How to spot fraudulent education documents and fake degrees

The production of fraudulent documents, or fake degrees and diplomas, has been going on since antiquity, but it is only in the last ten to fifteen years that educational fraud or ‘fake qualifications’ have really become a worldwide problem.  There are two principal reasons for this: firstly, academic qualifications have gained increasing commercial value.

Educational achievement and the accompanying evidence are now used to attempt to ensure safe passage through immigration, promotion and access to employment, as well as a legitimate bargaining tool for better pay or greater professional recognition.  The cases of Gene Morrison and Stein Bagger demonstrates the lengths individual will go to in order to achieve such recognition.  It is, therefore, not surprising that educational fraud or fake qualifications have become a marketable commodity in their own right, irrespective of whether they have been earned or not.

Secondly, modern technology and the rise of the internet have undoubtedly contributed to the wide-spread trend of educational fraud and fake degrees.

There are a number of ways in which universities, college and employers can weed out these fake qualifications.  The first and most important thing to check is whether the institution is legitimate and not a diploma mill.  The easiest way to do this to check whether the education provider is listed on UK NARIC’s online database.

There are also a number of “red flags” to look out for when considering education documents:

Lack of official stamps / official seals

Degree certificates come with official seals or stamps.  These may be embossed, stamped or raised seals.

Paper quality

What is the paper quality of the certificate?  Are there any security features?

A variety of fonts used

The majority of degree certificates do not use more than three or four font styles.


Degree certificates are generally aligned down the centre of the page.  ‘Cut and paste’ techniques on documents often make mistakes in the alignment.


If there is hand-writing on a certificate there should generally be no more than one style of handwriting.  Also, there should be no alternations or corrections on the document.

Scanned signatures

Scanned signatures have often been taken from websites or scanned from other documents.  The signatures will be pixelated. On genuine documents this will not be the case.

Informal or inaccurate language

The language used on degree transcripts is often very formal.  Read the text carefully and ensure that it makes sense and that the correct grammar has been used.

Awarding bodies

Can the institution in question award that given qualification?  Is the institution accredited?

These “red flags” are only a starting point.  It takes a lot of experience and research to be able to identify bogus or fake degree; the above are just some of the elements used to spot fake qualifications.

“We have seen a significant increase in the number members asking us to check whether certificates are genuine,” commented Ian Bassett, Commercial Director, UK NARIC / ECCTIS Ltd, “additionally our training courses and the Degree of Deception publication also help ensure that there are ways of combating this threat.”

Tim Buttress, August 2012


An updated article on education fraud has been published

49 Thoughts

  1. Hey many thanks for making How to spot a fraudulent education document | UK NARIC. I am only a 35 year
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    figure out if there is a chance for me in regards to gaining a better university education and strengthening
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    that the web is now crammed with fakes so I’m just going to do my part to publish what ever details I can about online colleges and seeking to fix your daily life up.

  2. It’s not essential to obtain the attestation on all your education documents. For some jobs based in post graduation qualification, graduation certificates may also have to be attested. Nevertheless this will be first verified from the employer, because someday it depends on the nature and category of the employment.

  3. Genuine university certificates, in this country at least, should have both overt and covert security features; those that don’t are leaving themselves wide open to fraud. Hague supply universities both in the UK and abroad with secure documentation and our mission is to spread awareness about the importance of protecting documents against alteration and duplication fraud. Follow us on twitter @HagueSecure.

  4. i heard in my friend about this site dockscheck (or something), its a nice way to prevent or battle fake documents or even id’s, but i haven’t tried it yet but still i think its a good and genius idea.

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  6. before I decided to buy a fake degree, I wanted to know whether it can be identified I surf through the internet to see whether there are specific ways to do it. reading above letter and other’s really made my mind up. So now I not wasting my money to buy a fake degree.

    as long as you can perform well according to the submitted degree, no one will question about it.

  7. hie iam keerthi actually i m n need of fake certificates because of i got job so they r asking me to submit but iam just persuing my studies and we have family problem so i kept in my resume that i completed my studies please can you help me what to do

    1. Hi Keerthi, thanks for the query. Here at UK NARIC we are not only unable to provide comparability for incomplete awards but we work hard to combat education fraud. Fake certificates are not something that UK NARIC would ever knowingly process, and where applicable the relevant authorities are alerted to fraudulent applications. We are most definitely not the people to help you in this instance. UK NARIC

  8. Funnily enough, my (valid) postgrad degree certificate has no seal or stamp and is printed on standard 80mg white paper. I’ve always thought that it looked less impressive than UK certificates, but now that I occasionally need to assess a dcoument’s authenticity for work, I’m even less impressed with my university for giving us a piece of paper which a) can be faked easily, and b) looks like a fake itself.

  9. A colleague has already left a comment on this blog earlier. Our company actually print a lot of UK degrees and some for other countries as far away as Australia. This is not an uncommon problem with both the degree and the transcripts. As Universities and other institutions are becoming more aware of the problem its good to see them taking action. Many of our documents now have a hologram on the document and in most cases this is an image of the University logo or name and its unique to that University. This is a major step forward in security and it is good to see Universities embracing this more secure technology.

  10. Hello sir,
    I am an indian student and completed a bachelor’s programme in aerospace. I studied in indian for all 4 years and degree awarded to me is from The university of america, california. As it was told to me when i joined this course. so i wonder whethe it is purely authentic or not? i got it apostilled from secretary of state california.They have approved it. so should i be worried? Or is there anyway to find out weather contents of degree are real or not. cuz i feel it has been printed on a very common paper. please give me some suggestions.

