Category Archives: Credentials

Dispatch from the 105th AACRAO Annual Meeting – Los Angeles CA

April 5th, 2019

dispatch

AACRAO’s Annual Meeting held its largest meeting of higher education professionals from around the world this week in Los Angeles California. The Association of International Credentials Evaluators (AICE), of which ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member,  joined more than 2,000 administrators to address the issues that affect our work, collaborate on goals and guidelines for meeting those challenges, and provide a forum for learning and sharing experiences.

The Annual Meeting provided an extensive program of over 200 sessions, roundtables, poster sessions, and workshops.

AICE Endorsed Member, ACEI, FCSA, Scholaro, shared their expertise in these workshops and several sessions regarding credential evaluation, country profile of Cuba and the AACRAO Cuba Project, the Alphabet Soup of International Credential Evaluators, updates on the standards for AACRAO EDGE, and how to conduct armchair recruiting.
The meeting was kicked off with half-day workshop on how to use the AACRAO EDGE, which AICE President, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert together with Drew Carlisle from AACRAO led.

The meeting then continued with the opening plenary featuring a warm awards ceremony, honoring the years of service of Janie Barnett, AACRAO’s Associate Executive Director. The awards ceremony also honored an AICE Affiliate and an Endorsed Member.

AICE is proud of the latest AICE Endorsed Member, Incred Evaluations, Inc., Leah McCormack, Director, who won the AACRAO award for Emerging Leader in the profession.

AICE Affiliate, Karee Head, International Admissions Specialist of University of Idaho, won the Thomas A. Bilger Award for her dedication to the profession. AACRAO was also the perfect arena to share the collaboration of AACRAO and AICE, as an MOU was signed by both parties to agree to partner on various issues surrounding applied comparative education. It was definitely a moment for AICE Endorsed Members and Affiliates to shine!

The plenary continued with a moving discussion led by Nightline’s Byron Pitts, who overcame many obstacles to reach his life goals. He provided motivation for change and gave us a sense of hope during these trying times in International Education.

The Annual Conference continued with several more sessions, including, “Alphabet Soup for International Credential Evaluation” with AICE Endorsed Members, Aleks Morawski, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, and Robert Watkins.

Laura Sippel, AICE Director of Communications, represented AICE Charter Endorsed Member, Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI) through her session: “International Student Recruitment Without Leaving Your Office,” with California State University Northridge.

The International Luncheon brought together dedicated professionals for a inspiring informational presentation by Dr. Keith David Watenpaugh, Director of Article 26 Backpack Project, that assist refugees and displaced persons. He said through the Backpack enrollment, refugees guide their peers and this program also helps digitize their documents and create profiles that put a story to their accomplishments. AICE will be working with AACRAO to foster this initiative.

The evening continued with the lively International Educators reception sponsored by AICE Endorsed Member FCSA’s William Paver and the Paver Family Foundation. We then continued to an intimate gathering to truly honor the years of service of Janie Barnett, with AACRAO Executives and sponsors providing moving speeches, wonderful stories of working with Janie, and wishing her well.

On Wednesday, AACRAO Annual Meeting came to an end with the closing plenary featuring George Takei, Author, Actor, Director, and Activist, who used humor and warmth to address the large crowd. George Takei is of course well known as Sulu, on the USS Enterprise in the long running TV series, Star Trek. He spoke of his early days as a five-year old having lived with his family in the Japanese internment camps in Arkansas and California during WWII.

It was truly a week of collaborating, celebrating new partnerships, and honoring our colleagues and friends.

AACRAO indicates on their website, “Our programming reflects the diverse nature of our members’ roles and responsibilities, and strives to meet the changing demands and needs of the professions we serve. Join us in Los Angeles to gain the knowledge and skills that ensure personal, student, and institutional success.”

As the meeting closed, we felt the positivity of the meeting, as we discussed new initiatives, gave each other encouragement to be a strong advocate for our profession and have the right tools to serve those affected by our work so we can change lives.

As the sun set on the 105th AACRAO Annual Meeting, we very much looked forward to moving on to the AICE Symposium, directly following the productive meeting.


ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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The Global Educator Program: Engage with key influencers to leverage your international recruitment

March 15th, 2019

global_edu

In this week’s blog, we would like to showcase Branta, an international student recruitment, study abroad organization based in Seattle, WA. We recently learned about Branta’s Global Education Program which aims to build relationships between teachers and school administrators in India with administrators at U.S. institutions of higher education.

According to Syed K. Jamal, Branta’s Founder & CEO, “In India’s collective culture, both resident and the diaspora community, lived-experience and face-to-face meetings have a profound effect. They break boundaries and build bonds. To leverage the cultural aspect, and in order to equip principals/counselors from India and the UAE with international networks, we launched the Global Educator Program in 2018. At its core, it’s a professional development outreach both for international educators as well as for American campuses acting as hosting institutions. We are delighted to launch the 2019 version of the program which provides full funding to international educators.”

As one US educator noted in this video, it’s not about just sitting and having a quick conversation and exchanging brochures with students but building relationships with educators and administrators from the students’ countries.  The desire by the K-12 schools in India and wanting to collaborate directly with U.S. institutions with relation to teaching and partnership, and ways to enhance understanding of what it means to pursue an education in the U.S. is significant. For U.S. educators, the benefits include gaining a better and deeper insight of the Indian education system at a younger level and what it means to start talking about the practicalities of a global education at a higher level. Bringing these two groups together under one roof and sharing ideas, learning from each other, developing partnerships and forging long-term relationships are the takeaways of participation in The Global Educator Program.

Those US institutions who wish to enable this exchange, host the group on their camps and benefit from it are welcome to write to syed@gobranta.com for more details.

And, please share this with those in your networks in India and UAE.


ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Diploma to Degree: A Global Progression Pathway Made in Scotland

March 8th, 2019

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  • Introducing the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)
  • SQA Qualifications
  • Quality Assurance
  • SQA International markets and SQA Diploma to Degree offerings
  • Partnership working with ACEI
  • Working with us

SQA wants to establish progression pathways for its international students who, on completion of an SQA Advanced Qualification in their own country wish to articulate to a related Degree program at an institution in the U.S.

U.S. colleges may wish to work in partnership with SQA and deliver SQA Advanced Qualifications either jointly with their own provision or as an alternative provision. In doing so, U.S. institutions can internationalize their campus by working with SQA, SQA’s existing progression partners and centers around the world. Once a pathway is established, SQA will work in partnership with the receiving institution and promote the progression pathway to its students and centers around the world.

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Who Will Benefit

  • Admissions Officers interested in recruiting international students
  • Staff with an interest in progression pathways from college based learning into higher education
  • Higher education policy makers with an interest in progression routes for lifelong learning and bridging the academic/vocational divide
  • Credential Evaluation Bodies
  • Community College Staff
  • University Staff

Thursday, March 21, 2019

10 AM – 11 AM PST

Free Webinar

Register Now


Your Presenters:

Margaret
Mags Hutchinson
International Articulation Manager
Scottish Qualifications Authority

SQA_LOGO

Mags has been employed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority for 18 years. Initially she worked in Qualifications Development, developing and maintaining qualifications to service the Engineering sector. In her current role as International Articulation Manager she seeks to build relationships with Community Colleges and Higher Education Institutions in the US.


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Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
President & CEO
Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute

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Jasmin is a leading expert on international education and credential evaluation methodologies. She has authored several publications on world education systems, and is a regular presenter at regional, national and international conferences. She is currently the Acting President of the Association of International Credential Evaluators, and serves on the International Education Standards Council of AACRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers).


 

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Detecting Fake University Degrees in a Digital World

February 22nd, 2019

digiworld

As we prepare for the 2019 AICE Los Angeles Symposium on digital retention and transmission of academic documents, an issue that is of great concern is how do we maintain credential evaluation standards in a world that is rapidly digitizing? How do we ensure credential integrity? How do we detect fraudulent documents in an age where digital technology is used by hackers and forgers with tech expertise to falsify and issue counterfeit documents, tap into university databases, create degrees and diplomas that appear flawless and authentic?

The topic of the 2019 AICE Los Angeles Symposium is “The future is digital…are you? Effectively using technology while maintaining credential evaluation standards” is timely and will address the many stakeholders involved in the digital document process: the universities, governments, and third-party platforms, while delving into the existing eco-system, security and reliability of the current digital systems and discussing the available tools for digital credential verification. The goal of the symposium is to seek digital solutions that promote data security and protection as we move toward a paper-free environment.

