Pakistan company reaps millions through selling fake degrees
New York: A “secretive” Pakistani software company is receiving millions of dollars by running a massive global scam of selling fake academic degrees using authentication certificates bearing the signature of US Secretary of State John Kerry, a media report said today.
Karachi-based Axact employees over 2,000 people and calls itself “Pakistan’s largest software exporter, with Silicon Valley-style employee perks like a swimming pool and yacht,” the New York Times report said.
The report said Axact portrays a vast education empire including hundreds of universities with “elegant names and smiling professors at sun-dappled American campuses”.
The websites offer online degrees in dozens of disciplines and show endorsements, video testimonials, and authentication certificates bearing the signature of John Kerry.
The company allegedly impersonates American government officials who “wheedle or bully” customers into buying State Department authentication certificates signed by Kerry.
“Yet on closer examination, this picture shimmers like a mirage. The news reports are fabricated. The professors are paid actors. The university campuses exist only as stock photos on computer servers. The degrees have no true accreditation,” the NYT report added.
“In fact, very little in this virtual academic realm, appearing to span at least 370 websites, is real — except for the tens of millions of dollars in estimated revenue it gleans each year from many thousands of people,” it said.
The report cited former insiders, company records and a detailed analysis of its websites and said Axact’s main business has been to “selling fake academic degrees and turn it into an Internet-era scheme on a global scale”.
However, Axact’s role as the owner of this fake education empire remains obscured by proxy Internet services, combative legal tactics and a chronic lack of regulation in Pakistan.
“Customers think it’s a university, but it’s not,” said Yasir Jamshaid, a former quality control official at Axact.
The report also cited the case of 39-year-old Indian citizen Mohan in Abu Dhabi who was promised quality education by Axact. Instead, during the course of several weeks, Mohan was duped of USD 30,000.
Initially, he received a mail — it featured a school logo but no coursework — followed by a series of insistent demands for money. When a caller who identified himself as an American Embassy official railed at Mohan for his lack of an English- language qualification, he agreed to another USD 7,500.
In a second call weeks later, the man pressed Mohan to buy a State Department authentication certificate for another USD 7,500 to his credit card.
Later a man claiming to represent the UAE government said if Mohan failed to legalise his degree locally, he faced possible deportation. Panicking, Mohan spoke to his sales agent at Axact and agreed to pay another USD 18,000.
Former Axact employees say telephone agents work in shifts around the clock and sometimes cater to customers who clearly understand that they are buying a shady instant degree.
Though, often the agents manipulate those seeking a real education, the report added.