    1. Hi Himanshu,

      As part of our application process for a Statement of Comparability UK NARIC will check to ensure that the institute is recognised in the country for which it is issued. In the event we are unable to proceed with the application for this reason you will be eligible for a refund.

      I hope this helps

      Kind regards

      UK NARIC

      1. Hi Himanshu,

        If looking to use the award outside of the US through which the award was issued, I would suggest contacting the Ministry of Education or appointed authority for recognising international awards for further advice on how to proceed.

        If you are looking to work or proceed with further study in the UK I would advise obtaining a statement of comparability which won’t replace your award but will confirm it’s level in the UK’s education system and can help organisations make a more informed decision when looking at your qualifications.

        I hope this helps

        Kind regards

        UK NARIC

      2. sir my bachelor’s degree is awarded by university of america, california. but i studied in india only. it was a partnership programme. sir i’m attaching my degree here. please have a look and tell me what you think. i am actually planning to join a masters programme on basis of this degree. i actually got my degree apostilled for further security reasons from secretary of state,california. please have a look at my document. it will be appreciated. thanks!

      3. Hi Himanshu,

        We are unable to comment on individual awards online, although studied in India if the awarding body is a US based institution to all intents it would be treated as an American qualification. If you do wish UK NARIC to look into this further please apply online through our website:

    2. That looks like a scam. Apostilization doesn’t necessary mean a whole lot. If you read through their “news release” page, they state that they are authorized by the state of Florida (not California) “To award Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, Master of Science, and Doctor of Philosophy in the following categories: ministry, counseling, theology, education, administration, music, fine arts, media communications, and social work as an exempt Christian institution.”

      Basically, they aren’t accredited in any meaningful way.

      A good thing to look for: If the school’s home page spends 75% of it’s time trying to prove they are real with “accreditation” and “listings”, they are probably not credible.

    1. We will only be able to assist if the University issueing the award is based overseas and accredited through that countries education system.

      Details including how to apply for a statement of comparability can be found here: Answers to frequently asked questions for this service can also be found here:

  11. Hello there.. My question is If you find any degree or certificate fake, what action is taken to seize the certificates since you have only scened copies, the fake degree is still with the candidate and he/she can use it in some other organisation to get job.

    1. Dear Prashant,

      Once a case of education fraud has been detected we alert UKVI and BIS with the appropriate details.

      We also use Action Fraud ( to report suspected cases of education fraud.

      The Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) team was established to help combat education fraud and they handle a variety of UK specific fraud document cases.

      HEDD is UK Higher Education’s official service for candidate verification and university authentication. More information is available at

      We work closely with HEDD and the advice they provide is that if education fraud is suspected that you should contact the HEDD degree fraud team on 0845 077 1968 (calls to this number will be charged at 2 pence per minute, plus your operator’s access charge) for advice. We share information about fraudulent activity with HEDD.

      I hope this is of assistance to you.

      UK NARIC

    1. Hi, we do not provide a verification service for documents. Should you or an organisation require evidence of your diploma certificate is genuine, I would recommend contacting the awarding institution for further assistance.

  12. Dear Sir/Madam,


    I Studied in Aeronautical society of India which is recognized by Govt. of India. Please inform me whether it is recognised by NARIC or not. I want to apply for SOC.


    Rinku Kumar Bhowmik

    1. Dear Rinku,

      Thank you for the comment.

      Unfortunately we are unable to comment on the status of qualifications or institutions on our social media accounts.

      If you would like to use our services you can call us on (0044) (0)871 330 7033, Monday to Friday (between 9:00am and 5:00pm), to speak to an Information Adviser and they will be happy to discuss this with you further. Detailed information on our services and the various steps to take can also be found here:

      I hope this helps,
      UK NARIC

  13. I have paid $6,000 for a tattooing course
    I got a certificate with no numbers and no stamp
    It looks like it was downloaded
    Want to know if it is real

    1. Hi Leanne,

      Thanks for your message.

      To seek verification of your Tattooing course it is recommended that you ask the Awarding institution to provide you a statement confirming the recognition and accreditation of this course. They should be able to provide you with details of who regulates this course and allows them to be a course provider.

      Many thanks,
      UK NARIC

  14. I want to know whether my marksheet is fake or not firstly registrar signature is not there secondly instead of minimum they printed minima

    1. Hi Smita,

      To discuss fraudulent documents you will need to contact the awarding institution themselves. Student support should be able to help specifically. IF the document is authentic and just has a typo or error then they should be able to issue official amended copies for you to present in the future.

      Hope this helps,
      UK NARIC

  15. I want to know whether my marksheet is fake or not firstly registrar signature is not there secondly instead of minimum they printed minima

    1. Hi Smita,

      To discuss fraudulent documents you will need to contact the awarding institution themselves. Student support should be able to help specifically. IF the document is authentic and just has a typo or error then they should be able to issue official amended copies for you to present in the future.

      Hope this helps,
      UK NARIC

  16. I am a project manager and I do the hiring in my company. I do not care about diplomas that much, I can tell enough during the interview. Your portfolio is more important and you can not fake that. I had have people with a load of degrees who have being a huge mistake. As long you care about what you are doing, you are responsible and you create earnings and not loses, you are all set.

  17. Your article is so nice and meaningful for readers. I like this very much. But if you search for Latest UK Technology Tips than you must visit our site once.

  18. good blog…

    Hi Naric Team

    When an individual submit an application for statements of comparability then do you check the authenticity of the certificate or just compare the degree to the UK levels?

    Thank you.

    1. HI Hasan
      Thanks for your comment.
      When we assess documents we do look for features that show the authenticity of the document. However, if you were looking for an in-depth verification service then we do offer a service called QCAS in partnership with Qualification Check.
      I hope this helps, UK NARIC

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