In this week’s blog, we share an informative and insightful piece written by our European colleagues Stig Arne Skjerven, Director of Foreign Education in NOKUT and President of the ENIC Bureau in the European Network of Information Centers, a frequent contributor to ACE-Global.Blog, and Linda J Børresen, Senior Legal Advisor in NOKUT (Norwegian ENIC-NARIC). The authors demonstrate steps being taken in Europe to combat fake diplomas in today’s digital world. This article appeared in the September 2018 issue of University World News and is shared in this blog with permission from Mr. Skjerven and Ms. Børresen.

We invite you to share your thoughts, experience, and questions in the comments section. Thank you.

jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

** ** **

Using fake diplomas in order to get ahead is not a new phenomenon. As long as there is competition for jobs and admission to higher education, there will be people who are willing to take such shortcuts.

Articles in University World News often report new cases, the most recent on fake Scottish degrees. Over the summer in the United Kingdom, there was an article published in The Guardian in which the UK’s official service for verifying degrees, the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD), urged new graduates who take selfies with their new degrees not to share the images on social media to avoid fueling the multimillion-pound trade in fake degrees.

What are fake diplomas?

Generally speaking, there are three categories of fake diplomas. The first category is typically a diploma that seems to be issued by an accredited institution, but the diploma is in fact produced illegally. The person who bought the document has never studied at the institution in question.

The second category comprises diplomas that are issued by accredited institutions, but the holder of the diploma has altered the information in the document, most commonly the grades.

The third and last category includes fake diplomas issued by diploma mills (fake universities). Diploma mills grant ‘degrees’ to people who pay for this service, but do not offer any educational training.

Fake diplomas can finance serious crime

The consequences of using fake diplomas are dire, ranging from wrongful job hires to illicit access to regulated professions. The latter can pose a danger to people and society, most obviously in the health, engineering and financial professions.

Just as worryingly, the income from sales of fake diplomas often finances serious crime. The court case in Norway following the terrorist attack on 22 July 2011 is a clear illustration. During the trial, the defendant admitted that he partly financed his terror operation by selling fake diplomas through the establishment of an internet site called Diplomaservice.com. Its revenue was nearly US$500,000, which was laundered in Antigua and subsequently used to finance his illicit activities.

How can we deal with fake diplomas?

In Norway, NOKUT is the Norwegian ENIC-NARIC center whose task it is to recognize foreign higher education qualifications in accordance with the Lisbon Recognition Convention. In order to combat the problem with fake diplomas, NOKUT has developed several tools, such as rigid documentation requirements and thorough quality assurance.

Verification is crucial and all diplomas are verified from certain countries, either by the issuing higher education institutions or by the ministry of education in that particular country. Equally important, NOKUT’s experienced credential evaluators are fluent in many languages and possess unique knowledge about various educational systems, enabling them to track logical inconsistencies in the applicants’ educational backgrounds.

Since 2003, 120 people have been reported to the police for using fake diplomas. This comes in addition to the number of cases that are reported by Norwegian higher education institutions and other competent authorities. NOKUT, as the ENIC-NARIC center, cooperates well with Norwegian law enforcement. Many of the reported cases have resulted in convictions, normally two to three weeks of unconditional imprisonment.

Most of these convictions are for regular falsified diplomas, but convictions for using documents from diploma mills are increasing.

The Council of Europe’s ETINED Platform

The ETINED Platform is a network of specialists appointed by member states of the Council of Europe and states party to the European Cultural Convention (50 states). The purpose of ETINED is to build a culture of ethics, transparency and integrity in and through education.

One aspect of this is combating fraud and corruption, including fraudulent qualifications. In this part of the project, cooperation between the ENIC and NARIC networks, the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education(EQAR) have been established.

Suggestions for changes to the subsidiary text to the Lisbon Recognition Convention are being considered. An example is the establishment of a database with a list of criteria that students should look for when checking qualifications proposed by an institution.

