Graduation season easy pickings for fraudsters, warn experts

July, 2021

Prospects Hedd, the degree fraud service run by Jisc, is warning students that sharing photos of graduation certificates on social media drives the multi-million pound trade in fake degrees.

Graduation season is a lucrative period for counterfeiters who scour social media sites for the latest degree certificate designs, which are unique to a particular university and year.

Students sharing photos of certificates make forgeries based on the latest logos, crests, signatories, stamps, holograms and wording easy. Fake, often advertised as 'novelty', graduation certificates can be picked up on trading sites such as eBay for a few pounds.

Despite relaxed COVID restrictions, many universities are postponing events or offering virtual ceremonies this year. If certificates aren't awarded in person, they will be posted to students.

Fraud experts fear a surge in graduation selfies appearing on social media such as Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter as students look for ways to mark their achievement online.

Chris Rea who runs the Prospects Hedd degree fraud service at Jisc said, 'People have been restricted for most of the year and have got used to living online, so it's natural to want to mark big milestones on social media. We're already seeing students sharing certificates and we're only at the start of the summer graduation season.

Graduation season provides easy pickings for fraudsters who disregard the financial and time investment made by genuine students. We urge students to consider the risks and look for other ways to show they are proud of their achievement.'

The Prospects Hedd fraud service team works with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and other law enforcement agencies internationally to apply trademark, copyright or forgery legislation to force closure of operators.

Since the government tasked Prospects Hedd to identify and target perpetrators of degree fraud in 2015, more than 300 cases have been investigated resulting in the closure of 85 fake universities.

Prospects degree fraud toolkits offer advice to help protect students, higher education providers and employers.

Media enquiries

Clare Tregaskis, Prospects and Jisc Student Services,, 07792 429227.

About Prospects

Prospects has worked at the heart of higher education for nearly 50 years. Part of Jisc Student Services, the directorate collaborates with government, universities and employers to improve student and graduate career outcomes through information, guidance and opportunities. It includes, which is visited by 2.1 million students and graduates each month, Prospects Luminate and the UK's official postgraduate course database. Jisc Student Services also manages Prospects Hedd degree verification and fraud services.

About Jisc 

Jisc's vision is for the UK to be a world leader in technology for education and research. It owns and operates the super-fast national research and education network, Janet, with built-in cyber security protection. Jisc also provides technology solutions for members (colleges, universities and research centres) and customers (public sector bodies), helps members save time and money by negotiating sector-wide deals and provides advice and practical assistance on digital technology. Jisc is funded by the UK higher and further education and research funding bodies and member institutions. 

 For more information, contact, or 07918 562869. Alternatively, use or 07443 983571. 

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