Are advertised online distant learning programs legitimate?

I have recently come across some very ingenious ways of a group (I believe) scamming people (mostly residents of the GCC) of their hard earned or sometimes loaned money in an attempt to buy (I believe) a fake degree or university education in a very short time at a fraction of the costs.

Hopefully, those reading this will find out the truth and not fall for this. Maybe LinkedIn, (update) Facebook and Google will remove the Ads and these “institutions” will be removed and fined, if the practices are investigated and it actually is a scam.

Again, I am presenting the facts as I see them and do not flat out accuse the universities or their parent(s) of anything –
learnforsuccessfulcareer.com, (updated 14/03/2014) internationalonlinestudies.com, edupartnership.com, globalacademicexperts.com, graduateinminutes.com, educationforyourprofession.com, geteducatedforsuccess.com, (update 21/04/2014) – quickgraduate.com


If there is any reason to believe these are genuine, comments are highly appreciated. UPDATE : The sites claim to have affiliations with CHEA and other legitimate sources as well as real schools in US like UC Davis but what you get is one of the bogus schools listed in the school list a few paragraphs down.

The setup

Advertising in a reputable source like LinkedIn.com,
Facebook.com or on Google
 Ad in LinkedIn
Ad 2 in LinkedIn

Picture Ad in LinkedIn
Ad in Google

Ad 2 in Google

UPDATE: These people are now so desperate that they have pictures of Saudi and UAE Rulers in their Ads!

Graduate in Minutes. Ad with King of Saudi Arabia
Ad in Facebook with Shaikh Mohammed Ruler of Dubai, UAE

Degree in 8 Months

Very eye catching and extremely attractive claims
legit_02

legit_03

Fill in a form with your details including desired major
Chat with a “Student Advisor”

 

Let the scamming begin

This scripted and very polished act would fool a large section of those that don’t know better. Being the suspicious type, I ask for the proof of validity and accreditation. A typical chat goes like this. The original transcript is much more enticing. Infact, you can try it yourself.

Steve: Hello,

Le me : hi Steve. I didn’t go to College. I would like to go for my Bachelor’s degree.

Steve : Excellent. You will be a student of Ballpark University.  Ballpark University is has been established in 1981. We established online training courses in 1998 and we are now offering distant learning and online courses and degrees for international customers. Our alumni is 50,421 strong and consists of students from 120 countries. We have two options here:

  1. Provide you a degree based on your work experience
  2. Take a course and earn your degree

Steve : Do you have work experience

Le me : Sure. I’m an IT professional

Steve : Then maybe you would be interested in our 1st option.

Le me : How do I know if it’s legitimate

Steve : We are the first and only UAE and Saudi accredited US University with (obscure accreditation)

{University Website}

{Link to Sample Degree – UAE}

{Link to Sample Degree – Saudi}

{Links to iReport from CNN}

{Links to obscure accreditation websites}

Link to an actual chat (coming Soon)

Why a Scam

A Google search later…

Le me : I just did a background check and found that Google doesn’t list you in their searches except those links you gave.

Steve : {More Links to obscure accreditation websites}

Le me : moreover, the links you gave as well as your university has the same Registrar…and they were created this year

Steve : {Excuses}

Le me : Derp!

bit_pls

University is not listed in Google sites
other than the obscure linked sites
If the University is legitimate and been there for as long as they say, shouldn’t they be plastered all over the internet. Shouldn’t there be any Alumni Facebook or LinkedIn pages. All I found in the search results were the university sites, sites where you can write your own “report”, the CNN iReport pages (which you can make yourself – see here) and the obscure accreditation sites including one that was a phishing site.Why should links of it being a fraud be in the top search results. See some results below. Why not try it out yourself.legit_google

Domains with long names?
Sites like ArabAccreditationCouncil.com/.org, WorldAcademicNews.com and Universities with a long domain name like NelsonBayUniversity, instead of nelsonbay.edu or nbu.com are clear signs that most likely these are fakes. The internet is running out of useful shorter names and hence longer names are being used. If these universities as old as claimed, surely they would be able to secure short names before the internet boom gobbled them up.
Same domain registrar and registered so recently?
This was the clincher. I cannot believe that it’s a coincidence that all the sites listed had the same domain and registered in 2012 or 2013. What happened to the 1981 or even 1998 claim. Excuses are made that the site was recently revamped. But that doesn’t negate the fact that the domain was recently registered.legit_whois