FRAUDOC – An Erasmus+ project

All over Europe, significant efforts have been made to detect fraudulent documents. Recently, an Erasmus+ funded project, FRAUDOC, led by the Italian ENIC-NARIC CIMEA, launched guidelines on diploma mills and documents fraud for credential evaluators. The guidelines give an overview of the phenomenon, but they also provide tools and recommendations on how fraudulent documents can be detected.

The same group has also launched a handbook for credential evaluators with information about verification databases and other suggestions that should help credential evaluators in their daily work.

The future is digital

Routines developed by ENIC-NARIC centers are helpful for combating the use of fake documents. However, even in the world of recognition and credential evaluation it is true that the future is digital – soon, most diplomas will be digitally accessible in secure systems which will guarantee documents’ authenticity.

Norway has digitalized all diplomas that have been issued by Norwegian institutions, with a few exceptions, in an online portal called Vitnemålsportalen. Graduates can provide secure and time-limited access to their data to an employer through an electronic link. This procedure ensures the authenticity of the documents and is a safe and cost-effective way for an employer to verify someone’s credentials.

Other systems, at varying stages of development, are in operation in AustraliaBelgium (Flanders), ChinaEstoniaFranceIndiaMexicothe NetherlandsNew ZealandRomania, the Russian FederationSouth Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The network of EMREX aims to further connect and enhance student data portability and provide student data globally. EMREX empowers individuals to manage their student data and to transfer credentials securely to employers, institutions and more.

Fake diplomas will continue to pose a threat to higher education institutions, employers and recognition authorities in the years to come. However, recent initiatives involving digital diplomas in secure databases may be one of the most promising ways to combat false diplomas in the future.

stig

Stig Arne Skjerven is the Director of Foreign Education in NOKUT and President of the ENIC Bureau in the European Network of Information Centres.

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Linda J Børresen is Senior Legal Advisor in NOKUT (Norwegian ENIC-NARIC). 

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Institutional Accreditation: A Standard Under Attack? Misunderstood? Ignored?

February 15th, 2019

iaasuami

Last year, the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE), of which ACEI is an Endorsed Member, hosted its annual Symposium in Orlando, FL and tackled the issue of institutional Accreditation.  Those of us in the credential evaluation field live and breath accreditation. Determining an international institution’s recognition status is the first step any junior or seasoned credential evaluator takes. It is what sets an international school or institution of higher education on a par with its accredited counterpart in the U.S. There are many types of accreditation in the U.S. and I will not go into each of them in this blog (CHEA would be a good source to visit for details), but the one we focus on and use as the standard is regional accreditation.

Unlike most countries where the Ministry of Education is responsible for the oversight and recognition of schools and institutions of higher education, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) does not have this authority. It does, however, recognize accreditation boards and provides this information to the public. In most countries, when evaluating international credentials, we look to see if the studies were completed at an institution that is formally recognized and endorsed by the country’s Ministry of Education (MOE). I’m over simplifying but as I said, in most cases, we look for MOE recognition.

Lately, I see there’s a disconnect between educators, school/college counselors, and admissions professionals in relation to accreditation. In some cases, it’s an afterthought or entirely forgotten. As if accreditation is a bad thing, a nuisance. I even find that many, even those in the education sector, are unfamiliar with what is meant by accreditation and the different types of accreditation available in the U.S., especially regional. For example, I recently read a question in a forum intended for admissions officers at local colleges here in Southern California about a “university” in Downtown Los Angeles. The individual was asking whether anyone had heard about it and did not even consider checking the list of regionally accredited institutions CHEA has available on its website. A quick online search found this so-called university to be nothing but a diploma mill with a defunct website.

Everyone involved in education or counseling students for further education must, I repeat, must keep this link handy for reference.  The USDE also dedicates a page to Diploma Mills and Accreditation. Many of you who follow my posts on this blog know that I frequently write about Diploma and Accreditation Mills, warning fellow credential evaluators, educators, admissions officers, counselor, and prospective students against the perils of falling prey to these fraudulent entities.

Every day, I come across news of yet another individual holding a prominent position in government, whether here in the U.S. or overseas who has been discovered to have a degree from a diploma mill or misrepresented him/herself as a degree holder from an institution never attended. Examples abound, but I’ll share a couple in this blog. First, there is the Deputy Foreign Minister of Malaysia who had falsely claimed to have a degree from the prestigious University of Cambridge in the UK. He has now admitted that he had misspoken and his degree is from Cambridge International University in the U.S., which is still dubious in status given it lacks regional accreditation by one of the accreditation boards recognized by the US Department of Education. A little digging on the Internet shows it to be yet another diploma mill. Read this piece and you’ll see all the red flags. Click here.

