Isn’t it time to shut down the fake credentials industry?
I recently stumbled upon a company that sells faux education credentials because one of its representatives is a loyal follower of my blog: An International Educator in Viet Nam.
Since I have written a lot about rogue providers (unaccredited educational institutions) and diploma mills, mostly based in the United States, maybe s/he wants to stay up to date with what’s happening in the ‘market’ outside of the US, where the company is based. Yes, even useful, legitimate information can be misused, including for the fake credentials industry.
Same Day Diplomas, whose taglines are “Fast Diplomas, Transcripts and Certificates – Trusted Since 2001” and “The best in novelty certificates, replacement diplomas, transcripts, and props since 2001”, offers a wide selection of printed documents, including General Educational Development, high school, college and university diplomas and transcripts, plus certificates, such as TAFE, GCSE, DELTA, CELTA, TESOL and IELTS.
Associate, bachelor, masters and PhD diplomas cost US$189 each and a set of transcripts (issued to students only) are US$139. Order both for US$319 and save! There’s no doubt about the mission of the company. This appears in bold print on its homepage: Fake Diplomas & Transcripts Maker.
Do you need a high school diploma and transcripts? No problem. Same Day produces “eloquently designed” high school and secondary (junior high) school diplomas and transcripts for most schools in the US, including Puerto Rico and Canada.
Same Day’s offerings are truly international, including the US, Canada, Australia, France, Africa (OK, it’s a continent, but you get the idea), India, Turkey, UAE, Italy, Spain, Malaysia, Germany, Argentina, Singapore and Puerto Rico (also not a country but, again, you get the drift).
In the Frequently Asked Questions section of their website in a section entitled “Whats [sic] it for?” the company states that “people buy same day diplomas for a variety of reasons:
• Diploma replacement of a lost or damaged document
• Duplicate copies for your home or office
• Wow your friends and family
• Give as a gift to loved ones and friends or colleagues
• Show off at a reunion (family, school or otherwise)
• Great for movie, ad or theater props
• Your school is closed and you can’t get a copy
• The school won’t release one you earned.”
Their customer service involves no direct contact with employees. The company is open from 9pm-4 pm (American) Eastern Time and there are five ways to contact them: 1) live chat from the website; 2) a website form; 3) text the company for live support (1-917-746-7087); 4) Facebook Messenger; and 5) email.
The domain is private and the phone number is from the New York City area, though the physical location of the business could be anywhere. The mailing address of Doc Printers appears to be a PO Box in a UPS store in Richmond, Virginia.
If you do an online search for the company’s telephone number, you will come across Realistic Diplomas (www.realisticdiplomas.com) and Phony Diploma (www.phonydiploma.com), presumably sister companies. Given the low overheads and high profit margin for this type of business, ‘the more, the merrier’, right?
I give Realistic Diplomas credit for honesty, a word these companies like to use, as if saying it will make it so. Here is its Trustpilot description, before it was removed because the profile was considered a ‘bad fit’ for the company: “Realistic Diplomas is your source for fake degrees, fake diplomas, fake high school diplomas, fake certificates, fake transcripts, fake GEDs and more!”
When I shared this story with a US higher education colleague, he asked the obvious question: “Why is this company allowed to exist?”
It was US president Calvin Coolidge who once said: “After all, the chief business of the American people is business.” Aside from the high domestic and global demand for fake educational credentials, the reason is plastered all over the company’s website in the form of disclaimers that would make any seedy backstreet lawyer proud.
Here’s one that appears at the bottom of each page (parts of the website look like they were written by a non-native speaker, which they probably were): “Please note that our documents are intended for replacement, restoration of a lost or damaged document, extra copy for home or office, novelty (fun), props for movies and commercials, or your records only. We do not make these to be used to misrepresent yourself in any way.”
More are listed on a page entitled “What we dont [sic] make”.
Here are the types of degrees they “will not print”: “We DO NOT produce fake diplomas with any level with MD, JD, LLB, DDS or any other degree from a law, medical, nursing or a degree in ‘Biotechnology’. We won't print anything that might suggest someone could prescribe drugs or ‘treat’ another person.
“We will not produce any fake diplomas or certificates in fields dealing with flying an aircraft or anything related to aeronautics, driving a train or bus, securing the public interest or anything military-related. We will not print documents related to gas, oil, structural or engineering and construction or chemical related.
“We will not print anything that's considered ‘certified’ or ‘certification’ or ‘verified’ to include public accounting, real estate, financial consulting or any type of government certification. We will also not produce diplomas in the fields of automotive, construction to include structural, building, electrical installing, etc, health or safety or anything biochemistry-related, or anything dealing with safety or security."
That covers a lot of important bases. It looks like the attorney’s fee was well spent. Officially, this company and its sister companies (same phone number) are allowed to sell credentials because they’re only to be used as replacements, extra copies, props, or for fun!
The first potentially lethal analogy that comes to mind is a gun shop in the US. “Guns don't kill people, people kill people.” (Right?) If a gun shop sells an assault weapon that is used to commit mass murder, well, it wasn’t meant to be used for that purpose because murder is a capital crime.
Or the use of opiates obtained with a physician’s prescription. You’re only going to use them for that pain you're experiencing, right? Speaking of the healthcare profession, the latest scandal du jour is about thousands of practising nurses in the US who “could potentially be working with bogus academic credentials after federal officials uncovered an alleged scheme at three South Florida nursing schools”.
According to the US Department of Justice, the schools, now defunct, allegedly issued more than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas.
These documents enabled the ‘graduates’ to take the national nursing board exam and become licensed as registered nurses (RNs), licenced practical nurses (LPNs) and vocational nurses (VNs) in settings such as homebound children, assisted living centres and veterans. Markenzy Lapointe, US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, stated the obvious when he said this “erodes public trust in our healthcare system”.
An official from the US Department of Homeland Security must have contacted Same Day Diplomas because they have this disclaimer on their website: “We take our responsibility regarding Homeland Security very seriously. Because of the possibility that some people may use our fake diplomas for other than novelty purposes, we choose to not manufacture or ship to the following areas: Cuba, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Libya, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, South Yemen, Sudan and Syria.”
That means there are 184 other sovereign nations whose citizens can purchase fake credentials and the others can obtain them indirectly.
The gifts that keep on giving
So why do people buy diplomas and other credentials? My favourites are “wow your friends and family”, “give as a gift to loved ones and friends or colleagues” and “the school won’t release one you earned”. Note to self: Give my friends Ivy League diplomas as birthday gifts.
The company does note – on it’s ‘What we dont [sic] make’ page – that: “We cannot reproduce school logos or seals which are protected by copyright laws.” But – wait for it – “We can, however, produce versions which have been altered slightly, so there are no copyright infringement issues.” A little tweaking here and there and you’re golden. As long as it looks like the real thing; that’s what counts.
Being the good corporate ‘citizen’ that it is, Same Day Diplomas cannot print actual names and signatures of a real person on any of its documents. That would be illegal. Instead, customers can use ‘in-house signatures’, or leave the signature lines blank. Who knows who any of those nameless, faceless administrators are anyway? Most of them are probably dead anyway. Just use an ‘in-house’ name and forge the damn thing yourself.
The legal icing on the cake may be these two statements:
• In this statement, the company's fake diplomas are “intended for replacement, restoration of a lost or damaged document, extra copy for home or office, novelty (fun), props for movies and commercials or your records only. We do not make these to be used to misrepresent yourself in any way.” Use it at your own risk! If you’re fired and arrested for misusing an educational credential, you only have yourself to blame.
• More rhetorical cover: “We will not produce any sort of letter or envelope that suggests that the document supplied is legitimate.” There’s also this opt-out, of which very few institutions and organisations seem to be aware: “Administrators can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request we do not print their learning institution’s name. Once this request is received, we will gladly respect your wishes.”
A section entitled ‘Schools or Institutions we do not produce for’ contains a very short list, including Florida Atlantic University, George Mason University, Loyola Marymount University, IELTS and any institutions in Connecticut or Oregon, meaning most institutions have no idea that their diplomas are being printed and sold. This ignorance is good for business.
Showing them the money, but to what end?
Aside from the obvious reasons, a unique cultural justification for obtaining a fake diploma appeared on a Reddit thread from 2019 called “Asian Parent Stories”. The person asked if diplomacompany.com or phonydiploma.com was a scam. She wanted to buy a ‘fake diploma replica’ from a Canadian university to show her parents and avoid being forced into an arranged marriage.
She wrote: “If I can't produce this degree to my family, I’m going to be married off in an arranged marriage to a man twice my age. I need to show my parents I’m self-sustaining and can get my own job and take care of myself. I am completing a degree, but in fine arts and I won’t be done for another two years, something they don't approve of. I need this so they get off my back and I’m not forced into this marriage, please try to have perspective on the kind of dynamic and family I come from.”
She added that “this diploma will be looked at once then put away in a filing cabinet for the rest of eternity”.
This may well be the only legitimate reason to order a fake educational credential.
Fraud is US(A)
The United States, which bills itself as “the land of the free”, is too free, in this case. Companies that are legally permitted to sell educational credentials, most of which can be used to misrepresent the customer’s level of education and academic achievement, clearly fall into this category.
Given the potential for misuse and damage to the public interest, isn’t it time for an official look at an industry whose products are a licence to commit professional fraud?
While the US certainly isn’t the only nation of hustlers in the world, it is a leader in the provision of substandard education through rogue providers, confirming my oft-repeated statement that the country exports some of the world’s best and worst education.
The US is also a world leader in the production and distribution of fake education credentials, confirming Alexis de Tocqueville’s prescient statement about value and money.
Dr Mark A Ashwill is managing director and co-founder of Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company with offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City that works exclusively with regionally accredited colleges and universities in the United States and officially accredited institutions in other countries. Ashwill blogs at An International Educator in Viet Nam. A list of selected English and Vietnamese language essays can be accessed from his blog.