By: Sharon Aron Baron
Getting your high school diploma can open new doors for adults who may want to get into college or enlist in the military. Before you start your search online, the Federal Trade Commission wants the public to be aware of several online diploma mill scams.
Charges have been recently filed charges against two operators of online “high schools” that claim to be legitimate, but are alleged to be little more than diploma mills charging anywhere from $135 to $349 for a worthless certificate.
In its federal court complaints, the FTC alleges that two separate operations: Capitol Network Distance Learning Programs (CNDLP) and Stepping Stonez Development mislead consumers about their legitimacy, including their association with recognized high school equivalency programs.
They use names like West Madison Falls High School, Columbia Northern High School, Stafford High School and many others.
“The defendants took advantage of people who wanted a high school diploma,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If a company says you can get a diploma in no time at all or by simply taking an online test, it’s almost certainly a scam.”
Documents filed by the FTC in both cases allege that the operations bought a number of website names designed to look like legitimate online high schools and use deceptive metatags with terms like “GED” and “GED online” to bring the bogus sites higher in search rankings. Once consumers arrive at the schools’ sites, they are met with messages that imply that the diplomas offered by the defendants are equivalent to an actual high school diploma.
There were no classes, no study materials, and no homework — just one multiple-choice test on the site requiring that students answer 70 percent of each test correctly. And if you didn’t pass? Just try again, this time with the correct answers highlighted.
According to the FTC, it was all a scam.
The companies claimed a wide range of organizations accepted the diplomas, but when people tried using them to enroll in college, apply for jobs, get a promotion, or enlist in the military, they found out they were worthless.
Here’s how you can spot a high school diploma scam:
They want you to pay for a diploma. It’s ok to pay for classes or testing — but you shouldn’t pay for just a diploma.
You can get the diploma from home, ASAP. If you can earn the diploma without taking any classes or in-person tests, it’s a scam.
They claim to be affiliated with the federal government. The federal government doesn’t regulate high school equivalency diploma programs. Each state decides what high school equivalency tests and programs are approved there.
Want the real story in getting a high school equivalency diploma? Read more here: High School Diploma Scams.