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I warn students they may get into trouble

S'pore-based China vendor admits fake $2,800 degree printed on 70-cent paper. -TNP

Tue, Feb 23, 2010
The New Paper

By Liew Hanqing and Lim Wei Li

WITH just an online chat contact posted on several forums, a China national managed to rake in thousands of dollars peddling fake degrees from Singapore universities.

The New Paper on Sunday tracked down the fake degree peddler, a 24-year-old China national from a local polytechnic, on a popular Chinese forum based in Singapore.

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» Psst... Want to buy a Sg degree?

Posing as a prospective customer interested in a fake degree, a reporter sent a message to him on the QQ instant messenger.

The man replied after a few hours with an instant message, identifying himself as an employee of Idea Consultant Group, accompany which provides "fast bachelors and masters degrees", according to a write-up on its website.

Asked which degrees the company could provide, he replied in Chinese: "We can make degrees from NUS,NTU, SMU and SIM."

Each degree, he said, would cost $2,800 and he required a 20 per cent deposit to confirm an order.

After receiving the deposit, he said, the company would issue an official receipt which buyers must produce when collecting their degree.

He said: "You don't need to worry about quality. You can trust us. Trust is very important in this line.

"Do you want transcripts as well? It will be an extra $700."

Asked where the degrees are made, he said they are printed in a factory in Malaysia.

A buyer, he said, can expect delivery of the degree about two weeks after placing an order.

He added that the exchange usually takes place in person at a public venue.

The New Paper on Sunday arranged to meet him on Friday afternoon at a cafe in Bugis.

A reporter, posing as the prospective buyer, waited for the man, who showed up punctually at 3pm.

He asked the reporter in Mandarin: "Are you from China or Malaysia?"

The reporter replied that he was from China, after which the man took out a form for him to fill.

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Show passport

He then asked the reporter to show him his passport.

At this point, The New Paper on Sunday team approached the man.

After being questioned, the man produced several photocopies of a Temasek Polytechnic diploma, some forms, a portable disk drive and a receipt book, which contained copies of receipts for between $200 and $2,000.

He said he has been peddling fake degrees in Singapore for about half a year, in addition to working as an agent for a company based in China.

He said he used to work for a multinational company, earning about $2,000 a month, but quit to become a full-time agent.

"I get a commission for every degree I manage to sell. How much I get depends on how much I can sell a degree for."

To date, he claimed, he has sold "less than 10" fake degrees.

The highest price a customer has paid for such a degree, he said, was $4,000, while some go for just "several hundred".

Asked if he knew it was illegal to peddle fake degrees in Singapore, he said: "I didn't think I was doing anything wrong, because my customers are usually China nationals who are going back home.

"They are students who did not take their studies seriously in Singapore and did not manage to graduate here.

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Show parents

"All they need is a certificate which they can show their parents."

The peddler claimed that he made it a point to caution his customers against using their fake degrees to look for jobs, whether in Singapore or in China.

He said: "If they get caught, they will get into serious trouble. I tell them that if they use the fake degrees to apply for jobs, they will only be harming themselves."

This is because the fake degrees do not have the security features embedded in the authentic degrees.

He said the fake degrees are cheaply made and are printed on regular paper that costs about 70 cents a sheet.

Anyone who wants to use their foreign degrees in China must first have their documents verified by the authorities, the man said.

He said: "The degrees I sell are printed on normal paper and the quality is not that good. Many of my customers' parents are illiterate, so they are easily fooled when their children show them the degrees."

He claimed he's not the only one peddling such degrees in Singapore.

"It's a lucrative business. Sometimes, I don't have customers for months, but I know of somebody who has made enough from these counterfeit degrees to buy several properties in China."

He said he makes between $1,000 and $2,000 a month on average, from commissions on fake degree sales as well as student recruitment for private institutions in Singapore. As a student recruiter, he gets a commission for every student he gets to enrol in a private institution in Singapore.

"I'm not out to do anything illegal. I'm just trying to make a living," he added.

Security features embedded in degree scrolls

ONLINE counterfeiters have taken local universities by surprise.

Spokesmen for the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) said their universities were not aware that fake versions of their degrees are being peddled here until they were informed by The New Paper on Sunday.

One university is now working with the paper to take action against errant vendors.

All three university spokesmen said that their degrees have comprehensive security features which allow their authenticity to be verified easily.

The SMU spokesman said: "SMU is able to verify the authenticity of the official examination transcripts and the degree scroll through special security features embedded within the documents.

"These security measures safeguard the authenticity of the documents and allow us to perform such checks on the request of employers who approach us."

The NUS spokesman said the university has strict guidelines on the use of its logo.

She said: "Security features are embedded in each degree scroll for authentication purposes, if necessary.

"To date, we have not received any complaints of individuals using or distributing unofficial degree scrolls."

The NTU spokesman said that employers can approach the university to verify the credentials of potential job candidates if necessary.

He said: "The university does not condone such actions and will take appropriate action against parties that counterfeit and sell our degrees."

It was reported in May last year that in the first ranking of Asian universities done by Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd, NUS was ranked 10th, while NTU was placed 14th. SMU was not placed.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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