Ungovernable News: Phony Degrees Online! Buying your degrees online! Beware of the unlawful conduct! Get a real degree! GO TO SCHOOL!
A Marketplace investigation of the world's largest diploma mill has discovered many Canadians could be putting their health and well-being in the hands of nurses, engineers, counsellors and other professionals with phoney credentials.
Fake diplomas are a billion-dollar industry, according to experts, and Marketplace obtained business records of its biggest player, a Pakistan-based IT firm called Axact. The team spent months combing through thousands of degree transactions, cross referencing personal information with customers' social media profiles.
The investigation revealed more than 800 Canadians could have purchased a fake degree.
"Keep in mind this is just the one operation," said Allen Ezell, a former FBI agent who investigated diploma mills for decades. "This does not give you totality of how many are being sold throughout Canada by all schools that are operating."
Ezell, who co-wrote the book Degree Mills: The Billion-Dollar Industry That Has Sold Over a Million Fake Diplomas, estimates half of new PhDs issued every year in the U.S. are fake.
The impact of fake degrees is twofold, he said. They devalue legitimate degrees that people spend years and thousands of dollars earning. More importantly, professionals like engineers and health-care workers who lack the proper skills and expertise can put the public at risk.
"All of us can be harmed by any professional that … does not have the full extent of training that his credentials purport that he has," Ezell said.
"We can be harmed across the board, every day."
Axact's school websites are slick, and names like Harvey University, Barkley University and Nixon University give the supposed U.S.-based schools an air of Ivy League authenticity.
There are hundreds of Axact-linked schools that offer a range of educational opportunities with faculty ready to assist 24/7. Some schools even have a degree verification department for any third-party requesting transcripts or proof of attendance.
But none of the schools has a physical address, faculty photos are often stock images, and even the accreditation bodies the websites cite are fake.
One can often qualify for high school diplomas, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees or PhDs based on "life experience" and can purchase them for as little as a few hundred dollars.
As Marketplace discovered, Axact customers aren't shy about touting their degrees on their LinkedIn profiles, or displaying them proudly on their office walls.
'Those are my certificates'
Gilbert Correces didn't need any prompting before showing off his credentials to two undercover Marketplace journalists posing as a couple seeking counselling at his Toronto office.
"Those are my certificates up there," Correces said, pointing to a framed PhD in biblical counselling from Almeda University.
#Ungovernable Lesson of the Day: These certificates are turning into people's confessions! That is why it is so terribly important to get disbarred because then everyone knows which degrees you actually obtained!
#UNGOVERNABLE: ESCAPE YOUR OPPRESSED STATE™