Fake degrees, but real certificates
Fake degrees from legitimate Indian universities that are widely available in the Middle East are heading South and may soon be used by fraudsters to secure high paying jobs in South Africa said Danie Strydom of qualifications verification company QVS.
“For as little as R20 000 one can buy an MBA degree certificate from India while, a graduate degree certificate will cost you only R5 000.
“A diploma in a computer course is in demand and therefore, sells for about R10 000.00.”
He said because of the lucrative market for these bogus degrees that existed in South Africa he expected them to become available on the South African market later this year.
The main market at the moment is the United Arab Emirates where the right certificate can command a high paying job and even a work visa.
Strydom warned employers to be aware of this problem and to ensure that they perform qualifications verification checks on all new employees. He said the fact that these institutions were real and offered a full verification service posed a major threat to employers and academic institutions alike.
“A student from one of these universities may present them with a “valid” B degree and then attempt to do a more advanced degree. “At present more than 10 percent of all the qualifications we are asked to verify turn out to be bogus,” he said.
He said corporate South Africa was not as aware as they should be about just how vulnerable they were to bogus qualifications.
“We know from experience that degree fraudsters are often accomplished liars who can talk themselves into a job.
“Once employed, however, they are incapable of performing their duties and target specific companies to lay their hands on things like customer databases and bank account details,” Strydom said.
The fraud figure of 10 percent quoted by QVS is in line with statistics supplied by the para-statal South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) who said that close to a hundred of the 1200 degrees they tested for authenticity recently were false.
CEO Joe Samuels said suspected document fraud was always investigated and in the 2011/2012 financial year at least 1,334 enquiries of this nature were made. A total of 98 suspected forgeries were confirmed. In addition 83 applicants were informed that the institutions at which they obtained qualifications are not accredited in their countries of origin.
What makes the Indian degrees dangerous for South African employers is that the certificates are actually issued by a real university. This is why attestation is also possible. However, the buyer just pays up and has never attended the university or an exam.
The Vice-Chancellor of one of India's largest universities - in terms of student enrolment –confirmed that the scam exists. He is aware of the issue and the Indian government is taking measures to curtail the practice.
“There are many cases involving various universities. We are aware of the problem and strict measures are being put in place,” Rajasekharan Pillai, Vice- Chancellor of India's Indira Gandhi National Open University said.
Pakistan launched a major investigation last year into alleged fake degrees submitted by several of its members of parliament.
According to a report published by the UK's Daily Express recently, a large number of fake degree holders enter the UK every year to work as illegal workers.
The report, quoting Migration Watch, says that almost 32,000 of the more than 250,000 foreign students arriving in the UK every year are bogus students as there are no interviews before a visa is issued and no checks are made on their departure.