In comparison, you can see that saudkazia.com is a fairly older domain, but only recently have I started a website on it :).

legit_skcom

 

And a site as old and famous as toyota.com, well see for yourself.

legit_toycom

UPDATE : Beware of this girl (more to come)
Chat Girl
For some reason they can’t afford a new picture for each of their websites. Without fail, every single one that I visited had the same graphic. Coincidence…I think not…
What accreditation?
Google will tell you that the following sites are a scam or anyone can be a member. and the first two have already been debunked in the previous section. The list keeps on going with one bogus name after another. After putting together this list I found somebody had beat me to it by a long shot by posting this but this list has been verified by myself and I have given a description so there :). (updated on 14/03/2014)

  1. ArabAccreditationCouncil.org or ArabAccreditationCouncil.com (AAC) : a very well done site that may fool anyone that is not suspicious already. Owned by DNC Holdings
  2. WorldAcademicNews.com : Owned by DNC Holdings
  3. Global Accreditation Board for Distance Learning (GABDL) : owned by DNC Holdings registered 2013
  4. International Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology Education (IABETE) : owned by DNC Holdings registered 2013
  5. Association for Accreditation of Business Schools & Programs (AABSP) : owned by DNC Holdings registered 2013
  6. European Accreditation Board for Online Education (EABAOE) : owned by DNC Holdings registered 2013
  7. Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) :  this is a non-profit organization to enhance higher education online, but nothing of accreditation and couldn’t find where it listed the University
  8. American Association for Adult and Continuing Education (AAACE) : this is a membership program. nothing of accreditation and couldn’t find where it listed the University
  9. Institute of International Education (IIE) :  this is a not-for-profit organization, but nothing of accreditation and couldn’t find where it listed the University
  10. Educause.edu : this is a non-profit organization to enhance higher education online, but nothing of accreditation
  11. iReport. Anyone can do this as mentioned in previous section.
  12. Middle East Accreditation Council (MEAC) : Another one of the bogus ones from DNC Holdings registered “you guessed it” 2013. Unfortunately this was really hard to track as it’s not a simple .com website but .me and not ranked high in Google
  13. International Accreditation Association for Online Schools (IAAOS) : Wow. That’s a mouthful. See if you can say it three times really quickly. He he. Again…Bogus from DNC Holdings registered 2013.
  14. International Accreditation Council for Engineering Professionals : Another LONG name that could be used as a tongue twister. This one was registered with a domainbyproxy privacy guard so the only information I could find is that it was registered in 2013 but DNS points to DNChosting.com so it’s from the same group. Oh yeah – this is a .co. Running out of .coms are we?
  15. Global Accreditation Commission for Distance Education (GACDE) : same same. Registered. Well 2010. Must be one of the older ones they registered. Again by DNC Holdings
  16. Accreditation Commission For Higher Education (ACFHE) : I couldn’t find the website for this one. The Creek View University website mentions it but doesn’t have any link where it says “click here”…hmmm
  17. Distance Learning Quality Assurance Agency (DLQAA) : Couldn’t find this either.
  18. Central American Distance Learning Association (CADLA)
  19. Another .co registered 2013 pointing to DNChosting.com
  20. European Accreditation Board of Higher Education (EABHE) : This one could have fooled anyone. It seems so real. But the whois proved otherwise. 2013 registered by DNC Hostings
  21. NAFSA : This was only as a small logo on Midtown University’s page and NAFSA is legitimate…Except….Membership is for “Any individual who is interested in NAFSA’s mission and wants to engage with a community of leaders in the field of international education is encouraged to join the association”. That means pay the fees and be a member no real qualification required. Also, no mention of memberships of the Universities under question
  22. Universal Accreditation Council (UAC) : User Account Control in Windows? NO this is not a technical entry so to speak. Again no website could be found
  23. Accreditation Board for International Online Education (ABIOE) : AEIOU and sometimes Y. This is just getting ridiculous. Again I couldn’t find any website for this
  24. Accreditation Bureau for Higher Learning (ABHL) : DNC Holdings. End of 2012. Shoots a few months earlier…oh well
  25. International Accreditation Association For Online Education (IAAFOE) : doesn’t the IAAFOE give it away. Again by DNC Holdings but surprisingly this was registered in 2008. You could imagine how long ago this scam may have been operating
  26. International Online Education Accrediting Board (IOEAB) : Well this is uncannily similar to IBIOE. This one has a website and owned by DNC Holdings registered in 2008

