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Online Degree Programs: How to Spot a Scam

In today’s society, technology is used for just about everything. More and more people are turning to the internet to obtain their degrees in flexible online learning programs. But, like so much on the internet, legitimate sites are mixed together with online

While many universities and colleges offer online courses, so, too, are a multitude of fake schools. In fact, if you Googled “online degree” in 2014, you would have received and impressive 28,300,000 results. The seemingly endless options makes it more difficult for students to find a program that is not trying to swindle them of hard earned money.

Why online learning Is popular

Online learning has increased as advances in technology have made it easier to access and place material online in a secure fashion. Universities and colleges are employing the latest technology to encourage enrollment.

Additionally, online learning opens the door to students who need flexible schedules or may not be able or willing to attend classes in person. Online courses allow them to advance their educational goals while continuing their normal life.

Yet, the need for people to further their education for personal or employment-related reasons has also brought an influx of phony schools into the marketplace. International students, in particular, appear to be the most vulnerable, but many Americans are also caught up in the web of phony education opportunities.

Scam programs

Scam programs are referred to as diploma or degree mills. They make money by selling students a piece of paper that claims a degree has been earned. However, when put to the test, the piece of paper is exactly that – a piece of paper. It has no intrinsic worth. You can avoid getting caught in this trap by knowing what to look for.

Signs the program is a scam

There are several warning signs that should tip you off to a phony online degree program. Below are the most common ones:

  • Accreditation: The school lacks accreditation or provides accreditation that is connected to an unknown agency. Be sure to verify any such claims with either the United States Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
  • Speedy degree: If the school claims you can earn your degree in a very short period of time, back away from the computer. It is never that fast or easy to earn a degree!
  • Easy admission process: If the “college” says you only need life or work experience, a Visa or Master Card, and ignores your credits, take a closer look before you put your money on the line.
  • Familiar name – kind of: If you find the name is familiar, look at it closely. Scam colleges often use names that similar to well-known programs. For example, a name like Harvard Technological University might merit a closer look.

Avoiding Scams

If the offer made to you on the website of a College or University seems too god to be true, it probably is. Look beyond the text. No matter how glossy the pictures or glib the offerings, be diligent. Check to see if the site ends with the very reputable “.edu.” If you’re not careful, you might end up spending your hard-earned or borrowed money on a worthless piece of paper.


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The Author

Mary Brown

Mary Brown

Mary Brown has enjoyed writing about education and finance related topics, such as scholarships, student loans, college, vocational degree choices, and adult education since the early 2000's. She also writes about school budgets, accreditation and fundraising.

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