Next, we have Nigeria where the Minister of Education announced last month that the government will shut down and demolish 68, I repeat, 68, institutions discovered to be operating illegally and without accreditation and will apprehend and prosecute their owners.  What is disconcerting is the following quote in the article posted by University World News: “Some academics are asking if closing down “illegal” universities is the answer, in view of the inability of Nigeria’s current legally-established universities to absorb the number of school leavers wanting places.”  Begs the question, have we slipped so far down the slippery slope of mediocrity that attending a sub-standard “university” or one operating illegally is better than none at all?

Accreditation in the U.S. is also under scrutiny. The USDE, under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, released newly proposed changes to rewrite several rules concerning regulation of colleges, universities, and their respective accrediting agencies. The proposed changes would loosen federal oversight of these institutions.  In an article for Inside Higher Education, a former for-profit college executive speaks out against plans by the USDE to weaken requirements for oversight of college quality. It’s a disturbing expose of the misappropriation of funds and other unethical activities.  Just as I was about to post this blog, a new report came out by Inside Higher Education that USDE is rolling back or toning down some of its proposed changes in the face of strong opposition.

Right now, the jury is out as to how USDE’s proposed changes will impact accreditation regulations. Personally, I don’t have a good feeling about the direction it is headed. Do we really want less oversight of our schools, universities, and accrediting agencies given the proliferation of questionable for-profit schools and the booming diploma mill industry?

Additional Links:

https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=b024016f-e13c-4897-8290-817c71b7a3f1

http://www.insightintodiversity.com/u-s-department-of-education-plans-to-overhaul-several-college-accreditation-rules/

jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Fighting Diploma Fraud & Protecting Credential Integrity with Technology

February 8th, 2019

blockchain

Diploma mills are here to stay as long as there is little or no regulation monitoring them and there is a demand for degrees which do not require classroom or online attendance, exams, research papers or thesis.  Fake degrees are purchased from online sites offering an à la carte menu of “products” at a fraction of the cost of an actual earned academic degree. Their websites can range from the tacky, cluttered with advertisements to the sophisticated boasting a litany of institutional accreditations with equally fraudulent accrediting entities. Individuals visiting these sites can select a degree of their choice in their preferred major from the menu and even select their graduation date.  They can order class rings, mugs, sweatshirts and other paraphernalia with the fake university’s emblem. At the strike of a few keys on the keyboard, and payment of fees with a credit card, they walk away with the promise of a Bachelor, Master, and even a Ph.D.  As employers post job openings requiring degrees, and in most cases, advanced degrees such as a Master’s or Ph.D., the absence of an earned credential has driven many to willingly seek a diploma mill or fall prey to sales schemes and tactics that lure the naïve and unsuspecting consumer to purchase a degree they were promised from what they assumed to be a prestigious, though non-existent, university.

Earlier this week, we came across a question on an online quorum where a counselor at a local community college here in California was asking about a “university” a student at his college was considering transferring to because, and I quote, “he could get a bachelor’s quickly.” The college counselor could not find any information on the so-called university that cited its physical address in the Downtown Los Angeles area.  A quick search on the Internet took me to the university’s website that was “under maintenance” and thanks to GooleMaps, found its campus to be a strip mall with a “For Lease” sign posted on the door. I warned the college counselor to advise his students against applying to this university as it was not regionally accredited and most likely a diploma mill.

And, just when we thought diploma mills are set up by nefarious entities, we recently learned that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had set up a fake university in Michigan to crack down on illicit operations allowing foreign citizens to stay in the U.S. illegally. The sting operation was to catch recruiters and others engaging in immigration fraud. Indictments were issued with charges of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit. Fighting fraud with fraud. To read more, click here

Clearly, there is a market for fake degrees. Where there is demand, there is supply. And it’s proven to be a very lucrative industry…a billion-dollar industry.

What is being done to protect against fraud when it comes to academic credentials?

