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How to Spot a Fake Degree

Updated on September 23, 2010

There are many scams that are designed to cash in on the desire to further your education through online degrees. Some of these are so authentic that it can be difficult to separate the scams from those that are genuine. However, there are a few tell-tale signs that indicate a fake degree.

1. "Earn a degree in a month!"

A legitimate degree will take several years to be officially completed. This many be the traditional three or four years that you would expect if graduating from a traditional bricks-and-mortar university, or it may be longer if your online degree is being taken on a part-time basis. Either way, any degree program that is claiming that a degree can be taken in a far shorter time period will almost definitely be a scam, as it is not possible to fit the necessary work into the time frame. Taking an online degree is often a more convenient option, but it is not supposed to be a faster alternative to attending a bricks-and-mortar institution. 

2. It is cheap

If the price seems to good to be true, it usually is. Most fake degree programs draw victims in by offering an online degree program that is very affordable. This will usually be much cheaper than the degree programs that are provided by the reputable educational institutions. When it comes to degree programs, you will almost always get what you pay for. Generally speaking, different courses will have different fees (depending on their specific make-up), but this is rarely the case with a fake degree program. Instead, a generic flat fee is specified.

3. There is no accreditation

You should always check to make sure that the degree program is accredited by the US Department of Education (or another reputable source). While there may be actual courses to study, these will not be recognised by other educational institutions or employers. If you try to transfer the credits to another university at a later date, you will not be able to this as the credits are not from an accredited institution. If a degree program is accredited, this tends to be prominently displayed somewhere on the website or course materials. In some cases, the degree program may be accredited by an institution that is not recognised by the Council on Higher Education. If you have any doubts, you can contact an accreditation agency to do some background research. 

4. It is difficult to contact anyone

This is often a good test to conduct. If you cannot easily contact a real person to ask questions about a degree program, this should set some alarm bells ringing. Credible degree programs will usually have a telephone number that you can call to speak to advisors. 

When looking for an online degree program, it is vital that you do your homework for committing your money. It is all to easy to be caught up in a scam, especially as fake degree programs are becoming more common. Knowing some of the most common signs of a fake degree program are essential if you do not want to become a victim of this. 


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    • mandymoreno81 profile image

      mandymoreno81 6 years ago

      It's awful how there's a lot of misinformation online and newcomers just get easily confused and waste their money.

    • ecamper23 profile image

      ecamper23 6 years ago

      Thanks for the tips! Most people would be able to spot a scam immediately but there are others who aren't so quick.

    • cmellon86 profile image

      cmellon86 6 years ago

      The number one thing should be accreditation. This is not to say other degrees without accreditation are fake, but chances are it won't be of any use.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for a great hub. It is happening more and more that scams are cashing in on that sort of things.