Probe re­veals diploma mill’s bo­gus an­tics

24 Hours Toronto - - News -

A Mar­ket­place in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the world’s largest diploma mill has dis­cov­ered many Cana­di­ans could be putting their health and well­be­ing in the hands of nurses, en­gi­neers, coun­sel­lors and other pro­fes­sion­als with phoney cre­den­tials.

Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, fake diplo­mas are a bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try. Mar­ket­place ob­tained busi­ness records of its big­gest player, a Pak­istan­based IT firm called Ax­act. The team spent months comb­ing through thou­sands of de­gree trans­ac­tions, cross ref­er­enc­ing per­sonal in­for­ma­tion with cus­tomers’ so­cial me­dia pro­files.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­cov­ered more than 800 peo­ple across Canada could have pur­chased fake de­grees.

Ax­act’s school web­sites are slick, with names like Har­vey Univer­sity, Barkley Univer­sity and Nixon Univer­sity, that give the sup­posed U.S.based schools an air of Ivy League au­then­tic­ity.

There are hun­dreds of Ax­act-linked schools that of­fer a range of ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties with fac­ulty ready to as­sist 24/7. Some schools even have a de­gree ver­i­fi­ca­tion depart­ment for any third-party re­quest­ing tran­scripts or proof of at­ten­dance.

None of the schools has a phys­i­cal ad­dress, fac­ulty pho­tos are of­ten stock images, and even the ac­cred­i­ta­tion bod­ies the web­sites cite are fake.

With the help of for­mer em­ploy­ees, court doc­u­ments, and by piec­ing to­gether dig­i­tal clues on­line, Mar­ket­place was able to iden­tify more than 100 fake on­line schools and ac­cred­i­ta­tion bod­ies con­nected to Ax­act.

To see what it takes to get a fake de­gree, Mar­ket­place — us­ing the ana­gram Peter Ma Lack — de­cided to pur­chase a PhD in bi­b­li­cal coun­selling from Almeda Univer­sity.

Qual­i­fy­ing for a PhD wasn’t dif­fi­cult. Lack pro­vided Almeda Univer­sity’s Pro­fes­sor Keith Evans a back­story over the phone de­tail­ing his work ex­pe­ri­ence and past ed­u­ca­tion.

“Ax­act does not own or op­er­ate any on­line ed­u­ca­tion web sites [sic] or schools,” said Ax­act’s US lawyer Todd A. Holle­man in a writ­ten re­sponse.

Watch the full CBC Mar­ket­place in­ves­ti­ga­tion tonight at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Sum­mer, glo­ri­ous sum­mer. Well, it’s about four months late but nice weather has fi­nally hit the GTA. Sunny skies, warm tem­per­a­tures. In­dian sum­mer, any­one? This week­end looks just fan­tas­tic.

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