11th July 2017Brand ProtectionEducationHologram

Fake certificates, what you need to know

Fake certificates are becoming a real problem for Australian business but, how are these obtained? Well, usually you go to University for several years, and after commitment and hard work, you are rewarded with a degree certificate.

Except that, it is not the only way to get one anymore… Indeed, apart from legitimately graduating from a university, you can either buy a real certificate from a fake university or a fake certificate from a real college. They are both easy to get on the web, and they are obviously both considered as illegitimate and fraudulent.

Counterfeit certificates and fake qualifications is a growing issue internationally. Research from Dr George Brown, Academic director of the Think: Education Group, who helped draft a UNESCO statement discouraging university degree mills, estimates that worldwide, close to 30% of senior executives have presented qualifications they did not hold.

Degree mills, bogus universities…

These so-called schools have no campuses, only exist in cyberspace and offer certificates including Masters and PhDs, in exchange for a premium fee. The qualifications are based on “life experience” and, sometimes, a few weeks of online course work.

Famous examples include, amongst many others, Saint Regis. Saint Regis University was a certificate mill which operated in the US between 1999 and 2005 when the US Government shut them down. It is estimated to have made $7 million from selling fake qualifications to more than 9,600 customers in 131 countries.

Dozens of examples of professionals with fake certificates have been brought to the public eye. In 2003, Laura Callahan, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s deputy chief information officer claimed to have impressive education credentials including a bachelor’s, master’s and a PhD from Hamilton University. The university was an unaccredited online college. Callahan was forced to resign in 2004.

It’s not just in the US; It is known that 50 Australians were linked to Saint Regis, with qualifications including degrees in electrical and mechanical engineering, law, IT, marketing, business management and theology.

Counterfeit certificates

The other option to degree mills is faking a qualification from a legitimate university. There are dozens of websites offering degrees from well-respected institutions worldwide. Although most of them carry a disclaimer saying that the certificates are “novelty products”, they are widely used by con men to obtain sought-after jobs.

Earlier this year, Police was urged to investigate a Chinese forgery business, believed to be charging thousands of dollars for the fake degrees and certificates from nearly 100 of Australia’s leading institutions.

Australian Universities are more than aware of the phenomenon and are working hard with their security print providers to ensure that their testamurs are virtually impossible to copy or alter. For example, Griffith University, University of the Sunshine Coast and Murdoch University have strict policies in place including in-built security features in their testamurs to protect the integrity of the documents they issue.

Fake certificates – what to look for?

Fake certificates are often difficult to spot so it is important to know what to look out for.

At first glance:

  • Spelling mistakes: Fake certificates often carry typos, grammar mistakes etc… Recognised institutions would never jeopardise their reputation by issuing degree certificates full of mistakes
  • Terminology from other countries: For example, US terminologies such as “fall” (referring to a semester) or “with highest distinction” should never appear on a UK certificate.
  • University name: Check for alteration to real names such as Queensland University instead of University of Queensland or completely made up names such as Alice Spring University…
  • Name of the issuer: Do they work there?

Look further:
Most genuine degree certificates carry many security features that are highly difficult to counterfeit including UV dull paper, invisible ink and holograms with a bespoke design registered to each university. Hague currently print degree certificates and transcripts for over 100 universities worldwide, including more than 20 in Australia.

In addition to securely printed certificates, Universities and Colleges are also encouraged to use a secure online system to issue the documents and verify degree credentials.

Secure Web Verification Service & Electronic Document Delivery

Systems such as Hague Australia’s PremierCert+, allow Universities to manage securely documents online with benefits for the institutions itself, the students and the future employers including secure online ordering of certificates, assurance of the integrity of student qualifications and reduction in admin costs.

Fake degrees have disastrous consequences for a large number of stakeholders. Overseas students are being conned out of thousands of dollars, employers are at risk of recruiting unqualified staff, and the Government’s reputation as a provider of high quality education is in jeopardy.

Degree counterfeiting is a big business that will not end overnight but by choosing to work with experts, like Hague Australia, that can provide both highly secure certificates and online solutions, Institutions can certainly make counterfeiters’ life more difficult.



Contact us now for more information about degree certificates and secure web verification and document delivery.