Have you ever conducted a background check and thought the candidate’s listed college or university seemed obscure?  Or the name seems familiar, but not quite right? It pays to take the time to make sure your candidates’ degrees are real. Why?

Think about what recently happened at Yahoo, where they discovered their CEO, Scott Thompson, had lied about his qualifications on his CV. Thompson stepped down from his position, but the damage was done—the company faced public embarrassment and loss of credibility because nobody had bothered to vet his academic credentials before they hired him.

And many other employers across the country are discovering that their employees didn’t earn legitimate degrees from legitimate schools. Rather, they got their credentials from a ‘diploma mill.’

Diploma mills allow candidates to buy a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from a nonexistent college or university for the price of a few hundred dollars. No classes are required, not even online—they usually tell candidates that their “life experience” counts toward college credit. Some of them will have the candidate answer a round of questions before granting a ‘degree.’

Fake Diplomas, Fake Verification

The people who run diploma mills have an out: they sell diplomas for virtually any degree, but the sites will say, in small print, that the diplomas are for “novelty purposes only.”

However, that doesn’t explain why their fake diplomas often come with fake transcripts, fake letters of recommendation—and a fake verification service. Richmonds University, a known diploma mill, even provides instructions on how to deceive employers through their fake fax and email address. They state that they will not verify credentials over the phone.

Credentials from “Richmonds University” have shown up on resumes from people who were able to attain high-ranking jobs. For example, one man acquired a fake doctorate in nuclear engineering from Richmonds University and went on to be awarded government contracts based on his supposed education.

A degree from Richmonds University was cited in the bio of the executive director of the Kern County (CA) Bar Association. And a doctor from New Jersey claims to have earned both his Doctorate Degree and Masters of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering from Richmonds U. Type “Linkedin.com Richmonds University” into any search engine: you’ll see everyone from law enforcement officers and energy company plant managers, to finance capital firms and hotel managers stating they’ve graduated from this phony institute of higher learning.

There is a University of Richmond in Richmond, VA, and Richmond University, The American International University in London. There is also a Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island, NY.

But Richmonds University (with the S) does not exist. It’s completely fabricated. They produce academic credentials that appear to be legitimate—and are designed to fool prospective employers, reporters, clients or anyone else inquiring about a person’s academic achievements.

How to not get fooled by fake academic credentials

The sophistication of the fake diploma factories is impressive. And many companies don’t bother to check academic credentials when a candidate has enough job experience.

But that’s your best chance to avoid being duped: When you hire someone, specifically check their academic credentials, especially if their degree seems advanced for their position. Call the alumni office of their supposed school and check that person’s degree and transcript.

The Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) maintains a database of legitimately accredited schools.  And you can educate yourself. Look up diploma mills online and familiarize yourself with the most popular.

It’s the lack of skepticism, time and education on the employers’ part that allows these fraudsters to get away with deception. Looking for more tips on how to avoid getting duped? Looking for supply chain candidates whose credentials have been carefully checked? Contact ZDA Partners today!