It has been found that thousands of Brits have bought fake degrees according to BBC Radio 4’s File on Four programme investigation raising concerns for recruiters and hiring managers alike.
One ‘diploma mill’ that has been outed named Axact, which claims to be the ‘world’s largest IT company’, operates a network of hundreds of fake online universities run by agents out of a Pakistan-based call centre. Former FBI agent Allen Ezell, who has been investigating Axact since the 1980s, warned the BBC that some employers are failing to properly vet employees. “Employers are not doing their due diligence in checking out the papers, so it makes [fake degree scams] work,” he said. “It’s the damnedest thing we’ve ever seen.”
“As long as paper has a value, there’s going to be somebody that counterfeits it and prints it and sells it.”
According to documents seen by BBC Radio 4’s File on Four programme, more than 3,000 fake Axact qualifications were sold to UK-based buyers in 2013 and 2014, including master’s degrees, doctorates and PhDs. Axact made more than $51million (£37.5million) in 2015 by selling more than 215,000 fake qualifications, through 350 fictitious high schools and universities.
Fake degrees appear to be issued from bogus universities, with names such as ‘Baychester’, ‘Brooklyn Park’ or ‘Nixon’ with websites set up featruing stock photos of smiling students. One British buyer reportedly spent almost £500,000 on bogus documents to help them get their dream job. When looking through the list of Axact UK buyers, seen by the BBC, it revealed a number NHS clinical staff, including an ophthalmologist, nurses, a psychologist, and numerous consultants also purchased fake degrees.
A consultant at a London teaching hospital bought a degree in internal medicine from the fake Belford University in 2007. The doctor – who had previously been disciplined by the General Medical Council (GMC) for failing to report a criminal conviction – told the BBC he had not used the certificates because they ‘had not been authenticated’.
Purchasing a fake diploma is not illegal in the UK, but using one to apply for employment constitutes fraud by misrepresentation and could result in a 10-year prison sentence.
The Department for Education said ‘Degree fraud cheats both genuine learners and employers, so we’ve taken decisive action to crack down on those seeking to profit from it.’