How To Spot Fake Degrees?

The lack of standardisation, absence of authentication technologies, uniformity of database and transparency in systems, are the key reasons aggravating the increase of fake documents incidents.

With UGC releasing the guidelines for the new academic session, universities will soon spring into action about the admission for fresh batch. While there are various challenges that universities/ hiring professionals are going to face this year, one of them is How to spot fake degrees/certificates in the systems?  

According to UGC, there are 785 universities, 37,204 colleges and 11,443 stand-alone institutions in India. In October 2016, the Government of India established a digital depository of academic awards to be known as National Academic Depository (NAD). The aim is to eliminate fraudulent practices such as forging of certificates and mark-sheets, by facilitating online verifications thereof. Out of these only 700 universities/institutions have linked their data at NAD as on date. The lack of standardisation, absence of authentication technologies, uniformity of database and transparency in systems, are the key reasons aggravating the increase of fake documents incidents. According to our recent study/ report “The State of Counterfeiting in India – 2020” we found that document forgery is amongst one of the key sectors which noticed an increase in counterfeit incidents.  

For example, the recent drive by the Uttar Pradesh government found that as many as 3,000-4,000 teachers enrolled in the State’s Basic Education Department are found to have fake PAN numbers and educational qualification certificates. In another case, the alleged mastermind behind the September 13 serial blasts (2008) used a fake certificate from one top university in Uttar Pradesh to get admission in another University in New Delhi. Now almost, after 12 years, the University has decided to secure their certificates and degrees.  

In most of the cases, the documents were easily copied in absence of anti-counterfeiting technologies as well as a system providing ease for cross-verification for verifying these documents. Counterfeiters are becoming successful because we are not making their task difficult. The UGC last year had written to all varsities to secure their documents, but still, not many of these have taken important steps. One of the key reasons behind the increase of document fraud is not taking preventive actions in building authentication systems in the education sector. Undoubtedly, it is not easy but there are still a few tricks which can be applied to discover if a degree, diploma, certificate, college, or university is real or fake.  

1. Ensure Authenticity of a University: An effective way to identify fake degrees is to obtain confirmation of the University’s address. For Indian University, one must cross-check the University details at UGC website ( and NAD ( For foreign University, one can check the accreditation mentioned on the college or University website with the Country Department of Education’s website. This due diligence is critical especially in case of certificates from foreign education institutions or institutions from another state.  

2. Detecting Certificate Design: Inspecting the design of the certificate is key. The real degrees and certificates from genuine educational institutions usually use special paper. If one finds them printed on normal paper, there is a high chance that it is fake. Check closely for spelling mistakes. The language on the certificates should also be inspected thoroughly. An experienced and well-trained eye would be able to identify discrepancies easily.   

3. Check for Anti-Counterfeiting Security Features: To prevent tampering or reproduction by copier machine, most of the genuine educational institutions have some physical and digital authentication features such as micro-text line, guilloche design, UV invisible ink, watermark, security hologram, etc. Most probably fake degree certificate sellers may not put a fake watermark on their fake degrees to give them a real look. For example, the APJ Abdul Kalam University has eight security features with QR code linked to their enrolment number. Prospective employers can check the authenticity of the degree through scanning QR codes.  

Perfect document security is an overly ambitious goal. Security measures must be regarded as reducing the risks of forgery or unauthorised alteration or misuse, not eliminating those risks. Security features alone cannot guarantee the integrity of a document.  Unless all other links in the chain are sound (e.g. the legitimacy of the underlying data, the reliability of the issuing process and the presentation of the document by its legitimate holder), there will be the possibility of fraud. Whilst, policymakers and Universities are taking necessary steps, a big responsibility lies on us in participating in the authentication process and eliminating fake/frauds people from the systems. Due attention and diligence need to be exercised in the verification of documents to ensure social security, trust in the system and develop a just environment for the truly deserving. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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