What is a Diploma Mill?

Tammy Cohen, PHR, SHRM-CP

September 3 2019

A diploma mill, sometimes called a degree mill, is a fraudulent university that sells diplomas and transcripts rather than an education. These institutions specialize in trying to dupe employers and sometimes students into believing they received actual degrees from an accredited university. Since these “degrees” are earned without any form of academic achievement, they’re essentially worthless.

Sometimes, “students” go specifically to diploma mills to buy fraudulent degrees. This, in theory, would enable them to provide “proof” of experience and skills that they don’t possess, enabling them to get a job that they aren’t qualified for. Diploma mills are highly profitable, and rake in about $200 million annually. Someone is paying for fake diplomas, but they’re not always simple to spot. 

Why do diploma mills exist?

Vulnerable populations, such as elderly or low-income individuals, are sometimes tricked into believing they’ve found an accredited university that can give them a degree quickly. Many diploma mills have professional-looking websites that could easily pass for a legitimate academic institution, at least at a cursory glance. They promise “degrees” at a relatively low cost compared to the tuition of actual accredited universities. Not everyone who gets a fake diploma is a fraudster; often, they’re people trying to better themselves.


How can I tell if it’s a diploma mill?

Spotting a diploma mill can be difficult but is not impossible. Some signs to watch out for:

  • No faculty listed on the website
  • Located in a foreign country despite offering degrees exclusively to
    U.S. citizens.
  • No mention of scholarships, course work, etc.

Some diploma mills even claim to be accredited. And they are—by false accreditation agencies. If they’re not recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), they’re likely fraudulent. There are as many as
400 diploma mills operating in the U.S. currently and almost 100 fake accreditation agencies.


How do I know if my candidate listed a diploma mill on
their resume?

The simplest means of identifying a diploma mill is a diploma mill scan. InfoMart maintains a database of known diploma mills to cross-check against candidate’s information. If an applicant received their “degree” from a known diploma mill, InfoMart will alert the employer that it did not come from an accredited institution. This service is included free of charge with our standard
education verification.

Diploma mills and false accreditation agencies attempt to take advantage of people’s trust in educational institutions. Don’t risk hiring someone who isn’t qualified; always verify your applicants’ credentials before making any hiring decisions with an accredited background screening provider like InfoMart.


Many people are surprised to learn that InfoMart is a certified diverse supplier that can increase your required diversity spend. Recognized as one of the top 10 largest background check companies in the industry, choosing InfoMart means you’re choosing a reliable, time-tested provider. Have questions or ready to make a change to your screening program? Reach out to an InfoMart expert today.

About Tammy Cohen

Tammy Cohen, an industry pioneer and expert in identity and employment screening, founded InfoMart 30 years ago. Deemed the “Queen of Screen,” she’s been a force behind industry-leading innovations. She was most recently the first-to-market with a fully compliant sanctions search, as well as a suite of identity services that modernizes talent onboarding. Tammy revolutionized the screening industry when she stepped into the field, developing the first client-facing application and a due diligence criminal search that has since become standard for all background screening companies. Cohen has received national awards and honors for her business and civic involvement, including Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Top 25 Women-Owned Firms in Atlanta, Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year award, the YWCA of Northwest Georgia’s Kathryn Woods Racial Justice Award, and a commendation in the 152nd Congressional Record.

About InfoMart

InfoMart has been revolutionizing the global background and identity screening industry for 30 years, providing businesses the information they need to make informed hiring decisions. They develop innovative technology that modernizes talent onboarding, including a first-to-market biometric identity authentication application and a verified sanctions search. The WBENC-certified company is a founding member of the Professional Background Screening Association, and they have achieved PBSA accreditation in recognition of their consistent business practices and commitment to compliance with the FCRA. The company is dedicated to customer service, speed, and accuracy, and it has been recognized for its success, workplace culture, and corporate citizenship with over 45 industry awards. To Get the Whole Story on InfoMart, please visit, follow @InfoMartUSA, or call (770) 984-2727.

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