Website selling 'Wolverhamton University' degrees shut down

Fraudulent websites selling degrees from fake universities claiming to be based in the Black Country and Staffordshire have been shut down.

Website selling 'Wolverhamton University' degrees shut down

The Higher Education Degree Datacheck - Hedd - was tasked with investigating bogus providers as part of a Government crackdown started in June 2015.

Since it began, Hedd, which is run by Prospects and also provides a certificate verification service, has closed down 50 websites. It is also investigating 130 reports.

Out of the websites closed down, one offering courses from a Wolverhamton University - without the p in the middle - and another calling itself Stafford University have been shut.

The websites are usually made overseas and copy information, including course and campus details, from the authentic university - University of Wolverhampton or Staffordshire University.

Deputy chief executive of Prospects, Jayne Rowley, said: "We have university graduates who have worked really hard and the idea of someone who has not completed a degree and holds a bogus certificate getting a job opportunity is criminal."

The websites can charge around £250 for the provided 'course'. They can ask customers, some may be victims themselves, to send in work experience and coursework.

Once the degree certificate is provided, the bogus website offers to verify it. But a check on Higher Education Degree Datacheck will prove it is a fake.

Ms Rowley said the 'Wolverhamton' University site was closed in October 2015. She said: "They took information from the University of Wolverhampton for the site to make their own look authentic."

But the site was spotted when a potential employer flagged it up with Hedd, which runs in partnership with the University of Wolverhampton.

A website called www.stafford.ac was closed in September last year. It used a similar web address to universities in the UK, which use 'ac.uk' at the end of web addresses.

However, the website was traced to a fraudster in New York. Ms Rowley said it also 'piggy-backed' on information from Staffordshire University.

Ms Rowley said people who purchased fake degree certificates could be charged with fraud and faced a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

She added: "We are continuing to work on investigating other websites. We have powers to close down sites based in the UK."

Dr Chris Twine, academic registrar at the University of Wolverhampton, said: "The university works in partnership with the Higher Education Degree Datacheck service to identify sites offering fake degrees, and we have robust internal measures to prevent similar fraudulent activity.

"Genuine students work hard to achieve their degree results so we fully support strong action."

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