Article - FTC and Diploma Mills:

Author: Matthew Paolini

The Federal Trade Commission, America's watchdog consumer agency, has issued yet another warning about an education-related scam. Entitled "Diploma Mills: Degrees of Deception", the FTC memo takes issue with diploma mills, a form of online deception practiced by companies all too eager to exploit the country's fascination with online learning and online degrees. The companies behind these diploma mills usually approach their prey using an email that promises respondents a degree based on their life experience, all in exchange for a one-time, up-front fee. Instead of setting off alarm bells, the fact that the degree requires little or even no classroom work makes the offer so compelling that some just can't resist.

Those familiar with the online education phenomenon say diploma mills have been a scam waiting to happen. Distance learning and legitimate online degrees from accredited institutions like the University of Phoenix, Westwood College or Kaplan University have made it easier than ever for Americans to better their lot through education. An online degree is the first step towards better pay and better career prospects.

While legitimate online degrees are now widely accepted by employers as proof of a job candidate's education qualifications, it's safe to say employers will not easily suffer the embarrassment of hiring a "diploma mill" graduate. If you get caught with a diploma mill in your pocket when applying for a job or - perhaps even worse - a graduate degree program, expect to be shown the door in no uncertain terms.

The FTC says that diploma mills trolling for "graduates" often set their hook and then reel in their catch using a false claim of accreditation. By claiming to be "accredited", a diploma mill can easily create a sense of security in its victims.

While many people are aware that American colleges and universities voluntarily have their curriculum reviewed as part of the accreditation process, few are familiar with the approximately six regional and 80 professional accrediting associations in the United States. When a diploma mill makes up an official sounding name for its supposed accrediting association, it's easy to be fooled. One way to confirm a school's accreditation credentials is by checking the database of accredited colleges and universities at the website of the Department of Education.

It pays to remember that a claim of accreditation is really just the icing on the cake for diploma mill scammers, says the FTC. If they're going to take the bait, most recipients of an email offering a diploma mill degree are already hooked by the idea of having their life experience "formally" recognized, especially when there's no waiting and no attendance requirement. But there are other tip-offs, too, that an email offer of a degree isn't everything it's cracked up to be.

Topping the list, perhaps, is the ever-present offer of a degree in exchange for a one-time fee. Genuine online colleges and universities charge by the credit hour, reminds the FTC, and not by the degree. Furthermore, an instant degree offer in the form of an unsolicited email or online pop-ups is almost unquestionably a scam. Finally, be on the lookout for imitative names. While not always a dead giveaway - some search engine marketers legitimately target common misspellings of a university's name - diploma mills like to select names that intentionally mimic the names of well-known colleges and universities, a tactic that goes so far as to proffer on-the-spot degrees from institutions with foreign-sounding names that seem both persuasive and credible.

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About the Author:

Matt Paolini works from home as a distance learner. Visit MBA University of Pheonix or University of Pheonix degrees for free distance learning info.

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