BBB Warns: Watch Out for Fake Diploma Mills

Thinking about getting your GED or going back to college? Be on the lookout for shady schools who only want your money!
February 16, 2016

BBB is warning consumers against online programs which offer fast and easy high school diplomas or college degrees. As many people struggle to find a job, earning a diploma or an advanced degree is one way to stand out from the crowd, but unless the educational institution is certified and legitimate, the degree obtained won’t be worth the paper it was printed on.

Colleges and universities accredited by legitimate organizations undergo a rigorous review of the quality of their educational programs. The same is true of high schools.  Although many diploma mills claim to be “accredited,” their accreditation is from a bogus, but official-sounding agency that they created.

Having a diploma is a requirement for many positions. However, if you’re looking for a diploma online, it’s important to be watchful for companies who offer costly certificates with no real value.

BBB is warning consumers to be wary of online diploma mills and cites the following red flags to help identify them:

No Studies, No Exams — Get a Degree for Your Experience. Diploma mills grant degrees for “work or life experience” alone. Accredited colleges may give a few credits for specific experience pertinent to a degree program, but not an entire degree. 

No Attendance. Legitimate colleges or universities, including online schools, require substantial
course work. 

Flat Fee. Many diploma mills charge on a per-degree basis. Legitimate colleges charge by the credit, course, or semester, not a flat fee for an entire degree. 

No Waiting. Operations that guarantee a degree in a few days, weeks, or even months aren’t legitimate. If an ad promises that you can earn a degree very quickly, it’s probably a diploma mill. 

Click Here To Order Now! Some diploma mills push themselves through aggressive sales tactics. Accredited colleges don’t use spam or high-pressure telemarketing to market themselves. Some diploma mills also advertise in newspapers, magazines, and on the Web. 

Advertising through spam or pop-ups. If the school caught your attention through an unsolicited email or pop-up ad, it may be a diploma mill. Legitimate institutions, including distance learning programs, won’t advertise through spam or pop-ups.

Always check the organization out with your BBB online at and make sure the college or university you are enrolling in is accredited from one of the regional accreditation boards. The U.S. Department of Education has a searchable database of accredited post-secondary schools at:

For further information on diploma mills from the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) please click here.

For more information on how to be a savvy consumer, go to

To report scams related to Diploma Mills please visit BBB’s Scam Tracker.