The Federal Trade Commission Takes Down Diploma Mills
February 4, 2015
The World Wide Web just got a little bit safer for consumers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has shut down two bad actors running Florida-based diploma mills. Maria Garcia and Alexander Wolfram and IDM Services, LLC, conducting business as “Jefferson High School Online” and “Enterprise High School Online,” have entered into a settlement with the FTC for payment of 11.1 million dollars. In addition, they are now banned from marketing and selling academic degrees. This settlement is the end result of charges filed in September of last year by the FTC in a U.S. district court in Florida. Settlement payments have been partially suspended based on the Defendant’s inability to pay.
Diploma mills are out there, and individuals are easily misled into thinking that they are buying a legitimate credential. You might ask, how is that possible? Who would be fooled into thinking they are getting a degree for a flat fee, with practically no effort? Diploma mill websites are persuasive. They promote that their “students” can obtain credit for real life experience or work experience.
According to the FTC’s press release, the Florida pair duped customers, luring them into their programs by promising “official” and accredited high school diplomas to use for enrolling in college, apply for jobs, and “receive the recognition [they] aspire for in life.” Garcia and Wolfram even went so far as to create a fictional accrediting organization to make their diplomas appear legit. The aggressive advertising and seemingly legitimate accreditation was effective-in this case to the tune of 11M.
Unprepared employers can be fooled as well, since the fake degrees are not always obvious to the untrained eye. And based on EmployeeScreenIQ’s 2014 Survey Report, having a legitimate degree that can be confirmed can make or break a job candidate (see graphic below). Employers can avoid being sold a bill of goods by conducting a pre-employment background check that includes an education verification. Background screening companies are experts at spotting degrees that are suspect, and they have the most up-to-date resources to confirm whether a degree is legitimate.
The FTC stated that it is also seeking similar, separate judgments with similar prohibitions against two other operations run by the defendants: Diversified Educational Resources (DER) LLC and Motivational Management & Development Services (MMDS), Ltd.
What types of resume distortions/discrepancies would cause you not to hire a candidate?
Tips for consumers to help them spot a scam can be found here.
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