Beware massive rise in bogus degrees in South Africa

CV-liesA background screening expert warns of a growing tendency by recruitment companies to use social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook as a source for recruiting new employees.

Kirsten Halcrow, CEO of EMPS, warned that this method is fraught with danger because many recruiters take CVs on these websites at face value.

Halcrow said that experience had shown that many individuals who use these sites to promote themselves embellished their qualifications or told outright lies.

They were also riddled with qualifications from so-called degree mills which sold everything from high school certificates to PhD degrees for a few hundred dollars.

The authoritative Motherboard.Vice website quoted Allen Ezell, former FBI agent and founder of the FBIs DipScam (Diploma Scam) task force, as saying that the global revenue generated from “degree mills” was in the order of $300 million in 2011.

He was quoted as saying that about half of the people claiming to have a PhD in the US had bought these titles.

There are also astounding numbers of faked degrees in the science and tech fields, Halcrow said.

Motherboard Germany’s investigation scoured career networks like LinkedIn and Xing as well as Facebook and found thousands of profiles listing the names of known degree mills on their resumes.

Halcrow said her company had uncovered the highest level of qualification fraud ever last year.

“Degree mills continue to be a thorn in our side because many of them have their own verification service – sometimes manned around the clock – who are happy to confirm that a candidate did indeed qualify from their “university” and are happy to supply transcripts on request.”

The chief executive said there had also been an increase in foreign degree mills falsifying South African university qualifications – to the point where it was almost impossible to distinguish between the real thing and the fake.

“The dangers inherent in not checking are manifold ranging from career criminals infiltrating financial services companies’ where they can defraud their employers of millions – and often get away with it because companies are wary to prosecute because they are afraid of the damage this could do to their reputation.”

Halcrow said the other major problem associated with bogus qualifications was the fact that the employee was unable to do the job that he or she was hired for because they lacked the necessary skills.

Halcrow, said a growing number of her clients were considering taking legal action against qualification fraudsters.

Most of the so-called degree mills are located in the United States. You can buy degrees in medicine, accounting, and engineering from institutions with names like Breyer State University and Windsor University.

At first glance, the sham universities’ websites appear to be e-learning institutions that are trying to look serious and discreet. Offers for degrees range from bachelor’s all the way up to doctorate degrees.

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