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Graduation season easy pickings for fraudsters, warn experts

Degree in Hand of Graduate

Prospects Hedd (@HEDD_UK), the degree fraud service run by Jisc (@Jisc), is warning students that sharing photos of graduation certificates on social media drives the multi-million pound trade in fake degrees. 

Graduation season is a lucrative period for counterfeiters who scour social media sites for the latest degree certificate designs, which are unique to a particular university and year.  

Students sharing photos of certificates make forgeries based on the latest logos, crests, signatories, stamps, holograms and wording easy. Fake, often advertised as ‘novelty’, graduation certificates can be picked up on trading sites such as eBay for a few pounds.  

Despite relaxed Covid restrictions, many universities are postponing events or offering virtual ceremonies this year. If certificates aren’t awarded in person, they will be posted to students.  

Fraud experts fear a surge in graduation selfies appearing on social media such as Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter as students look for ways to mark their achievement online. 

Chris Rea runs the Prospects Hedd degree fraud service at Jisc. He said:

“People have been restricted for most of the year and got used to living online, so it’s natural to want to mark big milestones on social media. We’re already seeing students sharing certificates and we’re only at the start of the summer graduation season.  

“Graduation season provides easy pickings for fraudsters who disregard the financial and time investment made by genuine students. We urge students to consider the risks and look for other ways to show they are proud of their achievement.” 

The Prospects Hedd fraud service team works with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and other law enforcement agencies internationally to apply trademark, copyright or forgery legislation to force closure of operators.  

Since the government tasked Prospects Hedd to identify and target perpetrators of degree fraud in 2015, more than 300 cases have been investigated resulting in the closure of 85 fake universities.  

Prospects degree fraud toolkits offer advice to help protect students, higher education providers and employers.  


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