10 Things We Learned About The World’s Largest Diploma Mill

Earning a diploma can take years, but some people simply don’t have the time. For that reason, companies have been cropping up year after year offering consumers the chance to obtain a diploma, degree or certification in exchange for hundreds – and sometimes thousands – of dollars. A new report from the New York Times details how one company allegedly rakes in millions of dollars a month by selling those bogus documents though a series of fake websites and forceful sales calls.

Axact – a Pakistan-based IT company – reportedly exudes the picture-perfect image of a bustling Silicon Valley-like corporation. But in reality, the Times investigation finds the company is the mastermind of an enormous scheme selling fake academic degrees on a global scale.

We really recommend that you head over and read the entire report from the Times, but here are the ten things that we learned from the exposé, which relied on statements from former employees, company records and an analysis of the fake academic websites.

1. The nearly 400 picturesque high schools and universities depicted on websites and in advertisements are actually stock photos. Paid actors are used to portray profession in advertisements and fictitious reports are allegedly posted to CNN’s iReport section for citizen journalism.

2. The Axact headquarters in Karachi employs more than 2,000 people, most working as telephone sales agents providing prospective students with information about purportedly legitimate degrees and coursework.

3. While many of the people who contact the plethora of Axact schools know they are simply buying an instant degree, others who were seeking a genuine education say they were manipulated by sales agents’ incessant calls and assurances that they were qualified to receive a degree without further schooling.

4. Former employees estimate that the company brings in several millions of dollars each month through its fake diploma business where a high school diploma costs around $350 and a doctoral degree can run $4,000 or more.

5. Sales agents are taught to upsell to prospective customers. In some cases former employees say agents cold-call customers impersonating American government officials, intimidating people into paying thousands of dollars for authentication certificates allegedly signed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

6. An Egyptian man who knew he was paying for a fraudulent degree from Nixon University and U.S. certificate tells the Times he spent $12,000 with the company last year.

7. Another man from Abu Dhabi says he spent $3,300 for what he thought was a legitimate 18-month online master’s program in business administration from Grant Town University. The courses never occurred and the man was pressured into paying $33,000 for additional certifications after being threatened by supposed government agents.

8. The Times found that several Axact-related diploma mill operations and -owned school websites have been part of investigations by U.S. federal agencies over the years. A retired FBI agent says, “hands down, this is probably the largest operation we’ve ever seen. It’s a breathtaking scam.”

9. Another unit of the company sells a service offering on-demand term papers for college students.

10. Funds from the scheme – which are funneled to off-shore accounts, according to the Times – are currently being used to fund Axact’s broadcast studios and recruitment of journalists for a television and newspaper group called Bol.

Representatives for Axact responded to the Times request for comments on the issue with a letter from company lawyers, who offered a blanket denial of the report.

Fake Diplomas, Real Cash: Pakistani Company Axact Reaps Millions [The New York Times]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.