Fake College Degrees | How To Know If It is Real? (2023)

Fake College Degrees | How To Know If It is Real? (1)

Santiago Mallea

Chief of Content At Gradehacker

Learn how fake college degrees work with our YouTube video!

If you are a non-traditional student pursuing a better life, chances are you’ve already encountered fake college degrees. They promise you an actual diploma in a few weeks or months, based upon your experience rather than academics.

And maybe you are thinking both you and hundreds of people would be able to recognize if these online schools are legitimate institutions or not.

However, according to George Gollin, a board member of the U.S. Council for Higher Education Accreditation, approximately 100,000 fake degrees are sold in the U.S. alone per year, with one-third of them being postgraduate degrees.

And it’s been a business on the rise, as in 2018, around 200,000 fake degrees were awarded per year to students around the world, with over 50,000 fake Ph.D. diplomas sold in America.

It’s clear that fake college diplomas are no joke. After all, if you earn one, willingly or not, you can lose your job, others’ respect and even tarnish your name.

It is important that you know how to detect any fake college, and we want to help you with that.

Here at Gradehacker, we strive to help non-traditional students like you improve their college experience. Since you must know how legit your university will be, we are sharing the 4 ways you can detect a fake college.

Let’s begin!

Fake College Degrees | How To Know If It is Real? (2)

What are Fake Colleges?

Fake colleges, also known as diploma mills or degree mills, are fraudulent “institutions” that sell phony diplomas and academic transcripts to anyone willing to pay their “fee.”

In short words, they are a scam.

These fake colleges are highly impressive-looking and fool lots of people by promising bogus degrees in a short amount of time by validating the student’s work experience gathered throughout their life.

Types of Fake Colleges

However, there are two types of fake schools:

Open Diploma Mills:

(Video) How to Identify Fake Colleges and Degrees

These colleges are transparent with their clients and don’t hide that they sell fake degrees for cash. The customer is aware that the degree is illegitimate, and the “institution” even makes custom design diplomas.

Instead of having a fake college name, clients can choose the institution they want.

These are websites like DiplomasAndTranscripts, PhonyDiplomas, and Cheaper Than Tuition. While all these companies clarify that their realistic fake university diplomas are not validated, nor should they be used as replacement documents, there is nothing stopping people from actually doing it.

Why would someone willingly buy a fake diploma? Well, to get hired in a position or earn a raise. Even though it’s not illegal to purchase a diploma mill, using it as an accredited diploma for personal gain is a crime in several jurisdictions.

Diploma Mills that claim to be Real Schools:

These are the fake institutions that trick students into unknowingly buying a fake school diploma. Overall they’re advertised as real schools where their students do minimal work and earn their degree in a short time.

The danger is that many students get to “graduate” from these facilities and think they have actually earned an actual degree. However, they can get in legal trouble if caught using fake academic credentials while working.

These are the schools that you should avoid at all costs.

Fake College Degrees | How To Know If It is Real? (3)

But how can you identify them? Keep reading!

Looking For The Best Academic Guidance?

With Gradehacker, you can finish your college program and earn your degree two to three times faster!

Fake College Degrees | How To Know If It is Real? (4)

Looking For The Best Academic Guidance?

With Gradehacker, you can finish your college program and earn your degree two to three times faster!

Fake College Degrees | How To Know If It is Real? (5)

(Video) How easy is it to fake a certificate nowadays? - DocuTag Documentary

How to Recognize Fake Colleges

Accreditation Process

The first and most effective way to find out if an educational institution is legit is by checking if it’s approved by the Department of Education. Otherwise, it should be accredited by an agency recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

In order to trick more students, these fake institutions use official-sounding terms such as “licensed,” “authenticated,” and “internationally approved” throughout their websites and ads. Additionally, they have names similar to other well-known colleges.

The main problem is that many of these fake schools are accredited by phony agencies they have created themselves. These accreditation mills usually have well-sounding names, which assure you to be international agencies superior to the U.S. Department of Education.

The best way to check where these institutions are accredited is by searching in an online database. GetEducated.com has one list for Diploma Mills and another for Accreditation Mills, so you can find whether your next school is legit or a fraud.

Fee and Admission Criteria

Another red flag you can pay attention to is how much they charge and what requirements you need to meet to enroll.

First of all, fake colleges charge one bill for the degree, ranging from $500 to $2000 for an undergraduate degree and over $3,000 for a graduate diploma.

It is way cheaper than an average real university, and legitimate institutions usually charge per course tuition or per credit hours.

Secondly, there are no admission criteria at all!

