How to recognize Degree Scams and Fake Accreditation


There are degree and accreditation mills that leave you with worthless degrees after you paid a lot of money… Here are some tips to protect yourself and tell you how to recognize degree scams and fake accreditation.

Over the last decades, online colleges have become more and more popular for earning an academic degree. And to be fair, online learning is a great option for students with busy schedules and individuals who are living in remote areas. The advantages are obvious. No long travel times or requirements to spend a lot of time on a college campus, and you can study when and where suits you best.

Numerous students choose to earn their academic degrees from legitimate and respectable online colleges, but there are also quite a few fake diplomae and degree mills that are taking advantage of the situation that an increasing number of students want to earn their degree via online courses. Very often it happens that students don’t recognize these scams, so the question is: What should you do to avoid these scams and how can you prevent yourself from these practices.

Types of Degree Scams

There are multiple ways in which scammers try to get to your hard-earned money. Examples of degree scams ar accreditation mills, diploma mills, or fake Life Experience Degrees (or certificates). Unfortunately, an increasing number of honest and innocent individuals get tricked by these con artists. Let’s take a closer look.

Diploma Mills
A diploma mill is no more or less than a bogus school selling fake diplomas. These “schools” are in no way accredited by a legitimate accrediting agency. Very often though, these bogus schools are supported by dubious institutions or accreditation mills. In general, we can see two different types of fake schools or diploma mills:

  • Diploma mills that simply sell academic degrees or certificates for cash
  • Diploma mills that are pretending to be a legitimate educational institution

Accreditation Mills
An accreditation mill is an organization that provides bogus “accreditation” to a fake institution of higher education and gets paid for that service. These scams are not recognized or authorized by mainstream academia or the U.S. government to grant any sort of accreditation. They often have the most impressive names but beware, they’re just scams as well. Read also this post about WAUC (World Association of Universities and Colleges), a fake accreditation mill.

Life Experience Certificates and Degrees
Sure, for professional experience, certification.or licenses, a limited number of college credits may be received. You may then qualify to skip some classes towards your degree, but it is never possible to earn an entire degree solely based on your “life experience.” So if you come across an organization that claims that from their “school” you can earn your bachelor’s degree solely because of your earlier life experience, think again! Don’t get fooled by these scammers and never submit your credit card details!

How to Recognize a Fake Degree Mill or a Higher Education Scammer

Sometimes it can be quite challenging to distinguish a legitimate school from a fake scam. Here are a few tips that will surely help you stay alert and make the right decision.

  • The “school” has a name that is similar to that of a legit university
  • There’s only a P.O. Box or no address at all.
  • The “school’s” website contains merely a contact form
  • The website does not include a phone number
  • Be alarmed if the “school” has no web address
  • It is surely fake if you can earn your degree by just emailing or faxing your resume
  • If there are entire degrees offered for life experience
  • The tuition cost for a degree is a flat rate rather than per class or per credit hour
  • Be aware if there is little (or no) interaction possibility with professors
  • Be alarmed of “schools” that promise a degree in, for example, 30 days
  • Check blogs, forums, and other online resources for negative comments about the “school”
  • If a “school” offers discounts for enrolling in multiple degree programs, watch out!
  • Check the “school” on its accreditation. The U.S. Dept of Education provides lists with bogus accreditation names and abbreviations.
  • There should be more needed than just a credit card to “enroll”
  • Check the reports of the Better Business Bureau on the “school”
  • If the “school” is in a foreign country, the alarm bells should ring
  • Just in general: If the school’s claims are too good to be true, they usually are!


Buying a fake diploma from one of these fake schools could result in some pretty nasty consequences. Apart from the risk of losing your job if the company you work for finds out your degree is not legitimate, you also run the risk of being charged with credit identity theft, or you could be faced with hefty fines. You’ll understand that it’s just not worth that in any way! Check also this list of “WAUC accredited schools”, a scam!

Accreditation Verification

To make sure a school is legitimate and properly accredited, go to the website of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or check out the online information available at the U.S. Department of Education’s website. Here you can see whether the school you’re interested in holds legitimate accreditation or if the school is blacklisted. And when you explore the Internet, you will certainly find many more resources that provide useful information on this important issue. Just make sure you won’t get scammed by these robbers!

Keep in mind that just because a school says it is accredited, this doesn’t necessarily mean it is legitimately accredited! Do proper research so you’ll know what and who you’re dealing with!

Report Fraud, Always!

In case you got scammed, please report this! Inform as many organizations as possible about the fraudulent school or organization. Inform the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and the ICCC (Internet Crime Complaint Center). Infor as many as possible online forums about how and when you got scammed, or start your own blog/vlog post about your bad experience just to make sure other potential victims will be warned in time! But bear also in mind that there the vast majority of online schools is legitimate and offer great online solutions for people to get on with their academic achievements towards a better life!