diploma during the vetting process. The QVS online procedure is cost effective and because it is fully electronic the report is immediate. In addition to confirming whether the job seeker has attained the degree he or she lays claim to, we can also supply a transcript from member institutions showing which subjects the person has passed,” Strydom says.
Issued by so-called degree mills, the Internet credentials are sold at fees ranging from a few hundred rand to several thousand rand for more impressive-looking certificates.
With names like Hill University, Woodfield University which offers “a degree of your choice in just 15 days” based on an individual’s “life experience” and Best Western University which states upfront that it is a fake degree, all of these institutions require no study whatsoever.
While some Internet sites cover themselves by claiming that it is all in fun and warning recipients not to use these certificates to obtain employment under false pretences, others are completely brazen about it.
One so-called university openly touts the fact that it will validate all degrees awarded on the basis of “life experience” and that these degrees will make it easier for recipients to get high-paying jobs.