Fake Credentials Threaten Universities Globally

From minor reproaches to full-scale investigations, fraudulent activities are unearthed and confronted daily. Regardless of industry or motive, fraudsters with dishonest intentions find creative ways to infiltrate institutions, hiring processes, companies, security measures and more. Fraud leaves no stone unturned and one industry particularly affected is the education industry. Universities and third-level education institutions are a common target that can suffer from irreparable and extensive damage if fraud creeps in. While the world has embraced digitalization and accessing information on-demand, so have cybercriminals, frauds and scammers. Innovative technologies have allowed fraudsters to tweak copy on their documents or for unauthorized individuals to completely fabricate their education, qualifications, work experience, skillset, identity and document details. 

In light of an unpredictable pandemic, many people found themselves with more time on their hands than before as work and education transitioned to a home environment. This environment shift highlighted opportunities for fraudsters to hide behind their devices and successfully enroll in higher-level education based on false or misleading information. Along with diploma mills, threatening universities’ standing, identity fraud and fake credentials, fraudsters deprive others of the opportunity they rightfully deserved. An admissions process is a crucial player for the success of an institution, its reputation and students. 

However, there are ways for institutions to address the challenges associated with the admissions process, mitigating reputational risk, while supporting staff, students and alumni. Let’s explore the effects of credentials fraud and solutions to combat it:

Reputational Damage To Universities

Reputational Damage To Universities

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Warren Buffet.

So why take the risk? Risk management strategies, tools and processes should be implemented to prevent reputational damage. Not only can reputable higher-level education institutions feed their funding and increase admissions, but their excellent reputation benefits the institution’s long-term success. In a 2017 study by United Educators, only 26% of college boards believe their institution’s response to reputational risk is consistently proactive. In addition, 87% believe their college board has organizational oversight of reputational risk. With identity fraud prevalent, these statistics are frighteningly deficient.

Alumni who were found to have fraudulently gained education from a university could attract bad publicity, which in turn would place their admission processes under immense scrutiny. Delivering sub-standard ‘graduates’ to the working world contributes to scandal, fraud, negligence, misconduct, or other serious charges which will tarnish reputations that will take years to fully restore, if ever. High-profile alumni and student scandals were recently uncovered in South Korea, Austria, Russia, Pakistan, Malaysia and Spain

An Expensive Oversight

Omitting efficient selection processes that authenticate university applicants is an expensive oversight. Yes, in terms of financial and reputational loss but also the loss of the perceived value of the course and university. Higher-level education institutes should secure how they filter potential applicants and ensure that they only use the best innovative tools to support this aim. Multifactor authentication, ID and credential verification repel issues like student grant and loan fraud and ensure that the caliber of students joining these universities are qualified to do so. 

A prime example of a fraudster damaging universities was that of Adam Wheeler, who committed criminal-level fraud to get into Harvard. Wheeler pleaded guilty to 20 misdemeanor and felony counts of theft, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement or approval, and pretending to hold a degree. In addition, Wheeler defrauded Harvard out of over $45,000 in grants and prizes. Expensive oversight? It’s a sure way to attract attention to your university’s admission process but for all the wrong reasons. 

Digital Verification Ecosystem

Universities need to become part of a bigger picture, a digital eco-system, that facilitates the secure transfer of verified student credentials stored on the blockchain. Albeit an enormous undertaking, migrating paper-based transcripts to a digital credentials system will prove a fruitful investment in the longterm. Storing academic transcripts safely and embracing innovative technologies as part of the admissions process will keep systems updated and relevant. 

Follow And Practice Due Diligence

This point cannot be reiterated enough. Streamline the course application process by working with online verification solutions that conduct primary source verification or use databases to confirm an applicant’s pre-verified credentials. Universities whose applicants aren’t pre-verified on a database like this should include document and identity pre-verification as a course prerequisite. Doing so helps to expedite the student onboarding process without compromising on the quality of the applicants. It’s also only fair to your qualified students that their peers are on par to motivate, challenge and support them throughout the course. Following this course of action will pay dividends to the University, its reputation, staff and students in the long run.

With the prevalence of fraud within the admissions process, TrueProfile.io protects your university’s integrity and reputation with our pre-admission verifications. To verify students’ academic backgrounds and mitigate risk during your admissions process, register your interest with us here

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