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Marie Theriault-Sabourin is a manager in the registrar's office at Algonquin College in Ottawa. She has a master's degree in business administration.

Quami Frederick used her bachelor's degree to get into Toronto's Osgoode Hall law school and was offered a job articling with a Bay St. law firm.

Armed with his Ph.D in political science, police tactical trainer Augustus Michalik counts various Canadian and U.S. law enforcement agencies as his clients.

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The problem is, their university degrees are fake.

They are among at least 220 Canadians with bogus academic credentials uncovered in a recent probe. Worldwide, fake degrees are a billion dollar industry, even threatening government security, investigators say.

Last week, an undercover Star investigation exposed Peng Sun, a York University grad who forges university degrees from real Canadian universities for $4,000. Sun's client list was not available, but the Star obtained a list of Canadians who bought fake degrees from an American diploma mill busted three years ago by the U.S. Secret Service and Homeland Security.

St. Regis University, which granted degrees under various names, was a complete fake. Canadians on its "buyers list" gave the Star one of three explanations: some admitted the degrees were bogus, some claimed they submitted course work (but did not provide proof to the Star), and others thought they were awarded real degrees for life experiences.

With competition still fierce in the jobs market, some people might be tempted to beef up their resume by buying a fake degree.
The problem of fake degrees is nothing new, but the Internet has made it easier than ever to obtain a bogus qualification.

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George Gollin, a board member of the U.S.-based Council for Higher Education Accreditation, told CNN he estimates that more than 100,000 fake degrees are sold each year in the U.S. alone. Of those, around one third are postgraduate degrees. He added that a bogus degree will typically cost $1,000.
By trade, Gollin is a physics professor at the University of Illinois. He first became interested in degree mills after being spammed with offers of fake college degrees.

According to a story in Wired Magazine, his interest turned to outrage after he stumbled upon news of a forensic psychologist who had purchased her degree. "Here's this person who's untrained doing therapeutic interventions," he told Wired. "I thought, 'Jesus, this is really bad.'"
The institutions that sell these fake qualifications are known as either diploma mills or degree mills. Diploma mills issue fraudulent diplomas supposedly granted by real universities, while degree mills pose as real universities.

According to Gollin, setting up a degree mill is simply a matter of creating a Web site that looks like it belongs to a genuine university. The Web site includes a way for customers to pay for their qualifications online and a place for prospective employers to contact to verify the degree is genuine.
Some degree mills award degrees on the basis of the buyer's supposed "life experience," while others require a small amount of coursework. One degree mill required about a week's worth of coursework to earn a masters degree.

Gollin said this token coursework is largely for the customers' benefit -- to help them convince themselves they have earned their qualification.
While some people might be duped into believing they are obtaining a legitimate qualification, Gollin said that almost everyone buying from a degree mill knows they are getting a fake.


Seems like a lot of work to go through to get a better job.