How To Spot A Scam

By Lisa Wolcott — January 01, 1990 1 min read

If you are looking into nontraditional education programs, you can avoid diploma mills by asking yourself a few important questions:

  • Are there grammatical errors in the organization’s printed material?
  • Does the “school” ask for full payment up front before course work begins?
  • Does it offer back-dated degrees?
  • Does it claim to award degrees in unrealistically short time periods, such as a Ph.D. in six weeks?
  • Do “faculty” members hold degrees from the “school”?
  • Does one person fill multiple roles in the “school”—a receptionist who also offers course counseling, for instance?

No legitimate school will refuse to answer the following questions about its operations:

  • How long has the school been in the state?
  • What facilities does the school have?
  • What are the names and phone numbers of five recent graduates living in the state?

You should try to determine whether the nonresidential program has been accredited by a legitimate agency. The safest approach is to enroll only in programs that are accredited by one of the six regional affiliates of the Council On Postsecondary Accreditation, which is located in Washington, D.C.

If you are considering a nonresidential program that is not offered by or affiliated with an accredited college or university, you may be gambling. Bear’s Guide to Earning Non-Traditional College Degrees may be helpful in determining the quality and legitimacy of such programs. You may also want to check with the department of education in your state.

As a final safeguard, check with your employer—before signing on for anything—to find out if credit or a degree earned from the school will be accepted.

A version of this article appeared in the January 01, 1990 edition of Teacher as How To Spot A Scam