Fake Scholarships – Why Are Students And Universities Falling For This Scam?

In the world of academic integrity, there are all kinds of scams that students (and the universities they’re associated with) have to watch out for. Some of these scams, such as the potential to be blackmailed by a contract cheating provider, are dangerous.

The fake scholarship scam is less likely to lead to blackmail than using an essay mill, but it can waste people’s time with little prospect of a return. There are dangers of personal information being shared. And, if you’re a student who successfully gains a scholarship, you might just end up with your picture plastered all over a website you’re not keen to be associated with – not good for your long term professional online presence!

These are the type of scholarship offers that you need to be wary of.

Those examples were taken straight from a list on a legitimate educational website. I deliberately haven’t linked to the site, but you can easily find many other such lists through a quick Internet search.

 

Here’s How The Scam Works

Information about this scam is widely available in underground Internet forums.

A company (usually a new website wanting more visitors) sets up a scholarship offer. This will be for a low amount of money, say a one-off payment of $500 USD.

They set up a page on their site advertising the scholarship, along with a set of conditions that a student has to meet to be eligible. This might, for example, relate to their academic performance, background or where they live. These conditions will be so tight that not many people are eligible to take part.

They’ll also set up qualifying criteria, such as for the student to write a 1000 word essay that relates to the site or the product it sells.

Most importantly, the student, when applying, gives permission for their likeness and application to be used by the site, regardless if they win the scholarship or not.

 

What Does The Scholarship Scamming Company Get Out Of This?

First of all, the company gets links to their scholarship placed on university websites. Universities want to promote scholarships to their students. This is a scholarship offer, just not of the same standard as many others, but it is difficult for universities to make a decision regarding which scholarships their students should be allowed to apply to. Hence, many of these links get accepted.

Just having a link from a respectable university site automatically makes the site being promoted seem more legitimate. That is reflected in many search engine ranking algorithms.

A higher ranking site means more visitors and more sales.

The scholarship company also gets all of the entries from students which they can use how they want. They own that content. So, if they get 100 students applying for their $500 scholarship and submitting a 1000 word essay, they are paying only $5 to publish each 1000 word essay. That’s before the value of the links. And, with that, they get to use all the student likenesses in their marketing.

Often, the $500 will not even be awarded. That’s because none of the students meet the qualifying criteria. Or the student that is selected fails to meet some later requirement, such as providing proof of their course or a suitable recommendation letter.

Some of these sites do not ever intend to award a scholarship. They just invent a winner name and use a photo of a person which can be reverse image searched to lots of websites (a similar technique used by many essay mills to provide fake testimonials).

 

Be Aware Of Educational Scams

There are so many university scams out there. It is a case of being aware.

We need to remind staff and students alike not to accept everything at face value. Scholarship scams are big business. There are even companies that will set up a scholarship page, along with all the educational links, as a service, or which will provide flyers about the fake scholarships to bring in even more business.

When combined with such issues as fake certificates and fake degrees, there’s a growing world of fake education that we have to be prepared for.

Who Writes The Assignments For Our Students? Presentation From Plagiarism, Ethics, Pedagogy and Practices 2018

I was invited to accept the prime speaking slot at the Plagiarism, Ethics, Pedagogy and Practices 2018 conference, held in Stockholm, Sweden in August 2018. This conference is supported by URKUND and has been running for a few years now, although it is the first time I’ve been able to attend.

I took the opportunity to share what I know about the writers and other individuals who are working for essay mills and keeping the contract cheating business running. Previously on the blog, I’ve looked at the type of individuals taking essay mill writing jobs. I’ve done a lot more research since and have some papers going through review in this area, so this talk allowed me to give an updated overview, including 12 things you should know about academic writers for essay mills.

The slides I used are available on my SlideShare account. They are also included below.


With the essay industry becoming such a complex beast, the reasons why writers join the business remain varied. For many, it is a low paid profession, but still one that is desirable, with the opportunity to work from home on a flexible schedule. It remains a fascinating area.

Buy An Essay – Essay Mills And Contract Cheating Pricing (Infographic)

How much does it cost to buy an original bespoke essay from an essay mill or other contract cheating provider?

The cost can vary substantially, even though many essay mills work with the same pool of writers, or at least workers with very similar backgrounds and experience.

This infographic illustrates the range of prices a prospective student would come across when looking to purchase a 2000 word essay.

The pricing, correct as of August 2018, is wide ranging. At the bottom end of the market, workers in the equivalent of essay factory “sweat shops” are expected to toil away for just £3 GBP ($4 USD) (see slide 42 of the link). At the so-called top end, there are companies who won’t even start looking at an essay before a payment of £800 GBP ($1057 USD) is received (source https://www.academicghostwriting.com/costs).

A typical service with UK offices asks for £279 GBP ($369 USD), although there are ways to further discount that price (source https://www.ukessays.com/quote.php).

In one of my own experiments, I connected directly with writers and found that most wanted £15 GBP ($20 USD) to complete the work. Had I proposed a lower price point, I’m sure that the quotes I received would also have been lower. And the typical £15 offer I received is still much more than the writer could expect to end up with had they worked with an essay mill taking their cut.

What About Buying A Dissertation?

Everything about the essay industry is negotiable. Here, for example, an essay mill original quoted a nursing dissertation price at £870 GBP ($1148 USD), but proposed a new price of £600 GBP ($792 USD) when the customer wavered only slightly.

Further discounting would have been possible. As my previous analysis has shown, essay mills pay huge referral bonuses for those affiliates bringing in new customers (see slide 53 of the link). This makes it clear that essay mills have lots of movement on pricing. This still leaves room for them to profit, even after they have paid their writers – an amount for the writer which often works out as a tiny percentage of the amount that the essay mill is paid.

Even though students may pay more (and take on the risk of being scammed or blackmailed) the cost of hiring an essay writer directly is low. Setting assessments that are not easy and cheap to outsource, those “bread and butter” type requests that contract cheating providers love such as basic business assignments and marketing assignments, is of importance for the continued integrity of education.

Addressing Contract Cheating and Other Threats to Academic Integrity – Keynote Presentation at University of Wolverhampton

The world of contract cheating continues to progress. I was asked to speak about this for a keynote address at the University of Wolverhampton, which allowed me to bring together many of the latest findings in the contract cheating and academic integrity fields.

The slides I used are available on my SlideShare account. They are also included below.


During the presentation, I showed how easy how cheap and easy outsourcing is (you can see a video promoting the fictitious essay mill Werewolf Essays here). I also considered how contract cheating companies are now able to get their advertising out through university channels themselves, including university social media accounts.

The presentation was accompanied by lots of questions, including relating to the technology surrounding the academic cheating industry, which is becoming something of a trend at events like this now.

The Progression Of The Exam Cheating Industry – Conference Keynote Presentation On Exam Integrity

That companies and individuals are helping students to cheat in exams is something that higher education should be concerned about. This is not just small time business. Exam cheating is an entire industry.

In a keynote presentation I gave at the Higher Education Quality Network conference, themed Assessment, Integrity, Review and held in Melbourne, Australia, I explored the issues surrounding exam cheating and the integrity of future examinations.

This is a real issue, particularly where assessment by examination is being considered as a response to plagiarism and contract cheating. There is, however, also good practice than can be gained from how exams are conducted in a professional environment.

The slides I used are available on my SlideShare account. They are also included below.


So much exam cheating is supported by technology that is easily concealed. Supplying that technology is big business. It is more useful to think about alternative ways to use examinations as part of the assessment process than to try to simply react to the ever changing technology game.

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