Buyer, beware! Online college scams are on the rise. With the internet making it a lot easier for online college programs to flourish, fake degrees are on the rise as well. As a matter of fact, there are about 100,000 fake degrees being sold in the United States alone. (1)
As much as people are going back to school in droves via online college programs, they have to be very careful. It’s important for them to choose a legitimate online college program so that their time and investment are all worthwhile.
The most common online college program scam is called “diploma mill.” This is when an organization (in the case of online learning, a website) offers degrees for a very cheap fee.
Diploma mills are out to scam everyone. They pretend to be a legitimate online college so that they could sell “fake” degrees. (2)
There are red flags that people need to be aware of in order to avoid ending up with a fake degree and parting ways with hard-earned money.
Hence, not all online college program should be trusted. There are red flags that people need to be aware of in order to avoid ending up with a fake degree and parting ways with hard-earned money.
Furthermore, it’s not easy to spot an illegitimate online college program especially when the whole scam is well-packaged and mimics those of reputable online colleges. A lot of people do take the bait and fall for it.
To spot an online college scam, there are some warning signs to look out for.
Here’s the list of the 12 warning signs an online college could be a total scam.
12. No accreditation. Before considering any online college program, look into its accreditation by visiting the school’s website. If the online college is not accredited, then beware. If it is accredited, then the next thing to do is to check on the legitimacy of the accreditor. Make sure that the online college is accredited by the Council For Higher Education Accreditation and the US Department of Education. (3)
11. The requirements for admission include a credit card. Legitimate online colleges have a list of requirements for admission. They might ask for entrance examination scores, writing samples, or transcripts. One thing is for sure, they don’t ask for credit cards. Stay away from online colleges that require credit cards to get in. (4)
10. The degrees are cheap. Online colleges are definitely more affordable than the traditional ones. That doesn’t mean that the degrees they offer are downright cheap. Legitimate online college programs do not advertise cheap degrees. As a matter of fact, they do not sell degrees. (5) Remember, degrees are earned and not sold. The credits, to earn a degree, are the ones that have to paid for.
9. The name of the online college sounds too familiar. Another thing that a person should be careful of are online colleges that have familiar sounding names. If they don’t want to end up with a fake degree, then they should stay away from online colleges that modify a renowned name. For example, you should investigate further if the online college is named Yale Technological University. (6)
8. One-time tuition payment is required. If a student is immediately compelled to do a one-time tuition payment, they might just end up with a fake degree. A reputable online college usually does not require its students to do a one-time tuition payment. They don’t require 100% financial commitment upfront. Instead, their students pay by semester or term. (7)
7. The online college does not have any physical address. Legitimate online colleges have a physical address listed down on their website. If they don’t, then they’re scams. Make sure to look for an institution that has a physical location. If the online college only has a P.O. box or an email address, it’s most likely going to issue a fake degree. (8)
6. The online college does not offer any kind of support. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean there should not be any kind support. Legitimate online colleges offer both technical and academic support. Technical support is critical considering the virtual setup of the online college course. Also, round-the- clock availability of academic support, such as tutoring and library resources, should be available as well. (9)
5. The students have no option but to go online. Legitimate online colleges offer course formats that cater to different learning styles. In spite of the virtual setup, a legitimate online college course should also provide face-to-face interactions with the professors and the other students as well. (10)
4. It’s very easy to earn a degree. The flexibility of a legitimate online college does not mean it gives away degrees easily. A student would still have to put in some time and effort to earn a legitimate degree. No legitimate degree is earned in just a couple of days. Hence, stay away from online colleges that promise fast and easy degrees. (11)
3. The reviews are negative. It’s a no-brainer. If the reviews of the online college are mostly negative, then it’s most likely a scam. The thing is, some people might not bother to look up reviews. They should. There are a lot of resources online that can help them. For example, they can check out the reviews on the Better Business Bureau website before signing up with an online college course. (12)
2. The online college has a poor quality website. The most blatant sign of an online college scam is a poor quality or shoddy website. A person needs to learn how to spot a shoddy website. If not, they’ll end up with a fake degree. To start with, shoddy websites have a lot of errors. These errors maybe grammatical or spelling related, at the least. The point is, there are errors and people should be aware of them.
1. The domain name does not have an “.edu”. People should make sure that the domain name of the online college has “.edu”. If the domain ends in a “.com” or “.net”, then chances are a person is most likely dealing with an online college scam. The domain names of legitimate online colleges end in “.edu.” For example, the domain name of University of Phoenix is “phoenix.edu” while DeVry University has “devry.edu”. (13)
It’s critical that to know how to spot online college scams. They should be able to see the warning signs to avoid ending up with a fake degree.
A fake degree is a total waste of time and money. There is no way that a person can ever get hired with a fake degree. Even worse, a person might even face prosecution for lying about their academic credentials.