How to spot a fake diploma

The production of fraudulent educational documents such as diplomas has become a worldwide problem over the last ten to 15 years, according to the National Academic Recognition Information Centre for the UK (NARIC). Research conducted by Graduate Prospects concluded that more than two-thirds of jobseekers agreed that the increase in tuition fees would make buying a fake certificate more appealing. Spotting a fake diploma can be challenging but it is possible.

Feel the quality of the diploma paper. If it is thin and flimsy, it is likely to be fake. Most diplomas are printed on thick, high-quality paper or card.

Check the fonts used. According to NARIC, most certificates do not use more than three or four font styles.

Look closely at the signature or other handwriting. Scanned signatures will appear pixelated and may have been taken from websites or scanned from other documents. Check that the signature matches the typed text of the name.

Check for any grammatical or spelling mistakes. Read the text carefully to ensure it makes sense and is of a formal style.

Use a magnifying glass to look closely for any watermarks or stamps for the institution or awarding body. Not all diplomas will have a watermark or stamp so this should not be a sole determining factor that the document is fake.

Locate the educational institution's website and browse the list of diploma courses available. Look at the details to establish if they match those of the diploma.

Use an online database to check for authenticity. NARIC has a tool, which allows you to instantly access the latest information on the UK equivalent level of over 3,000 qualifications from secondary to postgraduate level in over 180 countries. Higher Education Degree Trackback (HEDD) provides a secure online verification service, which allows you to check that a UK university or college is, or has been recognised as a degree-awarding body by the UK government. It also allows you to verify qualifications of graduates who studied in the UK.


Spotting a fake diploma can be more difficult than a degree certificate due to the increased number of courses available from colleges. Check with the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) to establish if the certification course is authentic.


Calling a college to find out if the student gained the diploma may not be sufficient. The college may be fake too.

Things You'll Need

  • Magnifying glass
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About the Author

Jules Halliday is a writer, coach and public speaker with more than 20 years experience of recruitment, training and management in a variety of sectors. Passionate about career and personal development, Halliday is director of TMS Coaching Ltd and founder of All UK Jobsites.