A BBC radio 4 programme has exposed a huge global trade in fake qualifications from so called “diploma mills” and fake organisations, which are misleading recruiters and putting unqualified people in positions of responsibility and power.
Tens of thousands of people around the world have bought a bogus degree or diploma from a company called Axact, who operate a network of fake universities from a call centre in Pakistan. More than 215,000 qualifications were sold through Axact in 2015 alone, through approximately 350 fake establishments. And, according to the BBC, more than 3000 forged qualifications sold between 2013 and 2014 were purchased by UK employees.
Axact have been accused of not only selling fake documents but also extorting money from previous customers by threatening deportation or criminal proceedings unless they purchase additional documents to support their original counterfeit qualifications.
The BBC found buyers from many different industries and positions, including an NHS consultant, nurses and a high-profile defence contractor. Many of these qualifications were purchased after changes in legislation meant that people needed certain qualifications in order to continue in their regular jobs.
The UK’s official system for candidate verification and university authentication, Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD), have identified more than 180 providers of bogus qualifications available in the UK.
Buying a fake qualification is not a crime in the UK but using it to get a job is considered fraud and carries a ten-year prison sentence. Employing applicants who do not have the required education could put your customers, your staff and your entire business at risk. Thorough qualification checks will ensure that the candidate holds the qualification they claim, and the dates and the name of the establishment involved. They will also ensure that all qualifications are up to date.
HEDD report that only 20% of UK employers run proper checks on applicant’s qualifications, despite fast, detailed and cost-effective employment screening being available. HEDD recommends that all companies outline a degree fraud policy and follow through with extensive qualification checks for every applicant.