They don’t ask you to meet a certain GPA, pass an entry exam, or present previous academic credentials. You can access and start getting your “degree” by having a valid payment method.


A key aspect you need to consider is that fake online degrees only last a few weeks or one or two months, and this is because they don’t really have any learning experience to provide.

Some promise you a degree 30 days after you apply for it. How could anyone think a degree is possible in such a short amount of time?

Well, these phony schools target non-traditional students who already have the working experience of one field and need to earn a new certificate to continue working or earn a better position.

And with so many work obligations and family responsibilities, and without wanting to get a student loan to pay for college’s high costs, the idea of having their experience recognized with a degree in only a few weeks is really a life saver for non-traditional students.

However, be aware that no accredited university in America can award a master’s or doctorate degree based only on a review of work or career experience.


The last way you can tell a school is fake is how they show themselves and what information they share.

Throughout their website and email spam, they focus heavily on the extreme promise of earning a degree in 30 days. Plus, as they aim to trick people, they also mention how their degree program centers around giving credits for your life experience.

Additionally, their website won’t have a .edu address, and they won’t share a phone number to get in touch with, only emails. Also, you should always check their address, as sometimes they are an apartment number, and in some cases, they are even located in another country, even though they claim to be for American students.

Fake College Degrees | How To Know If It is Real? (6)

What to do if You've Been Scammed by One?

If you’ve fallen for their false advertising and you’ve enrolled in a fake college, the first thing you should do is ask for a refund. Send that “institution” an email explaining you’ve realized their scam, that the degree they are offering is not legit, in opposition to what they claim, and that because of this, you want a full refund.

To be honest, most likely, you won’t receive any refund, nor will they answer your email. Still, this step is very important because this documentation might be useful in the future, as it proves that you were initially unaware of the fake diploma and that the moment you noticed, you wanted to end it.

Then, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or with your state attorney general. You should also get in touch with the Better Business Bureau, where you can easily fill out their complaints form. This way, you can help other potential students avoid falling for diploma mill scams.

(Video) The Dangerous Fraud of Fake College Degrees: Tips to Avoid Them

Having Doubts on How we Can Help You?

Get in touch with us!

Fake College Degrees | How To Know If It is Real? (7)

Having Doubts on How we Can Help You?

Get in touch with us!

Fake College Degrees | How To Know If It is Real? (8)

Beware and Avoid Fake College Degrees!

The promise of a brand new college degree in only a few weeks sounds too good to be true. And it is!

Fake college degrees are well-prepared scams that trick non-traditional students into paying too much money for a phony degree and fake transcripts. They take advantage of some experienced non-traditional students’ need to earn a diploma, which could jeopardize their job and even put them in legal trouble.

So, if you are looking for a new college, you'll know it is fake if it:

  • Is not accredited by an agency recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education
  • Charges only one bill instead of tuition per credits
  • Has no or very simple admission criteria
  • Lasts between a few weeks to two months
  • Promises to give you a graduate degree in a short time
  • Doesn't share important information like phone number or location
  • Its address has an apartment number or is in another country

By following these red flags, it will be almost impossible not to recognize a fake school.

However, if you are a non-traditional student and you still haven’t found a school for you, check out our list of the best colleges for students like you!

And if you then need help with your assignments, you can always get in touch with the Gradehacker team to aid you with essays and entire classes.

If you want to learn more tips that every college student should know, check out these articles:

7 Best Websites to Find Free College Textbooks in 2023

7 Best Websites to Find Free College Textbooks in 2023

Javiera Vega

(Video) I Applied For 100 Jobs Using A FAKE College Degree. Guess Who ACTUALLY Hired Me...

September 8, 2021

Best iPads For College Students

Best iPads For College Students

Nayreth Garcia

July 7, 2021

How To Be More Productive | Tips For Non-Traditional Students

How To Be More Productive | Tips For Non-Traditional Students

Santiago Mallea

July 27, 2022

What You Need to Know Before Taking Classes Online

What You Need to Know Before Taking Classes Online

Florencia Basavilbaso

February 13, 2023

8 Best Scholarships for All Nursing Students | Find Yours!

8 Best Scholarships for All Nursing Students | Find Yours!

Athina Hansen

February 28, 2021

Can Non-Traditional Students Get Financial Aid?

Can Non-Traditional Students Get Financial Aid?

Athina Hansen

December 29, 2020

(Video) Fake diploma scam


How do you check if a degree is real? ›

Contact the school.

Most college registrars will confirm dates of attendance and graduation, as well as degrees awarded and majors, upon request.

Do employers check for fake degrees? ›

Most degrees can be verified by the records office of the applicant's school, but sometimes the verification is performed by a third-party company, which usually incurs a fee.

