The University of Wollongong has beefed up security features on its academic documents to guard against a wave of fake Australian degrees being sold online.
The fakes are being snapped up for a few hundred dollars and delivered within a week, saving their buyers years of study and tens of thousands of dollars in tuition fees.
Since August last year, UOW has incorporated microprint, holograms and serial numbers into the design of its degrees and transcripts, in a bid to beat the fraudsters.
These include topdiplomaservice.com, which sends Australian fakes from Taiwan and Hong Kong, promising a finished product “printed on the highest quality paper with the utmost precision”.
Operators of the site – which carries an example of a fake UOW degree – are wide-eyed about the legality of their operation, suggesting the counterfeits can be used for “personal entertainment and collections”.
“If anyone used the diplomas in an illegal way, then it has nothing to do with us,” they tell prospective buyers. “In general, there will have no any problems if you don’t show off your fake diplomas too much.”
The site does not offer a price list but publishes redacted receipts from alleged past sales, including a payment of $880 – currency unknown - for a diploma from UTS.
Another customer supposedly paid $2029AUS for a degree from King’s College, London.
Another $450 changed hands for a degree from Griffith University.
A spokesman for the UOW said the fakes were a concern for the entire higher education sector.
“UOW has been progressively upgrading the security features of its academic documents over a long period,” he said.
“Since August last year the security of UOW’s academic documents were further enhanced by the addition of microprint, holograms, serials numbers and embossed seals to its existing watermarks. These features make UOW documents virtually impossible to copy or replicate.
“UOW also controls production of its paper stocks for academic documents, further reducing risks involved with a third party handling these stocks on the University’s behalf.”
The university publishes an online database of its graduates – dating back to 2001 – as part of its verification service for third parties wanting to check the authenticity of a UOW degree.
UOW students suspected of dealing in fraudulent academic documents are fully investigated, the UOW spokesman said.
“Cases can be considered by the University’s highest-level student conduct panel.”