MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, GA -- A college degree usually translates into a bigger paycheck. But between work, family life, social life and bills, there is often not a lot of time to spend on higher education. And there are several individuals who try and take advantage of that.
"There are people who want to take every short cut they can to get something for nothing, and there are people out there who will do anything and everything and say anything and everything to get money from people," said Gunnery Sgt. Wayne Feazell, base education officer.
These scams are designed to take advantage of those looking to save time in getting a degree. Some make claims that they will send test aids or reference materials at a special price, when in reality, they don't even have a product to sell. Others offer degrees and diplomas in no time at all.
Feazell told a story of a friend of his who found a site on the internet that promised a diploma in two weeks. The institution told the individual that if he sent a check, he could receive a diploma. When he asked what credentials they needed from him they said, 'We don't need anything, just send us the check.'
Other organizations promised diplomas if their customers would just write a thesis paper or an essay. These organizations are known as diploma mills.
"A Diploma mill is an organization that calls themselves a college or university but they are not properly accredited," said Feazell. "All they are out there to do is make money. They will practically hand you a degree when you send them your money. They don't care about your credentials, whether or not you've earned the credit or anything, you basically pay them your money and you can get a degree from them. Now, it's a degree that's not worth anything, obviously."
Feazell pointed out that military personnel are always encouraged to take advantage of every education opportunity possible and those that run the scams know that and use it to their advantage.
One of the problems with these organizations is that they look and sound like legitimate organizations, said Feazell. They make easy payment plans, and use the proper terminology they just use it to deceive. They may even use recognizable seals or logos on their materials.
"'If you buy our encyclopedias for X amount of money and for an additional $800 we will sell you this entire battery of test prep materials.' While really it's the same stuff you could get anywhere else like at the library," said Feazell about the false companies. "And you are paying probably ten times as much for it."
According to Feazell, reference books shouldn't cost more than $15 to $20, and for the more expensive ones, definitely not more than $100.
Some of the things that are offered in these scams are actually available to servicemembers free of charge. They just need to know what they are eligible for.
These scams are all over the internet, and even are even advertised in reputable publications, said Feazell. So, individuals need to be very careful where they put their money.
"Basically, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is," said Feazell.
The key to the worthiness of an establishment is the accreditation, he said. The false organizations will make deceptive claims about their accreditation, after all, it is a multi-million dollar industry.
Worldwide accreditation and fully accredited are terms that prospective students should be wary of. What they need to ensure is that the organization is nationally or regionally accredited, in other words, accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, said Feazell.
If the accreditation isn't correct, then the diploma may not be recognized by employers and credits may not transfer from one organization to another.
There are scams out there that exist in various forms and fashions. The thing to remember is to ask questions. If you are suspicious, contact the education office, said Feazell, to answer any questions at 639-5162.