04/24/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Diploma Mills Facilitate Identity Theft

Diploma mills were born along with e-learning institutions, which are actually legitimate and accredited bodies. Degrees and diplomas issued by diploma mills are frequently used for fraudulent purposes, such as obtaining employment, promotions, raises, or bonuses on false pretenses. They can also be used as a form of fake ID when posing as someone else to gain employment; impersonating a licensed professional; or they can be used as a breeder document leading to "real" fake ID's.

A fake diploma is an effective social engineering tool used to gain access to your corporate networks.

From Wikipedia "A diploma mill (also known as a degree mill) is an organization that awards academic degrees and diplomas with substandard or no academic study and without recognition by official educational accrediting bodies. The purchaser can then claim to hold an academic degree, and the organization is motivated by making a profit. These degrees are often awarded based on vaguely construed life experience. Some such organizations claim accreditation by non-recognized/unapproved accrediting bodies set up for the purposes of providing a veneer of authenticity."

The diploma mills often model their names after accredited educational institutions. They may even take a portion of a universities' name and make it a part of their own. Such modeling tactics involve using similar logos, color schemes and designing their websites to mimic an Ivy League school, right down to the .edu web address.

Just like a legitimate college or university, diploma mills may actually require the student to purchase books, do homework and take tests. However, the diploma mill may make it extremely easy for someone to pass. Students in many cases are able to simply purchase a diploma no questions asked. Many of these organizations are nothing more than glorified print shops.

As an employer who requires a diploma as official entry to your organization, you must recognize the risks associated with accepting documents that are fake, designed to give the bad guy access to your networks.

Diploma mills and the documents they print can be difficult to detect. Today, however, thanks to the Internet, many websites and organizations are publicly "outing" diploma mills.

When hiring, and presented with a diploma, search out the name of the educational institution and see what comes up. Even more effective is to do a search of the name on the diploma then "diploma mill" in quotes. If you begin to see a trend of sites popping up referencing fraud, call your attorney. Someone who is likely to commit fraud of this nature, may cause even more problems when you decline their employment.

Protect your identity.

1. Get a credit freeze. Click on the preceding link and follow the steps for your particular state. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases, it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes your Social Security number useless to a potential identity thief.

2. Invest in Intelius identity theft protection and prevention. Not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, but identity theft protection services can dramatically reduce your risk. (Disclosures)

Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Speaker discussing fraud on Fox News: