This, is what’s currently going on, and no, you still didn’t hear it from ME, from The New York Times that came with the Chinese papers today, written by: D. Walsh
Seen from the Internet, it is a vast education empire: hundreds of universities and high schools, with elegant names and smiling professors at sun-dappled American campuses.
Their websites, glossy and assured, offer online degrees in dozens of disciplines, like nursing and civil engineering. There are glowing endorsement on the CNN iReport website, enthusiastic video testimonials, and State Department authentication certificates bearing the signature of John Kerry, the American secretary of state.
“We host one of the most renowned faculty in the world,” boasts a woman introduced in one promotional video as the head of law school. “Come be a part of Newford University to soar the sky of excellence.”
Yet, this picture shimmers like a mirage. The new reports are fabricated. The professors are actors. The university campuses exist in name only. The degrees have no true accreditation. The slick websites have toll-free American phone numbers and familiar-sounding names like Barkley and Columbiana.
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 revenue it gleans each year from many thousands of people around the world, all paid to a secretive Pakistani software company.
That company, Axact, operates from the port city of Karachi, where it employs over 2,000 people and calls itself Pakistan’s largest software explorer, with Silicon Valley-style employee perks like a swimming pool and yacht.
The heart of Axact’s business is the sales team—young and well-educated Pakistanis, fluent in English or Arabic, who work the phones with customers who have been drawn in by the websites. They offer high school diplomas for $350 and doctoral degrees for $4,000.
Axact tailors its websites to appeal to customers in its principal markets, including the United States and oil-rich Persian Gulf countries. One Saudi man spent over $400,000 on fake degrees and associate certificates, a former employee said. Usually the sums are less startling, but still substantial. One Egyptian man paid $12,000 last year for a doctorate in engineering technology from Nixon University and a certificate signed by Mr. Kerry. His professional background was in advertising, he said. But he was certain the documents were real. “I really thought this was coming from America,” he said. “It had so many foreigner stamps. It was so impressive.”
Axact does sell some software applications. But according former insiders, company records and a detailed analysis of its websites, Axact’s main business has been to take the centuries-old scam of selling fake academic degrees and turn it into an Internet-era scheme on a global scale.
As interest in online education is booming, the company is aggressively positioning its school and portal websites to appear prominently in online searches, luring potentials international customers.
At Axact’s headquarters, former employees say, telephone sales agents work in shifts around the clock. Sometimes they cater to customers who clearly understand that they are buying a suspect instant degree for money. But often the agents manipulate those seeking a real education, pushing them to enroll for coursework that never materializes, or assuring them that their life experiences are enough to earn them a diploma.
Revenues, estimated by former employees and fraud experts at several million dollars per month, are cycled through a network of offshore companies. All the while, 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 Jashaid, who left Axact in October. “It’s all about the money.”
In a letter to The Times’s initial reporting on the matter, the Pakistani government ordered an investigation. The company’s offices in Karachi and Islamabad were shut down as investigators seized computers and files and detained some people for questioning.
In an interview in November 2013 about Pakistan’s media sector, Axact’s founder and chief executive, Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh, described Axact as an “I.T. and I.T. network services company” that serves many small and medium-sized businesses. “On a daily basis we make thousands of projects. There’s a long client list,” he said, but declined to name those clients.
The proliferation of Internet-based degree schemes has raised concerns about the use of fake diplomas in immigration fraud and about dangers they may post to public safety. Some have been caught. In 2007, a British court jailed Gene Morrison, a fake police criminologist who claimed to have degree certificates from Axact-owned Rochville Unversity. The police had to re-examine seven hundred cases Mr. Morrison had worked on. “It looked easier than going to a real university,” Mr. Morrison said during his trial.
In the Middle East, Axact has sold aeronautical degrees to airline employees and medical degrees to hospital workers. One nurse at a hospital in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, admitted to spending $600,000 on an Axact-issued medical degree to secure a promotion.
In Pakistan, Mr. Shaikh portrays himself as a self-made tycoon and claims to donate sixty-five percent of Axact’s revenues to charity. Last year, he announced a plan to educate ten million Pakistani children by 2019. He said on the company’s website that he wanted to become “the richest man on the planet.”
He is working to become Pakistan’s most influential media mogul. Axact has been building a broadcast studio and aggressively recruiting prominent journalist for Bol, a television and newspaper group scheduled to start this year.
When reporters for The Times contacted twelve Axat-run education websites, representatives claimed to be based in the United States, denied any connection to Axact or hung up immediately. Two days after The Times first published its account, phone lines at some websites were not being answered.
“Hands down, this is probably the largest operation we’ve ever seen,” said Allen Ezell, a retired F.B.I. agent who has been investigating Axact. “It’s a breathtaking scam.”
And, do you want to know W-H-Y, there are still, so many god DAMN S-U-C-K-E-R-S who are still falling for this sort of shit? It’s still BASIC human nature, y’all, because we all want to NOT work as hard, and still get the EXACT same amount of rewards that we are to receive, as if we’d worked OUR asses off for it, and which, is still why, this sort of SCAMS can operate in this world, it’s all because of human nature, that’s aiding and abetting to the scam artists.