Back to school season is here! Unfortunately, there’s a new fraud gang stalking the halls of Internet High: fake online GED exams and high school diploma websites. If you’re thinking about finishing your education, don’t let these bullies steal your lunch money.
Let Scambook be your teacher and learn the warning signs of alleged education rackets and judge for yourself whether you still want to hand your money over to an online high school or GED program.
Welcome to Diploma Mill Fraud 101.
Don’t Get Schooled by a Fake Degree
According to Scambook members, these sites invite you to take a free online test. If you pass, the sites claim, then you’ve earned your GED (general education development) certificate or your high school diploma. All you need to do is pay $200 or $250 and they’ll send you official documents like a transcript, certificate or diploma.
The US Census Bureau has reported that adults with a high school diploma or GED can earn an average $11,000 per year more than adults who never finished high school. When you look at that figure, a few hundred bucks sounds like a great investment.
The problem is that these online education programs are very misleading about their accreditation. If you use your documents to apply for a job or enroll at a university, there’s a good chance that you’ll discover your “GED” or “diploma” is nothing more than a piece of paper.
That’s because a majority of online high schools are actually fraudulent organizations known as diploma mills, which the U.S. Department of Education defines as “an institution of higher education operating without supervision of a state or professional agency and granting diplomas which are either fraudulent or because of the lack of proper standards worthless.”
These online high schools advertise that they’re accredited by a national education agency, but this agency is often made up, or it’s a sham organization where sites can simply buy accreditation without any kind of review.
Besides wasting your time and money on a worthless diploma, you could land in legal hot water if you earn your “degree” from a diploma mill. In some states, it’s against the law to use a GED or high school diploma issued by a falsely accredited institution.
5 Myths About Getting Your Online GED or High School Diploma
Myth #1: A GED Degrees and a High School Diploma are the same thing. This is a common misconception. Although the GED is equivalent to a high school diploma, the academic requirements are lower. Some 4-year colleges and universities, as well as certain employers, may favor candidates with high school diplomas over GED holders. Many online diploma mills don’t clarify whether they’re offering GED degrees or high school diplomas. If you’re confused, cut class immediately and don’t return.
Myth #2: You can get your GED online. Currently, the GED exam is unavailable
online. There are many websites that offer GED practice tests and study guides, but the real exam is a registered brand similar to the SATs or the ACT. Don’t trust any website that’s offering an online GED exam, no matter how professional they appear. You can only take the GED exam at an official, certified testing location. To find out where you can take the GED exam in your region, visit GEDTestingService.com.
Myth #3: If a website address ends in .edu, they’re definitely a legitimate school. Today, .edu domains (e.g. www.harvard.edu) are strictly regulated by the U.S. Department of Education. Educational institutions must apply and meet specific standards to be able to use this domain for their website and email addresses. Unfortunately, the requirements to get a .edu domain are relatively recent. Older online diploma mills may still retain their .edu. It’s also possible for hackers to spoof these domains.
Myth #4: Online high schools are accredited. As we mentioned at the top of this article, just because a website claims to be accredited doesn’t make them legit. There are many accreditation agencies that will certify anyone who pays them – according to ED.gov, these agencies “may even use all the right sounding words in their marketing materials to describe their accrediting standards and review processes. When actually, those accrediting standards and procedures are never put to use and the accreditation is meaningless.” What’s more, there’s nothing to prevent a diploma mill website from simply lying about their accreditation. When you’re researching the school on Scambook and elsewhere on the web, make sure you do just as much homework about the accrediting agency, too.
Myth #5: You can earn your high school diploma in half an hour. Let’s say you find an online high school that doesn’t have any of the warning signs we’ve mentioned. They’re explicit about offering a diploma, not a GED certificate, there’s nothing fishy about their website, and their accrediting agency checked out. So you register for a free account and take the test to earn your diploma – and wow, it’s super short and super easy! Well, you don’t have to be on the drill team to realize that this is a huge, waving red flag. Finishing your education will require a lot of time and hard work. For instance, the real GED exam is administered in a 7 hour test session. If a website congratulates for finishing high school after a ten minute test, it’s a diploma mill. You’ll also know they’re a sham because “congrats” will be immediately followed by a request for your credit card info. (Real online education programs require you to pay your tuition fees upfront, regardless of whether you pass their exams.)
Other warning signs to watch for:
Basic spelling and grammar errors on the website, missing graphs or data in the exam (e.g. a math question that refers to a chart that isn’t on the site) and “Live Chat” customer service ads.
Study all these tips carefully. No, there won’t be a quiz later, but learn this information by heart so you can avoid falling victim to an online GED diploma mill. Don’t waste your hard-earned money for a worthless piece of paper and potential legal troubles.
Be aware that many online diploma mills will try to fool you with slick, professional-looking websites in addition to their bogus accreditation claims. They’re relying on the fact that you won’t think twice about their authenticity. But hey, you’re trying to finish high school, right? You’ve got to question their authority!
Always research a new website on Scambook before you give out any personal information or a credit card number.