 

What’s Next

If you do get suckered into their program, which unfortunately I was at first, this is what to expect :

legit_email

Notice all the attempts at luring the unsuspecting student ; a great marketing ploy.

  1. Association with US and GCC Academic bodies ; that either don’t exist or there is no link to validate that claim
  2. Discounted rates ; supposedly a “scholarship”
  3. Limited offer only ; which doesn’t really end.
  4. Claims of first and only University to offer this ; but all their universities offer this

In the very unfortunate event that you do decide to enroll. They will start your “enrollment” and ask for a few documents. Once the enrollment process starts, failure to going through with this, incase you change your mind, you will be harassed by phone incessantly to proceed with the program and payment. As a friend once said, who asked to talk to one “student advisor”, are these guys from the same planet, people have a right to change their mind. The phone calls are still coming…

 

Universities to Avoid

Following is a list of Universities that are part of this scam. There could be many more. The ACC and GABDL websites made my search a bit easier. The ones in BOLD have been personally verified through the whois method. Let me know if there are more or in the rare event any of these are actually legitimate. Links to the sites have not been provided as this would rank them up in the search engines. However, a simple search will more than satisfy any thirst to discover the truth. I should also add that the websites are getting more and more professional with magnificent logos and pages and pages of information. Some sites even have bogus faculty members (probably pictures taken from LinkedIn or Facebook public profiles). Unfortunately there is only a picture and some other information no link to an actual profile or contact information just incase you wanted to chat up.(list updated 21/04/2014)

  1. Brooklyn Park University
  2. American Mideast University
  3. Al Afroz University
  4. Nixon University
  5. Ashley University
  6. American Gulf University
  7. Baytown University
  8. The Rising Gulf University
  9. Aleppo Academy University
  10. Pittsford University
  11. Madison Hills University
  12. Kennedy University
  13. Nelson Bay University
  14. Arab Women University
  15. Grant Town University
  16. Barkley University
  17. Ester University
  18. McKinley University
  19. Columbiana University
  20. Fort Jones University
  21. American Gulf University
  22. Rochville University
  23. Payne Springs University
  24. Wilford University
  25. Al Khalifa American University
  26. Anchor Point University
  27. Arab International University
  28. Bay City University
  29. Creek View University
  30. Harvey University
  31. Kingsbridge University
  32. Mayfield University
  33. Midtown University
  34. Must University
  35. North East Alabama University
  36. Pine Hill University
  37. Ray University
  38. Retail Online University
  39. Riverbanks University
  40. SalterUniversity
  41. West Land University
  42. Wiley University
  43. Cambell State University
  44. Chamon Institute of Arts and Technology
  45. Thompson University

 

Conclusion

Most “shortcuts” are too good to be true and most likely are frauds. But just incase you are not convinced that this “too good to be true” offer is actually a fake, the following may give you some insight.

As per this blog on voanews.com :

So, how do you know if the school you’re looking into is properly accredited?

1) They’re a well-known college or university, are listed in a respected ranking like the U.S. News and World Report ranking of best colleges, or were recommended to you by EducationUSA

2) They have a .edu web address (this is specifically for colleges in the US that have a campus but most legitimate ones do anyway)

3) They are accredited by one of the 6 regional accrediting agencies (and their various subdivisions) OR by another accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or CHEA

as per the blog you are reading, if it still seem’s like it’s legitimate just follow this :

  1. Google “University name” fraud or “University name” fake and read up on the results
  2. Find out from LinkedIn or Facebook if any (credible) alumni is available. Maybe connect or talk to them
  3. Do a Whois.net search on the domain name. If the domain is registered fairly recently, chances are it’s a fake.
  4. Ask a friend. sometimes a friend or well wisher is going to give you better advice than any Google search.