Questionable educational institutions known as “diploma mills” that are more interested in taking money from students for worthless degrees instead of providing them with quality academic educations have a long history in America and clear warning signs, according to an infographic released by available at

Although many universities offer legitimate distance learning degrees, diploma mills are a big problem in the academic world since higher degrees usually equal more money. According to the infographic, adults with Bachelor’s Degrees earn 85 percent more than adults with only high school diplomas while advanced degree holders earn 45 percent more than Bachelor’s degree holders. The infographic also provides a brief history of diploma mills going back to the 19th century:

  • 1880: A famed con artist in Philadelphia commits suicide to avoid imprisonment for illegal manufacturing of fake medical degrees.
  • 1900: Officials at a Medical College in Chicago are arrested for mail fraud after selling bogus medical/law licensing degrees.
  • 1971: Two colleges in Florida are exploited for selling doctorate degrees in medicine, biology, and nuclear engineering.
  • 1998: A high school principal in Brooklyn creates a diploma mill offering fake grades, no-work classes, and modified exam results.
  • 2003: A diploma mill doctor in North Carolina kills a diabetic child patient after administering a lethal dose of insulin.

In addition, the infographic offers the following five warning signs of possible diploma mills:

  • Lacks Accreditation: Diploma mills often insert ‘official’ jargon to convey a credible image such as “authenticated,” “verifiable,” “licensed,” or “internationally-approved” to establish instant credibility.
  • Admission by Credit Card: Most diploma mills often base their admissions criteria solely on possession of a valid credit card and guarantee a degree regardless of previous academic records, grade point averages, or test scores.
  • Little Coursework/Interaction: Diploma mills are generally noted for their lack of curriculum and instructor-student interaction.
  • Super Accelerated Degrees: Diploma mills often guarantee quickly-earned “instant degrees” that are awarded within 30 days of application regardless of entry status.
  • Pushy Sales Tactics: Diploma mills often employ aggressive sales tactics and advertise through spam, pop-ups and cold-calling unlike legitimate institutions that attract prospective students based on their curriculum and credentials.

In order to combat the onset of online diploma mills, the U.S. Department of Education launched an online database in 2005 to include the names, addresses, and enrollment of all schools with recognized accreditation. The database is available at

Although diploma mills are not recognized by legitimate institutional accreditors, some have created their own fake accrediting agencies in order to appear legitimate. To check the authentication of a particular institution, visit the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) website available at

Diploma mills may also create a danger to employers since educational achievement can tell an employer a great deal about a job applicant’s ability, qualifications, and motivation, according to Attorney Lester Rosen, Founder and CEO of San Francisco Bay-area background check firm Employment Screening Resources (ESR).

“Many employers feel educational credentials and qualifications are an important part of their decision making process in hiring and are a critical factor in predicting success on the job,” says Rosen, author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ a comprehensive guide to background checks updated for a second edition published in October 2012. “For some positions, education is a prerequisite in terms of subject matter knowledge or appropriate license for the job.”

Rosen advises employers to not take educational accomplishments at face value without ensuring that the job applicant actually has obtained the degree, and that the degree is from a legitimate educational institution. He suggests employers check the education credentials of all job applicants and has written an article on the topic  ‘The Basics of Education Verifications’ that is available at:

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority®’ – is a nationwide background screening provider accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) for compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). For more information, visit or call Toll Free 888.999.4474.


About Employment Screening Resources® (ESR):

Founded by safe hiring expert Attorney Les Rosen in 1997, Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – ‘The Background Check Authority®’– provides accurate and actionable information that empowers employers to make informed hiring decisions for the benefit of their organizations, employees, and the public. CEO Rosen literally wrote the book on background checks with “The Safe Hiring Manual” and ESR is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), a distinction held by a small percent of screening firms. Employers choosing ESR know they have selected an agency meeting the highest industry standards. To learn more about ESR, visit or call toll free 888.999.4474.

About ESR News:

The Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) News blog – ESR News – provides employment screening information for employers, recruiters, and jobseekers on a variety of topics including credit reports, criminal records, data privacy, discrimination, E-Verify, jobs reports, legal updates, negligent hiring, workplace violence, and use of search engines and social network sites for background checks. For more information about ESR News or to send comments or questions, please email ESR News Editor Thomas Ahearn at [email protected]. To subscribe to the ESR News Blog Feed, visit To subscribe to the complimentary ESRcheck Report monthly newsletter, please visit


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