Blockchain Platforms

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We are beginning to hear about Blockchain technology being used as a platform to help combat against falsified diplomas and certificates. There are several companies offering Blockchain platform to address this issue. One that I read about recently is EchoLink Foundation that has designed the EKO Blockchain Platform with the goal to provide verified education, skill, and work experience information. To avoid tampering from third parties, EchoLink Foundation allows only approved educational, training, and other institutions access to enter their information. To read more, click here and for learn more about for more on how universities are adopting blockchain technology , click here.

There are many institutions and countries that have adopted digital platforms for the secure archival, verification and transmission of their academic credentials. Here’s a partial list of  countries that have sprung into action by using technology to fight against fraud and protect credential integrity:

Republic of Georgia

The Business and Technology University in Tbilisi, Georgia has implemented an educational credential verification system using the blockchain technology powered by Emercoin. To learn more, click here

Russia

We just learned that the Russian Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Education and Science, (Rosobrnadzor) will implement blockchain technology in the country’s main graduation examination. To learn more, click here

Caribbean Examination Council:

In November 2018, the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) started distributing blockchain-based certificates to “24,000 shortlisted candidates” to ensure a faster verification process of educational credentials. To learn more, click here

South Africa

Fake degree from diploma mills is one problem, the other is falsification of academic documents from legitimate institutions. South Africa is taking steps to tackle fake degrees and its universities have the ability to verify qualifications through a fully-automated centralized online degree verification systems called MiE. To learn more, click here

Switzerland

In 2018, University of Basel started using blockchain technology to protect and verify academic credentials. It has partnered with the Center for Innovative Finance, a research group within the University of Basel which focuses on financial technology and another company called Proxeus. This partnership is intended to end reliance on traditional paper-transcripts and adopt a digital platform for the archiving and distribution of academic credentials. To learn more, click here

This is just a sample of countries and steps they’ve taken to protect against credential fraud. In future blogs, we will showcase other digital platforms set up by institutions, third party providers, and governments to protect against falsification of academic documents.

As technology progresses, so do the entities operating diploma mills. They are using sophisticated tools to reproduce believable documents. At the same time, institutions and some countries are taking measures to fight these mills by taking advantage of advances made in technology.

Is the blockchain platform for credential verification deemed effective? It’s too early to tell, but according to retired FBI Agent, Allen Ezell, “as long as everyone gets on board and participates, it may be practical towards the future. (Similar to a chain link fence, with electronic record keeping.) Also, keeping out just one rogue entity will also keep the ‘chain’ trustworthy.”

jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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AXACT (PRIVATE), LTD., KARACHI, PAKISTAN – ‘WORLDS LARGEST DIPLOMA MILL’ – A BRIEF GLIMPSE

January 4th, 2019

Regretfully, Axact is still in business on the Internet today. Look at their website, www.axact.com, and remember everything you see is ‘smoke and mirrors.’ They ‘hide’ in plain sight under the corporate umbrella as the ‘World’s leading IT Company.’ I am told they have no exportable product! Please click on all their links, look closely at the pictures, platforms, core ‘products,’ business units, etc. Just remember the true nature of the business!! You have never seen anything like this before.

Axact has about “25,000 employees and representatives worldwide” (their words) selling their products. They have websites for 700-900 fake schools, 400-500 fake accreditation mills, 100+ ‘spider web’ type sites designed to lure the potential student into one of their schools, along with other support sites used for support. Axact is currently updating some of their older schools and changing web to .education (.edu) extensions. Beware!

Since their fake schools are touted as being ‘American,’ they have created about 20-35 U.S. type accreditors which show the American Flag, U.S. Capitol and appropriately use red, white and blue colors. They even gave a Washington, DC address to a school or accreditor. Axact tends to use addresses for many schools in Southern California, more than any other state. Prospective students are lured into these schools by promise of great jobs requiring a degree, hefty scholarships, etc.

So you can better understand the magnitude of Axact, when the FIA raided their print shop in May, 2015, in Karachi at night (when Co-founder and CEO, Shoaib Ahmed Sheikh accompanied them), they seized 2,200,000 blank diplomas, transcripts, accreditation letterheads, etc. which the FIA General displayed to the press. Axact officials were masters at “Fake News” long before our current politicians made this a daily commonplace. Axact is the master at using all aspects of social media, along with fake free press releases, to hype and support their fake schools and business acumen.

