How to know if your online degree programme is fake

Keep a lookout for red flags when enrolling in an online degree or course.

By U2B Staff 

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As the pandemic has put thousands of people out of jobs, many are upskilling themselves through online courses. Training or upskilling online has become immensely popular as in-person training centres and universities have closed for the time being.

Unfortunately, it’s much easier to get duped into signing up or paying for a fake online course than an in-person one.

Amanda Rosewarne, chief executive of The CPD Standards Office, told This Is Money, “Self-isolation has now created a new trend for regular engagement in online learning.

“Yet with so many new providers entering the online learning market, it has become the new wild-west, where learners can easily be hooked by cowboys. Over the past few weeks, all sorts of new online learning has been created, the need for external validation of this market has never been greater.

“It is critical that genuine providers seek accreditation to ensure that their products stand head and shoulders above the rest and that learners are not hook-winked.”

Some websites offering fake online courses or degree programmes can look entirely legit, and before you know it, you’ve paid for the course and you’ve become a victim of a common scam.

According to Business Insider, there are over 350 such websites that pose as legitimate online universities, selling approximately 200,000 fake online degrees.

The consequences of getting caught with a fake online degree or certificate can be severe. You could not only get fired, but you could also end up serving a prison sentence, why is why it’s so important to vigilant when you apply for an online degree programme.

Here are three things to look out for when enrolling in online courses.


Online degree programmes must be properly accredited, which means the university has been validated by a government agency or the Ministry of Education in that particular country.

A legit university will always display or reference its accreditation on its website. If you can’t find out, you can also do a search on

For online courses and credentials, it’s a bit trickier. These training programmes don’t need to have proper accreditation as they aren’t degree programmes. Therefore, it’s best to only enrol with reputable and trusted online learning providers like EdX, Coursera, or Udemy if you’re unsure if a course is legit.


Lack of contact and resource information

Can’t find a number to call or not getting a proper reply back when you send an e-mail? This is a red flag. If you can’t find proper contact information, there’s a high chance that the online programme is fake.

Reputable colleges and universities, as well as learning providers, will have multiple ways to contact them displayed on their websites, whether it’s a hotline or e-mail address.

They should also have resources for students clearly displayed on the website. According to US News, legitimate online programs normally should have a host of resources available to students, such as technical support, academic advising, and library services.

If you can’t find clear evidence of those resources then you should be suspicious that it’s not a legit online degree programme.

It’s too easy to get accepted

If it seems all too easy to get accepted into an online degree programme without showing any credentials, then you should be wary.

There is a standard application process for online degree programmes that don’t differ vastly from in-person classes. At the very least, you should be asked to produce a high school or college transcript.

Since fake online degrees are just scams to get your money, the people behind it will try to persuade you that it’s easy to enrol and earn a degree so you will be tempted to apply and pay the fees.

If a website looks too good to be true and is offering you such an easy way to get an online certificate, it’s most likely a fake online degree programme or scam.