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Fake University Certificates


As printing techniques have improved over the years university certificates have come to resemble banknotes in the sophistication of their design. Embedded holograms, watermarked paper, and extremely detailed graphical designs are just a few of the techniques used to hamper efforts to counterfeit these documents. Many certificates are now made of polymers, and printed using special inks, making them even more difficult to copy.

Ten years ago the price of printers that could produce the features seen on university certificates was prohibitively high - certainly in the tens of thousands of pounds. This meant only accredited education boards, who of course could be guaranteed a high demand for printing certificates every year, could afford the purchase price and running costs of these machines.

Within the last ten years though the cost of printing has dropped dramatically. Many people can now afford a colour printer that can produce photographs of a quality that, until fairly recently, could only be found at a high street printing shop.

The drop in price of sophisticated colour printers has been a catalyst for the counterfeit certificate business. For a modest outlay they can now acquire a machine that can replicate all the features on a modern university document. The advent of the internet has of course helped them, as it has so many other companies. The cost of setting up a website is minimal, and they can simply let customers find them, without having to advertise.

Printing fraudulent university documents may sound like a negligible act compared to other forms of illicit imitation, such as counterfeiting money, but the authorities take the crime extremely seriously. In June 2015 a major crackdown was launched, which has recently led to more than forty websites selling these bogus certificates being shut down.

Unfortunately these nefarious sites are like the many headed hydra, with numerous other springing up for every one shut down. To make matters worse the problem is more complex than companies simply selling fake documents - there are numerous websites masquerading as the official web domains of well known universities.

These sites will claim to offer `Distance Learning,` modelling themselves on the open university platform, where students will be sent documentation and media to enable them to acquire an UK validated Degree wherever they are in the world. Of course no such service is offered, and once a hapless victim has paid their fee - often in the thousands of pounds - they may not even be lucky enough to receive a counterfeit certificate.

These sites usually work by having a similar domain name to a genuine university web site, misleading people into thinking they are viewing the authentic page of a university. These fake sites are usually extremely well designed, and it would take an a perspicacious observer to notice that they are not actually affiliated with the university that they claim to be.

`There was a bogus provider shut down by us a couple of months ago calling itself Surrey University, and we`ve had `Wolverhamton university` without the `p` in the middle,` said Jayne Rowley, the higher education services director at Prospects, a company which runs the HEDD, (Higher Education Degree Datacheck) which was set up in 1990 to combat higher education fraud.

Jane Rowley has cited the danger of `Twitter Selfies,` where proud students pose with their university certificate, making the image public on their twitter feed. This innocent act helps promulgate the latest certificates, meaning fraudsters will have access to a treasure trove of high resolution images of the most up to date qualifications.
`If someone wants to copy the certificate, they will be able to tell what colour the certificate is, what it looks like, the Vice Chancellor`s signature and so on. In the summer we spent a lot of time contacting universities to tell students not to pose with their certificates and then put the pictures of social media,` said Jane Rowley.

Many of the companies selling these counterfeit certificates claim they are for `novelty purposes, or as a replacement for lost diplomas.` To a graduate leaving university with thousands of pounds worth of debt, it must be infuriating to think a debt free charlatan could poach a job they are applying for with fraudulent qualifications.

Oscar Wilde described a cynic as `a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.` In our increasingly acquisitive society, it may be cynical to state that the price of university education can be too high for many to afford; but for those who seek to purchase these false accolades, its value has certainly never been lower.

21 months ago
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