Unfortunately, as distance learning gains in popularity, online degree scams are becoming an increasing reality. Many students have found themselves in the unenviable position of being scammed out of a degree that they have invested their time and resources into getting.
If you’re an online student, here are a few ways you can protect yourself from online education degree scams.
Why Pursue an Online Degree?
Online education has rapidly grown in popularity over the past couple of years. There are a number of reasons for this. Arguably the most important reason why online education is such a popular option is due to the convenience factor. For many students, enrolling in a full-time on campus program just isn’t feasible. They may have families to take care of, jobs to juggle, or other prior commitments or obligations which make attendance for several hours a day at a specific institution impossible.
In addition, online programs expand the reach of education. For many students, it may not be viable to travel to a different state, region, or even country to attend a specific university. With online programs, your location can no longer be a deterrent to getting the education you want.
Lastly, online education is also a far more economically viable option than traditional programs. This is because virtual study eliminates many of the costs that students typically have to pay if they are physically enrolled in an institution. Most of the educational materials associated with the course are also available online or in digital format which lowers the costs incurred for textbooks and course materials.
How to protect yourself from getting scammed
Students invest a large chunk of their resources including capital and time into getting a degree or qualification. The absolute worst thing that could happen to you is that the degree that you’ve invested so much in turns out to be a scam.
Here’s what you need to know about scam degrees.
Online Education Degree Scams
There are a variety of online education degree scams out there which you can become a victim to. Included among them are the infamous diploma and degree mills.
According to the The Centre for Information on Diploma Mills (CIDM): “The term ‘diploma mill’ (or ‘degree mill’) is an internationally accepted term for any type of person or organization that sells diplomas and academic degrees purely for profit and without requiring any serious academic achievement or study. Diploma mills come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from fully-fledged diploma production lines to small-scale internet traders.”
Becoming the Victim
Many students unwittingly become victims to the scamming of these mills. While there are certainly people out there who actively seek out diploma mills in order to purchase a degree without having to do any work, a large portion of students are tricked into these schemes.
An institution may present itself as being accredited and authorized to provide degrees in a specific field. They may provide certain documentation which could potentially support this claim. For many students, the prospect of getting a good degree or qualification at a reasonable price can sometimes be a prospect which is too good to resist.
After you’ve paid for your degree and completed the requirements to get the degree, you may very well be awarded a qualification which is fake.
These degrees are worthless. Furthermore, holding such a degree is even considered to be illegal in certain countries.
How do You Spot a Scam?
In order to protect yourself from ending up with a worthless degree, it’s important to take certain steps to ensure you’re not being scammed.
When you’re enrolling in a program, look for these warning signals, indicators, or characteristics which may point to the fact that the educational institution is not legitimate.
When you go to the institution’s website, there is a sample of the degree that they award shown on the website
The address for the institution is a either a mail drop, post office box, or a suite number
The institution claims to offer credits for life experiences and a variety of nontraditional educational methods
When you try to call the institution, the number redirects to either an answering machine, call center, or mobile phone
There is no information about the different faculties, staff members or programs offered on their website
When you’re prompted to a payment page you can see credit card logos as well as other popular payment options such as Paypal
The institution offers prospective students the chance to ‘tailor make’ their diploma by offering the option to choose your own grade point average, distinction level, and date of award
In terms of accreditation, the institution appears to receive it from either one specific state (popular ones include Montana and Wyoming), a small island nation in the Caribbean or Pacific, or from a country where there is no government control over higher education such as Liberia
The name of the institution bears a strong resemblance to the name of a well-known university. An example would be Columbia International University as opposed to the bona fide Columbia University
If you spot any of these warning signs, exercise great caution. The best way to prevent yourself from becoming the victim of a degree scam is to thoroughly do your research before joining a program. That way, you’ll be fully aware of what you’re getting yourself into.