Don’t Try This at Home (cuz we’ll catch you!)

It’s sad but true. Universities face issues of fraud all too often. Pull up a chair and let me tell you a cautionary tale of one person who tried this and is facing possible legal action. Names and details have been changed to protect the case and me from law suits.

It started when my office received a fax from the Canadian Embassy in a certain country “out east”, noting that a student seeking entrance to Canada had submitted documents that didn’t look quite right. We were asked to confirm whether the documents were official or not.

A couple of us took a quick glance at the supplied documents, which looked legitimate. Grades were not great but not bad either. The TWU logo was in the right place. Signatures looked right. Format seemed right too. The student name and ID number were in the right place and used the correct number of digits. It looked pretty normal after our quick perusal.

However, the note from the Embassy indicated that there were some spelling errors in course titles, which they thought unusual. Clearly, some scrutiny on our part was in order. Upon closer study, sure enough some course titles had been misspelled. While I have seen transcripts with spelling mistakes, these are very rare. I would have been embarrassed to find that we had misspellings on our transcripts, but it was possible so I checked the database. No, we had not misspelled these particular course titles. This was looking strange.

Another interesting twist happened just about then. One of the people studying the document said to me, “I think I recognize this transcript as one I printed and mailed away just this morning.” She returned with a copy of the transcript. Placing them side-by-side, we could see a few problems. The student ID number was identical. But the student seeking entrance to Canada was a male and this transcript was for a female. Hmm. The courses were almost identical, but moved from one semester to another – probably to demonstrate full-time study. It appeared that when they were moved they were re-typed, which created the possibility of the spelling errors.

More things indicating a fraudulent document became apparent by placing the two beside each other. The logo of one was slightly pixilated with a hint of a shadow. Its shape was a bit off, too. The layout of the page was squished a little towards the middle. A photocopy, fax or scan of our transcript has a security feature that shows “COPY” all over the place. This one had been faxed but this feature didn’t show up.

We replied to the Embassy that we believed this was a fraudulent document, and we referred the issue to another department in the University to investigate further. As it turned out, the legitimate student whose document we used for comparison purposes had been in the process of ordering her transcript online from her computer, but had been distracted and left her computer unattended. Her boyfriend’s friend was visiting and had seized the opportunity to copy the transcript and make a few minor adjustments. This was the document he submitted in his application to come to Canada.

Fraudulent documents are altogether too common in this business. People use university education to pass themselves off as legitimate – in fact, there are few better ways to do so. Businesses could learn from governments on this one. All it takes is a quick note or fax to the university asking to verify documents and graduation. You might think this is the norm, but our office rarely is asked to do this. Based on research I’ve seen many businesses have employees who used fraudulent documents to get hired. Is your business one of them?


2 thoughts on “Don’t Try This at Home (cuz we’ll catch you!)

  1. Man that’s crazy how that works. You have to go around securing everything so much that even legit people can’t do anything, all because of things like this. If I’m ever in the situation where I am hiring with transcripts getting them verified is a great idea.


    1. Yup, it’s sad but true. You wouldn’t believe what people try. Emergency room doctors with fake degrees. University professors with fake degrees. Pastors with fake degrees. You can buy a TWU degree online for $250, if you so desire.
      But it’s usually a very quick and easy thing to check. Most of the time universities can confirm within 24 hours.


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