Axact has sold millions and millions of fake diplomas and transcripts to individuals around the world since its formation in 1997 (initially only sold term papers and other scurrilous documents), before they purchased their first diploma mills and started sell to these wares. Afterwards, Axact began creating their own fake school in about 2003, by borrowing pictures of buildings, people’s images and identities, stock photos, or anywhere they took a notion to, adding text from companies and school sites around the globe, all resulting in what we have today. Sometimes they move so fast in creating a ‘new school’ they make an error and forget to change a name or two on a site, thus the schools ‘link up’. Or you can connect them through ‘tracing’ their faculty or accreditation. Several schools, including Gatesville, offer an “Online University Certified Education Associate” position where the associate keeps a percentage of tuition paid by the student, Silver 40%, Gold 50%, and Platinum 70%!! Think about this! I must compliment Axact on the finest graphics I have ever seen on these type sites.

Even after the diploma and transcript are sold, Axact employees have mastered squeezing additional monies from ‘graduates’ via the need for ‘legalization’ of their documents via Embassy stamps and seals, US Dept. of State Apostille Certification, etc.

Besides their size and world market via the Internet, Axact stands alone in another area. Generally, a diploma mill is finished with the buyer after they make the sale, maybe a verification to an employer later on.

Not with Axact! This is where their relationship takes a dramatic turn for the worse. Axact employees, those involved in the “Upsell” then tighten the screws on their ‘graduate’ with telephoned threats of arrest or deportation, impersonation, extortion, blackmail, supported by using phishing and spoofing techniques. They impersonate officials from law enforcement, government, regulators, Embassy personnel, even our Department of State, White House, and Department of Education in order to make this part of the fraud work. We have seen single victims of extortion by Axact in the range of $800,000+. There are also reports they may sell the credit card data they have amassed through their diploma sales. And, at one point, Axact recorded all these calls!!

Axact’s main target for sales is the Gulf Region, with the United States accounting for only about 34% of their sales. About 75,000 diplomas and transcripts have been sold in the USA. Axact reached the billion dollar sales mark in 2013-2014. Just think how long these fraudulent credentials will haunt the academic and business world in the future.

Like no other mill we have observed, Axact has diversified into other frauds (with web sites), including a publishing house, job placement companies, recruitment entities, term paper, dissertation mills, and research entities, ’reputation rebuilding/repair’, automobile importing, and travel sites.

Axact has probably stayed in business ‘in plain sight’ for 20+ years because of rumored connections with organized crime figures, connections with money laundering for the Pakistan government, their intelligence service ISI, or their military. (Many former Army officers, Colonel and Lt. Colonel are executives in Axact-What does this tell you?) I have never observed a case where a Judge admits accepting a $50,000 bribe to acquit the 14 Axact executives, which he did; a grenade is thrown into the house of a Axact former prosecutor; an Axact official on the eve of his ‘spilling the beans’ is assassinated on his way home one evening; several prosecutors were grabbed off the street and ‘re-educated’; cooperating employees disappear, etc. I hope you can see the magnitude and true colors of this fraud. This is just a brief glimpse. The FBI is investigating this.

Please look at these four fake school websites, two older, two newer. Once you have absorbed these, this will put you in a better position to instantly recognize their thousands of sites. Trace everything–accreditation, faculty names, and unusual word grouping, or misspelling!!

Gatesvilleuniversity.com
Manhattanbayuniversity.com
Sangonio University
Olford Mount University

A copy of the Pakistan FIA (Federal Investigation Agency) report on Axact (with school names) can be found on the web site of book, Degree Mills, which I co-authored at www.degreemills.com.

Additional Links:

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/pakistani-diploma-mill-of-fake-degrees-exposed/articleshow/62528628.cms

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42579634

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/18/world/asia/fake-diplomas-real-cash-pakistani-company-axact-reaps-millions-columbiana-barkley.html

allen

Allen Ezell, FBI Agent (Retired), Education Consultant – Allen Ezell founded and was the head of the FBI’s DipScam diploma-mill task force. He is also the author of Counterfeit Diplomas and Transcripts and Accreditation Mills.

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