The New York Times has exposed a massive diploma-mill scam operating out of Pakistan that has fabricated thousands of degrees from hundreds of fictional high schools and colleges.
In its bombshell report, the Times targets the Pakistan-based company Axact, which bills itself as an IT services company, but which the paper says is actually what appears to be the world’s entity for producing fake degrees, from high school diplomas to Ph.Ds.
The scam is absolutely staggering in scope. Nonexistent schools such as Newford University or Mount Lincoln University are manufactured from the ground up, with promotional videos (featuring actors), student testimonials, and a bevy of degree programs, none of which exist.
These schools are in turn accredited by entities such as the International Accreditation Organization (IAO), which proudly touts that its institutions graduate 100,000 students per year, and cites glowing reviews from CNN. IAO, however, doesn’t exist either, and those glowing media reviews were produced with CNN’s iReport, a platform for user-created journalism.
Overall, the network of fake schools appears to span nearly 400 websites, and it’s allegedly made Axact tens of millions of dollars. A fake high school diploma can be had for a few hundred dollars, while a fake doctorate could cost $4,000 or more.
According to the Times, teams of sales agents work telephones around the clock with prospective “students.” Many are aware they are paying for a fraudulent degree, but others appear to have been tricked, told their “life experience” are enough to qualify for a degree or duped into paying for online courses that never actually take place. Helping with the scheme is that Axact appears to have gamed search engines so that its fictional schools place highly in Internet searches for online degree programs, ensuring a steady supply of potential customers and dupes.
Meanwhile, Axact has allegedly used a series of proxy servers and legal tactics to conceal its own role in the scam.
Axact issued a blanket denial of the claims against it, accusing the Times of relying on “half-cooked stories and conspiracy theories.” However, the Times maintains that its account is backed by ample testimony from former employees, as well Axact’s digital fingerprints on the fake college websites.
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