Did you know, in India, a replica of an original credential or certificate can be created for as low as INR 2,000?
Almost everyone in India knows someone who possesses a fake credential. It could be a fake high school marksheet, fake diploma, fake college degree, fake PhD, fake employment experience, or even a fake government identity.
It is so common that everyone acknowledges the existence of fraud. In fact, reports suggest that over 7,500 organizations or companies provide fake credentials across India. It means that every city, on an average, has at least 2-3 of these fraudulent companies.
The icing on the cake is the results you will find on Google when you search for “Fake Credentials in India.” You will be surprised to find at least 2-3 organizations showing up in the top 10 results. That’s the dark reality.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The Problem – How Big Is It?
There are many who argue that the existence of fraud or fake credentials is due to the incompetence of the governing bodies, who are supposed to curb it. But, let’s get practical here.
India is home to almost a BILLION people. Even if the government officials and governing bodies work 24X7 without sleeping, it will still be humanly impossible to gauge such a large society for the existence of fraudulent activities.
It’s these pertinent drawbacks that scammers, fake companies and fake universities take advantage of. Over the years, the individuals and companies that create fake credentials have become smarter. They are so subtle in their activities that it is almost impossible to find them, unless you have a lead.
Different Types of Fraud to Create Fake Credentials
There are three main fraudulent channels through which fake credentials are created.
There are moles in every system. Universities, Schools, Government Offices, and Corporates, all have corrupt individuals who deliberately work with scammers to create fake credentials. We did a little research around this to give you substantial proof.
“I paid around 15 Lakhs to get my bachelors of science certificate from a top university. It includes a marksheet, certificate, and a clear registry.”
The above statement was given to us by an individual, who never attended college nor took any exams, yet has a degree from a reputed university. He is now working in a corporate company. This is just one incident. There are thousands of certificates and individuals like this that hide peacefully under the radar.
In a systemic fraud, also called as white-collar fraud, the perpetrator is always on the inside. It could be a high-ranking official who is greedy to make money or it could be somebody in the administration or management who wants to have his/her own share of buck.
Generally, the insider of the institution and outside fraud companies collaborate in the most cunning ways to make this happen. Of course, it does not happen on a large scale but our research suggests that at least 10-15 fraudulent certificates per year, in any university.
In one of the latest incidents, the bar council of India launched an operation in few northern states of India to weed out lawyers and advocates who do not have valid degrees. Surprisingly, more than 100 lawyers were found to have degrees that could not be verified by the said universities. Our research further states that the bar council of India confirms that more than 30% of lawyers across India may not have valid credentials.
Shocking, isn’t it? But that’s the truth.
On the corporate side, an independent researcher tells us that insiders of corporations help families, friends, and other known people by providing exam dumps for certifications. Exam dumps or question dumps are lists of questions that big corporations use in their certification programs. Getting hands on these questions will give the candidate unfair advantage over others. This type of fraud happens across huge corporations such as Microsoft, Cisco, Salesforce, and many others.
In the same way, many identities are stolen without the knowledge of the bearer of the identity and issuer of the identity. Definitely, it is a monumental problem. Systemic fraud is not easily found but when found, it is the ugliest.
Creating pseudo organizations and universities is the most adopted scheme of fraud in generating fake credentials. For example, there are over 24 fake universities in India according to the University Grants Commission. But these are known universities. There are many unknown.
In one of the latest news, there was a fake university in southern India that was found to have a well-established network across multiple countries in Europe and Africa. The police raided a graduation ceremony of the said university and found that people paid over 1 Lakh each to gain a graduation from this university.
There are many universities and colleges in India that provide such certifications. In yet another research, we found one of our respondents state the below:
“I do my MBA through long-distance through this reputed university. But I don’t go and write the exams. I pay the local education consultancy that’s tied up to that university for conducting exams and they take care of it for me. Next year I will be an MBA graduate.”
We did a little more research into this local education consultancy and found that hundreds of students enroll through them and they take care of the entire admission, enrollment, examination, and certification processes. The university they are tied up with has a great reputation and it has produced some great talent over the years.
Of course, the university may or may not know about this fraud but it is so well-organized that it is hard to find. This is just one consultancy; the said university has at least 50 of them across multiple states.
Likewise, there are many government identity issuance centers across the country that handle Aadhar card, Pan card, Voter ID and Driver’s license issuance. It is impossible to get the exact number but we have found hundreds of fraudulent activities that happen across these places.
One such incident came to light in 2018 when an IT firm was found to have possession of over 20 million Aadhar cards which they used to perform specific targeting during election campaigns.
Organized fraud is more established in creating fake credentials or facilitating fraudulent activities when compared to other types of fraud.
This is more obvious and easier to detect fraud. Remember the INR 2000 statement we mentioned at the beginning of this article?
Well, any photoshop expert can create a perfect replicate of your certificate. Though it is not that hard to track this type of fraud, it still works in many situations. Here’s what a respondent whom we interviewed told us:
“I was desperate to get a loan. I was going through some bad financial conditions. But my consultant said that I had to have a graduation certificate for the bank to process the loan. So, I asked a friend of mine to create a duplicate university marksheet. He got it done in Photoshop within a day. I submitted the same and I got my loan processed within a week. I got a loan of 8 lakhs.”
As you can see, even basic skills are good enough to replicate a university certificate. It also shows how many drawbacks are present in background verification, even at the level of banks.
Are measures not being taken? Of course, they are being taken. Yet, fake credentials continue to grow by the day.
The Victims – How Are They Affected?
So, there are many fraudulent certificates being created. But why should you care? Or why should an organization, company, or institution care about these activities when business is going good as usual?
Well, they should care because it will have short-term and long-term effects, especially to their brand value and growth. In the last decade, India has seen multiple scams that have cost billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money. While the perpetrators of the fraud have either been punished or pardoned, the monetary losses faced by institutions and organizations involved are hefty.
In a large perspective fraudulent credentials have a huge impact on the country; however, all big impacts start from small incidents that are often ignored.
Victim 1 – Institutions
The most prevalent and vulnerable victims of fraudulent credentials are universities, schools and colleges. Highschool, graduation, and post-graduation certificates are essential to grow in India or anywhere else in the world.
And that’s why these credentials are the most targeted. The most debilitating result a university will face is the damage to their brand. Here’s what one of our respondents had to say about a local university:
“I don’t like to do my education in this University. A lot of bad things happen here, including fraud, and the management does not really care.”
Now this person can go and tell 10 more prospective students or leave negative remarks online that can affect the overall reputation of the university. When it comes to customer experience there is an old statement: “One happy customer will bring one new customer. But one unhappy customer will take away 10 customers.”
It holds right when it comes to universities and educational institutions too. EdTech companies, the modern-day education pioneers, should be more careful when it comes to protecting their brand from fraud. Unlike colleges and universities, EdTechs predominantly concentrate on publishing certificates through pdf formats.
These PDF documents can be hacked, manipulated, and forged in a matter of minutes. If they don’t secure their credential issuance and verification immediately, they will definitely fall victim to fraudulent claims. And the end results could be as bad as bankruptcy.
Victim 2 – Companies & Corporations
In the 2020 report, HireRight shows the below results on how many candidates have had discrepancies in their CVs.
Over 62% of education discrepancies have been found in education credentials and over 79% discrepancies have been found in previous employment.
Now, imagine a company hiring and working with people who have fraudulent claims. Not only will they be a curse to the work environment but they will also cause a lot of office politics due to their lack of required skills. Overall, the teams that hire and work with these individuals will have the most debilitating effect.
HireRight report also states that SMBs and Startups face a lot of employees without proper credentials. Yet, many times, they have to continue hiring them without background verification due to constant need to grow faster.
Large corporations may not suffer as much as small organizations would, when it comes to fraudulent credentials. So, it is essential for startups and small businesses to have a robust background verification system to secure their workplace.
Victim 3 – Individuals
Last but not the least, the citizens and individuals of this country are the most affected because of fraudulent credentials. Wondering how?
How many times have you stood in line to cast a vote during elections? And what happens if you don’t show up? Somebody else is going to cast a vote on your behalf. Trust us when we say that this is not taken from some Bollywood movie. It is a reality during election time.
For example, according to NortonLifelock’s latest survey, over 19 million people have fallen victim to identity theft in 2019. It means their identities could have been forged or used in many illegal ways.
The same can happen to any of your credentials. So, how secure are your credentials? Are you sure that your registration ID or your degree’s enrollment number is not being used by someone else?
The Solution – How Can We Fix It?
We can write another 10,000 words on how bad this situation is, but what’s important is the solution. How can we fix this problem? How can we make sure that universities, institutions, companies, and individuals can have their credentials secured?
Paper-based credentials are the main reason behind fraudulent activities. These credentials can be easily copied, edited, and published. Even if it’s a secure pdf copy, you can easily take a screenshot, put it in photoshop, add a few layers, and make a replica that looks flawless.
Meanwhile, a duplicate registry can also be easily created if there is a mole on the inside (systemic fraud). The only way to get rid of this plague or at least reduce it to a maximum extent is through digitization.
But we’re not referring to creating beautiful pdf copies.
Blockchain based academic credentials are the future of education credentials. These credentials cannot be tampered with or fraudulently created. One of the reasons they cannot be fraudulently created is because blockchain is a distributed network and not a centralized network. What does it mean?
It means that when an entry is made into a Blockchain, all the nodes in the network should agree to its entry. Even if a single node disagrees, it cannot become part of the blockchain. Let’s say there’s an insider who wants to make a fake entry on the blockchain. Let’s call this insider Mr. A.
Mr A enters a perfect entry into the blockchain. Now, the other nodes in the network (B-Z), who are anonymous to each other, need to reach a mutual agreement that this entry is valid and it can become part of the block. And every node has an instance of the blockchain.
So, Mr. K, who’s probably sitting in some corner of the world, finds that this new entry does not match any other records in the chain. He finds it misleading and so he does not agree with this entry. This means that even though all the other nodes have agreed, the entry cannot be made because Mr K disagrees. Because of this robust consensus mechanism, Mr A’s attempt to cheat the system has failed.
This is one of the most basic functions of blockchain. That’s the reason why most universities in the world have started establishing their credentials through blockchain. Some governments have also started experimenting with the possibility of blockchain to issue government IDs.
Most importantly, individuals like you and I, will have complete control of our credentials and we can rest assured that our credentials are not being fraudulently used.
In that capacity, TruScholar is one of the leaders in establishing a secure blockchain platform for issuance, verification, and identification of credentials. We closely work with EdTechs and Universities in establishing secure credentials that cannot be tampered with.
This is just one possibility. With the help of blockchain, a vast range of possibilities are available in the education industry. From digitizing examinations to secure evaluations, the number of options for customization are many.
When companies start verifying candidate credentials through blockchain, they not only reduce the fraudulent claims but will improve the speed of their hiring. This will most certainly improve hiring at Startups and SMBs as they need good talent to be part of their system.
TruScholar helps in the verification of records so companies don’t have to waste hours and days in background verification. With our platform, you can get the verification done in minutes.
Digitization of credentials through blockchain-based platforms is the need of the hour to reduce fake credentials by almost 100%.
Likewise, you and I, can have self-sovereign digital identities that nobody can use without our consent.
So, are you looking to make a change to your identity, brand or business? We can help!