Students warned not to post selfies with their certificates to stop fraudsters making fakes

Students have been warned not to share graduation selfies online in case fraudsters use them to create fake diplomas.

Counterfeiters can use photos of certificates to copy designs such as logos, crests, signatories and even holograms to make bogus certificates.

Documents are then sold on the black market for up to £220 to help underqualified candidates dupe potential employers. The number of forgeries has risen by around 30 per in the past year, it has been estimated.

Graduation day: But students are warned not to share photos with the certificates visible

Fakes are considered such a threat that 20 universities, including Imperial College London and Cardiff University have introduced digital certificates.

Employers are then given log-in details to check the education credentials of potential graduate employers.

Jayne Rowley, chief executive of the Higher Education Degree Datacheck service, told The Times that ‘the selfie generation and the need to share these things online’, was aiding the multi-million-pound trade.

She warned that universities such as Oxford and Cambridge were among the main targets because of their status.

But universities affected were also ‘the ones for which forgers have been able to get a good image of a certificate’.

‘We have bought fake certificates on eBay for as little as £6.95 with free delivery and Nectar points,’ said Miss Rowley.

‘The more expensive ones are typically sold for $300 (£220).’

One university apparently sold high-resolution copies of its certificates on its online shop unintentionally. Despite the website only featuring a small thumbnail of the document, a more detailed version was available through Google’s image search. Miss Rowley added: ‘If you want to set up a fake certificate website then Google is your friend. We’ll be sending out advice to universities reminding them: please tell your students not to post pictures of their certificates.

‘The forgers will all be desperate to get their hands on 2018 certificates, so the fewer that are online the better.’

The warning comes after thousands of Britons were found to have fake degrees from a multi-million-pound ‘diploma mill’ in Pakistan in January this year.

Radio 4’s File on Four found that buyers included NHS consultants, nurses and a large defence contractor. One spent almost £500,000 on bogus documents.

The Higher Education Degree Datacheck service was launched in 2011 and aims to tackle the increasing number of cases of degree fraud, which includes bogus certificates and fake institutions.

Many websites offer ‘novelty’ or ‘replacement’ degree certificates for as little as £30. The sites carry disclaimers but still breach copyright and trademark guidelines.

Fake degrees can sometimes be identified by the use of American terminology, such as ‘fall’ instead of autumn, ‘cum laude’ instead of honours and ‘matriculation date’ instead of start date.