Bogus degree sites shut down
Several websites offering fake British degrees for
up to £1,000 each have been closed down following a joint operation in the
UK and US.
Bogus degrees fooled hundreds of employers
The certificates, from 14 made-up institutions, were used
by hundreds of unqualified people, mainly in North America, to gain jobs
in areas such as teaching, computing and childcare.
The operation, which employed 30 staff in Romania, targeted millions of people every day with circular e-mails.
Trading standards officers in Enfield, north London, worked
with their US counterparts for four years before the US District Court ordered
the closure of the sites.
Investigator Tony Allen said: "It was a difficult operation
to crack. The problem was that the people sending out the e-mails weren't
"Those people who bought the degrees knew exactly what they
were doing. The complaints we received were actually from colleagues of those
who got jobs by lying.
"It's worrying that they got into such important and responsible positions using the fake degrees."
Among the institutions created for the websites were the University
of Palmers Green, the University of Wexford and Harrington University.
The operation, run by a man and a woman, both Israeli, was
based at offices in Israel, Romania and the US. It is thought to have made
millions of pounds.
The bogus institutions used a drop box in Green Lanes, London, as a postal address.
Under the Education Reform Act of 1988 it is an offence to supply a degree unless approved to do so by the Education Secretary.
Higher education minister Margaret Hodge said: "Many overseas
organisations use the UK's name and higher education reputation to offer
their own 'degrees' over the internet, so I welcome this action to clamp
down on such operations.
"This demonstrates that action can be taken with the use of international co-operation.
I take this matter very seriously."