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How to Spot a Fake Degree

How to Spot a Fake Degree main image

Here at TopUniversities.com, we know none of you are silly enough to be fooled into buying a fake degree! But, as shown by this week’s news of the UK’s crackdown on fake degree websites, there are plenty of swindlers out there trying to cheat students into buying a degree which is about as useful as Monopoly money in a shop. Read on for some tell-tale signs of a bogus qualification…

1. It’s being sold on eBay


Yes, really. According to the BBC, fake degrees have been spotted on auction website eBay using the University of Manchester brand. We’re guessing this seller’s reputation score was not too high…

2. The ‘university’ isn’t in a real place


Hmm. One fraudster created a University of Wolverhamton, not to be confused with the actual, correct, legitimate University of Wolverhampton (note that crucial “p”). The university name as it appears on your degree certificate should always be exactly the same as the official name of the *real* institution. Maybe the website includes a campus address, but when you look it up on Google Maps, it is either not a real place or definitely not a real university. According to the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) another fake university tried to pretend it was in ‘Galway, Dublin’ – two entirely separate and distant Irish cities.

3. URLs that end with .ac rather than ac.uk



Some fake university websites purporting to be UK institutions sneakily use a URL with the .ac suffix, duping you into thinking it’s a real UK university. All UK university websites end in .ac.uk, and the domain ending is tightly restricted, so the university is likely to be legitimate if it has this URL ending. On its own, .ac is actually the internet country code for the remote Ascension Island, and this can be used without restriction. Several genuine universities have cleverly registered both .ac and .ac.uk versions of their URL – with the former directing to the latter. For example, try clicking www.oxford.ac. Take that, fraudsters!

4. Numerous spelling mistakes


 Although it might look like a professionally designed and perfectly innocent university website or degree certificate, take a closer look at the spellings. Maybe it’s asking you to ‘regester your intrest’, or ‘make a payement of £1,000’. No self-respecting university website would make mistakes like this, for obvious reasons.

5. There’s no actual studying required


Finally, if a ‘university’ is offering you a bachelor, master’s, PhD or other degree for sale without you actually having to do any work, it’s undoubtedly a phony. Don’t be fooled (or tempted), as actually buying a fake degree is obviously not a good idea.

If you’d like to quickly and easily check whether a UK university is a genuine degree-awarding body, you can do so for free using the HEDD website, here.

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Sabrina Collier's profile image
Written by Sabrina Collier
The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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