Bizarre: Diana’s bogus degree dated 2011, two years before she applied for it Image Credit: Anjana Sankar/XPRESS

Abu Dhabi: The recent XPRESS exposes on AXACT’s fake degree racket have prompted a young victim in Abu Dhabi to come forward with her own horror story.

Former flight attendant Diana, 26, from Ukraine described how she fell into an online degree trap and ended up spending $12,500 (Dh45,750) on bogus degrees from a non-existent Orlando University.

“After quitting my airline job in 2013, I was looking for a new opening. That’s when I got a call from a recruitment firm. The caller suggested I enrol for an online degree to make my CV look good. He said he would help me get in touch with the right university,” Diana recalled.

“Within two weeks, a man claiming to be a representative of Orlando University rang me up and urged me to take a Prior Learning Assessment over the phone. After the 45-minute test I was told I was eligible for a degree. I paid $1,500 online, and they couriered me an attested bachelors degree in international business within a week. It was accompanied by a validating certificate signed by US secretary of state John Kerry,” she said.

Diana was then urged to go for a two-year masters programme from the same university.

“The asking fee was $11,000 which was beyond my means. So I took bank loans to pay them. They made it look so credible, I never suspected a thing. I got a student ID and the purported US-based university sent me the course material. A man who identified himself as Randy Wolf even became my counsellor. He used to call me to enquire about my progress. I studied hard, often staying up till late night to submit my assignments online,” she said.

Diana didn’t realise she was being cheated until she was asked to fork out another Dh9,000 to get her degree attested from the ‘Middle Eastern Accreditation Council.’ “The Dh9,000 demand was unexpected. Sensing foul play, I started asking them questions. After a heated telephonic exchange with Randy Wolf and some online chats, they cut me off. The university just disappeared and even my online ID stopped working.” (Name changed, face blurred on request)

Authorities crack whip on degree fraudsters

Days after a two-part XPRESS exposé on fake degrees, the UAE authorities have warned of strict action against people who buy or sell bogus academic certificates.
At a press conference in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research  said a law is being drafted to punish those caught faking degrees.
The ministry also urged government departments and private companies to check the degrees of their employees for authenticity.
A June 11 XPRESS report citing AXACT whistleblower Yasir Jamshaid said over 200,000 people in the region have bought fake degrees from the dubious Pakistani IT firm.
A large number of these people are from the UAE, with many working in top positions such as vice presidents and CEOs. XPRESS first exposed the fake degree racket in June 2014.