Your New Employee is a Phony — Now What?

Phony degrees, fake credentials. A 2017 CBC Marketplace investigation tagged over 800 Canadians who bought academic credentials online. Their so-called alma maters didn’t exist anywhere but online. It could be just the tip of the iceberg. 

Faking It For Money

It’s the oldest game in the world. Produce fake credentials to get the job or apply to a prestigious university. Hollywood celebrities aren’t the only ones caught up in the scam. Marketplace caught engineers, nurses and Toronto computing sciences professor Dubravko Zgrablic holding suspicious credentials. For $1,550 US, CBC was able to buy three PhDs itself, including one from Almeda University, where Zrablic graduated with a MA in computer science in 2004.

Degrees Are ‘Novelty Item’

Zrablic’s actual IT experience counted when he applied for work at four Toronto area colleges and universities. As for Alameda, he’s removed it from his online profile. The FBI says the so-called “life experience” or prior learning assessment degrees offered by the Pakistan-affiliated diploma mill were never legitimate. The U.S. Better Business Bureau calls such fancy parchments “a novelty item.”

Wouldn’t Treat a Dog That Way

The GTA professor graduated the same year as Wally, who got an Almeda associate degree in childhood development, despite being a seven-year-old mutt (that’s 65 or so in human years, based on new research). Kirsh the service dog actually graduated from the real John Hopkins University in Baltimore with an honourary degree. Unlike Wally, he attended classes with his owner, who got a MA in mental health counselling. 

Who’s Taking Your Temperature?

Kirsch did better than an Australian golden retriever, whose $450 AUD medical degree from Ashwood University was based on life experience eating from hospital trash bins. Dr. Sonny’s ‘dogree’ didn’t make the grade at a local hospital, where he got a pink slip for barking at a therapy cat. It begs the question of who’s diagnosing sick patients or building bridge spans.

Astounding Number of Fake PhDs, FBI Says

Nearly 50% of all American PhDs are fake, former FBI agent Allen Ezell estimates. Ezell and co-author John Bear, who wrote Degree Mills: The Billion-Dollar Industry That Has Sold Over a Million Fake Diplomas, traced the early days of the trade in counterfeit credentials to 1257. A 2018 update by Think: Education Group in Australia says diploma mill graduates can be found working as “safety engineers at nuclear power plants (and) biological weapons experts.”

Diploma Mills Are Lawless

Aurora law graduate Inayat Kassam got his degree from Tampa diploma mill University of Renfrew. Like Dogter Sonny, his BA was from Ashwood University. His employer, Toronto lawyer Dennis Yang, said Kassam’s degrees and transcripts looked authentic when he applied to be his new business manager. Astoundingly, Kassam had worked as an office manager at two other GTA law firms and, although not licensed by the then Law Society of Upper Canada, led clients to believe he was a lawyer. He has appealed his conviction and three-year sentence for fraud and uttering forged documents. 

Doing More Harm Than Good

Fake degrees do more harm than good, for employers and purchasers alike. Leo Sabourin, an Ottawa MBA grad of fake diploma mill Saint (St.) Regis University, was sentenced to four years in May 2007 in a $5 million tax evasion and fraud case for income tax returns he prepared for 115 Ontario chiropractors. A chiropractor who hired Sabourin declared bankruptcy after being disciplined by the College of Chiropractors of Ontario and assessed $918,946.75 in unpaid taxes by the Canada Revenue Agency. When St. Regis was busted by Homeland Security and the US Secret Service in 2005, its graduates included at least 10 U.S. government employees and 14 firefighters, who had used their phony degrees to get promoted. 

The Grads Who Advise Ontario Politicians

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory downplayed the public affairs advice he got from a St. Regis University graduate. Consultant and former Toronto City Council candidate Wayne Cook held a MBA and PhD in human resources management from the sham institution. The Toronto Star claims both showed up on his online bio in 2008. 

Seven Signs of a Fake Degree or Diploma

HR firms and government agencies acknowledge fake credentials can cost employers a bundle. They suggest examining new employees’ credentials carefully. Seven signs that a degree or diploma may be fake include:

  1. Signatures are preprinted.
  2. Words are misspelled.
  3. The institution’s name sounds like a copy cat.
  4. The employee graduated unusually quickly.
  5. Tuition is per degree, not per credits, courses or semesters.
  6. Degree requirements are few or emphasis work or life experience.
  7. A institution changes names regularly.

To avoid being scammed, ask for a certified true copy witnessed by a notary public. It gives extra assurance a seemingly legal document is the real thing.

Ask for a Certified True Copy 

Axess Law’s Ontario notary publics certify that documents are a true copy of the original. Call 1-877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form to arrange to get any legal document witnessed, stamped and sealed at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices.

Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s notary public services.

Photo by Yogendra Singh|Pixabay.