How to stop the educational certificate fraudsters

Following the news that students posting selfies of their degrees could lead to online scammers fraudulently replicating certificates, and with GCSE results recently released, it’s imperative that the stringent work continues in clamping down on this multi-million pound crime.

Higher Education Degree Datacheck (Hedd) this year issued a warning to graduates not to post their degree selfies on social media, to avoid fuelling the lucrative trade in fake degrees.

If they did, such selfies could give instant access to online fraudsters – from having the logo to signatures, stamps and holograms. And, with the selfie images in their possession, it could take a scammer a matter of minutes to replicate each educational certificate and sell on the forgeries – and land in the unsuspecting hands of employers.

It’s no surprise that the production of fraudulent documents, or fake degrees and diplomas, has been going on since antiquity. It’s not just the educational sector it effects either with employment, immigration, visa allocation and identity fraud also hit by the scam ‘trade’.

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However, it is only in the last ten to 15 years that educational fraud, or ‘fake qualifications’, have really become a worldwide problem.

And why? Academic qualifications have gained increasing commercial value, Educational achievement and the accompanying evidence are also now used for safe passage through immigration, promotion and access to employment, as well as a legitimate bargaining tool for better pay or greater professional recognition.

So, there is an even greater imperative to make these documents as secure as possible – especially as millions of students received their GCSEs results papers and certificates.

It also means security features can preserve the hard work of pupils and students receiving their results – why should those with big loans, determination to succeed and the long hours it took them give an easy option to fraudsters?

There are some simple steps Awarding Bodies can take to ensure educational documents have the correct security features to stop criminals well and truly in their tracks and to protect institutions.

Some Awarding Bodies currently use local printers that cannot offer the full range of security features which is a huge risk for them and their stakeholders. It means the barrier is low for anyone who wishes to counterfeit certificates, risking the integrity of the awarding bodies system.

Protecting documents is a multi-layered approach and should be viewed that way – it is about deploying a number of different security features (both covert and overt), in order to make the document as difficult as possible to copy.

It is imperative for Awarding Bodies to look for a print partner that is a ‘true’ security printer and who has both a pedigree and the equipment to product security printed documents.

When it comes to the documents themselves, it’s important to look into what security features can be implemented to ensure total security.

This could be everything from having a registered hologram to UV invisible ink.

Here are some of the types of security features to look out for: 

  • Registered Hologram

These are design elements with changing optical images that provide an attractive and cost-effective way to add security and enhance a product. Various techniques are available to customise the hologram to your specific requirements. At the same time the product becomes more difficult to counterfeit. The hologram is thus an effective means of strengthening brand identity. 

  • Etched Dies

Used with security foil to primarily prevent forgery and copying with either ‘wallpaper’ images or client specific images. The use of these can also enhance the overall feel of the document

  • Copyvoid

In security printing, void pantograph refers to a method of making copy-evident and tamper-resistant patterns in the background of a document. Normally these are invisible to the eye, but become obvious when the document is photocopied. Typically they spell out ‘void’, ‘copy’, ‘invalid’ or some other indicator message. 

  • Thermochromic Ink

Ink disappears or changes colour when heat is applied. Inks can be made bespoke to create a unique effect. 

  • Numbering

Sequential, Tapered Numbering are more difficult to replicate than ordinary sequential numbering, providing a method of cross referencing issued certificates with internal databases. 

  • UV Invisible Ink

Under UV light, a previously invisible image will appear to identify a genuine certificate, usually an intricate fine line pattern for maximum protection. 

  • Microtext

A minute font size viewable only through a magnifying glass. If copied, the text will blur, rendering it unrecognisable. 

  • Watermarked Thermal Paper

Easily identified when held up to the light but not easily replicated. Fibres within the paper provide visual identification of authenticity.

When it comes to maintaining the high standards for educational institution’s reputations, as well as the integrity for the student or pupil and their work and integrity for the employers to help make solid recruitment decisions, it’s important that security is factored in with just as much importance as the results themselves.

For more information about security features for educational certificates, visit: https://www.adaresec.com/education or call: 01527 838820.

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