Bogus online degrees may be more widespread than you think


So what if that dude in the cubicle next to yours decides to get a masters degree, then grabs the promotion you wanted -- but the degree turns out to be fake? A number of high-profile cases over the years demonstrate that some people in middle and senior corporate, government and non-profit management are not above using a bogus credential to get ahead.

There's Sven Otto Littorin, for instance, a Swedish government official who got caught in 2007 boasting an MBA from "Fairfax University." (The degree has since disappeared from his CV.) Or Laura Callahan, a U.S. government executive who in 2003 stepped down from her job after claiming a doctorate in computer information systems from "Hamilton University." Two things are interesting about these two cases: One, anyone doing a background check could have discovered Fairfax and Hamilton are questionable alma maters. Two, Sven happens to be Sweden's minister for employment. And before the incident cost her career, Callahan was deputy chief information officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Degree mills have been around a long time. Obviously they have allure. Who wouldn't want a real credential, for instance, for life experience? How many of us have earned the equivalent of a Ph.D in psychology just dealing with bosses and co-workers for a decade or two?