Is it illegal to use a fake college degree? ›

Producing and Owning a Fake Diploma Is Fine

That isn't a crime — the person may just want to frame it, or use it as a prop for something. The only way fake diploma manufacturers can get in trouble is if they try to work with a school to make them authentic.

Can you tell a fake diploma from a real one? ›

Minute details make the difference. Usually there are printing marks on the paper since fraudsters often use cheap ink and printing methods. As well, the paper quality is often flimsy and of poor quality. The placement of text, especially for the words “University” or “College” are placed in the wrong place.

How often do employers check degrees? ›

According to the survey, 53% of employers always check candidates' educational background. And there's more to it: 23% never check candidates' education credentials. 24% sometimes check candidates' education credentials.

How do you verify a degree in the US? ›

The National Student Clearinghouse is the trusted source for education verification offering a nationwide collection of enrollment and degree data.

Do employers check transcripts? ›

Some companies require college transcripts, and the hiring manager will likely check your GPA in this case as well. Instead of making a decision based on your GPA, many hiring managers place importance on your experience, skills and general education.

How can employers verify certifications? ›

Employers can verify job applicants degree certificates by contacting the issuing institution. Employers may also check the validity of an applicant's degree by contacting the issuing institution directly.

How common are fake degrees? ›

George Gollin, a board member of the U.S.-based Council for Higher Education Accreditation, told CNN he estimates that more than 100,000 fake degrees are sold each year in the U.S. alone. Of those, around one third are postgraduate degrees. He added that a bogus degree will typically cost $1,000.

What happens if I lie about my degree? ›

Sometimes. If you are lying on an application for a state or federal employer, it could be considered a crime since it is illegal to lie to a federal or state government agent. In most cases, however, a lie on a resume that is discovered after the person is hired is grounds for termination.

What percent of college students have a fake? ›

Advance-Titan File Photo / About 80% of college students consume alcohol to some degree, and 40% engage in binge drinking, according to Alcohol Rehab Guide. In 2021, about 32.2% of college students admitted to possessing a fake ID, according to The Law Offices of Scott J. Limmer.

Do fake transcripts work for college? ›

If you don't do it properly, your fake transcript will be easily detected as a forgery. Colleges use a particular type of paper, also known as Security paper, to avoid fraud or forgery – just like governments use special paper to print money.

Do all college diplomas have a seal? ›

Real diplomas and certificates from education institutions usually have embossed/gold seals on the front. Some places prefer to use thermographic or multi-colored seals. No matter what type of seal it is – the seal is a generation old tradition and is prevalent on all diplomas.

How does a real diploma look? ›

A real university diploma typically looks like a large, formal document, often printed on heavy, high-quality paper. The diploma will have the name of the university and the degree that was earned prominently displayed. It may also have the seal of the university and the signatures of university officials.

Is it a crime to lie about your college degree? ›

Lying on a resume in the United States is generally not illegal, but it can have legal consequences if it involves falsifying official documents or important credentials. While the odds of facing legal charges are slim, the repercussions could include civil penalties or fines depending on the state.

Is it illegal to use a fake college transcript? ›

Despite the fact that some states prohibit the use of fake transcripts, or the possession of one with the intention of using it for fraud, most cases of fake transcripts fall under free speech laws.

Is it illegal to make a fake college transcript? ›

Are Fake Transcripts legal? Fake transcripts are legal if you don't plan to use them to mislead others for a personal gain. Otherwise, they are legal.

Can you get in trouble for lying about having a diploma? ›

Is it a crime for a person to say they have a high school diploma if they do not have one? It is only a crime if they use it to get some tangible benefit. For example, if they put it on a job or college admissions application. Then it is a form of fraud.


1. How to know if you have fake friends
(Issey Moloney)
2. People Who Bought A Fake Degree Tell How It Turned Out (r/AskReddit)
3. Fake degrees: Exposing Canadians with phoney credentials (Marketplace)
(CBC News)
4. I Bought A FAKE College Degree For $499 and...
(Tyler Oliveira)
6. GED diploma fake or original?
(ged testingcenter)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Trent Wehner

Last Updated: 24/10/2023

Views: 5802

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (56 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Trent Wehner

Birthday: 1993-03-14

Address: 872 Kevin Squares, New Codyville, AK 01785-0416

Phone: +18698800304764

Job: Senior Farming Developer

Hobby: Paintball, Calligraphy, Hunting, Flying disc, Lapidary, Rafting, Inline skating

Introduction: My name is Trent Wehner, I am a talented, brainy, zealous, light, funny, gleaming, attractive person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.