Advertising their services in broad daylight, forgery service accounts on social media are promising fake degree certificates with identical design and stamps from those issued by top universities of Vietnam — for the cost of just a few million Vietnamese dong. (VND1 million = US$44).
To investigate these clandestine operations, a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporter went undercover and telephoned a man who claimed to provide certificate forgery services on social media.
The person quoted VND4 million (US$174) for a bachelor’s diploma, while a master’s degree could cost VND10 million ($436). Payment is only required when the final products arrive at the customer’s location.
As if to clear the unspoken doubt in the buyer’s mind, the enigmatic trafficker ascertained that his forged diploma would come with ten notarized copies, plus an academic transcript.
“Don’t worry, they can’t be detected with the naked eye,” he affirmed.
According to the dealer, his products are made out of blank diplomas issued by higher education institutions.
“This particular school admits 5,000 students per academic year, so they have to prepare 5,000 blank diplomas," he claimed.
"However, there’s no way all of these students are going to graduate, as they will quit along the way, leaving some diplomas unfilled.”
The man added that he was able to source these blanks and then use the ‘latest technology’ to produce identical replicas that even university officials cannot detect.
“Had my products been iffy, I would have been busted by now,” he doubled down.
Once the customer is convinced, the dealer would collect several personal details, including birth date, sex, and the university of choice that customer wants their name written next to on the diploma.
The man refused to give any preview of the product before sending it off, saying some customers have dodged payment after realizing photos of their forged certificates are enough to apply for jobs.
“I will get the certificates delivered to you in three days," he vowed.
"You can inspect it before paying."
Another forgery service provider on Facebook also promised counterfeit diplomas of mint quality, with wet signatures and a fail-proof guarantee against all notary services in Vietnam, for the price of VND8 million ($349).
According to the seller, his products, made from school-issued blanks, can be used to apply for jobs or promotions since employers barely ever cross-check the legitimacy of certificates with universities.
However, they cannot be used in applying for master’s programs, for the information on them would not match any records in the academia system.
|A forged diploma, as advertised by a forgery service provider on social media in Vietnam|
According to Nguyen Trung Nhan, head of academic affairs at the Industrial University of Ho Chi Minh City, it is almost impossible for certificate blanks to be leaked from the school.
The school used to purchase certificate blanks from the Ministry of Education and Training, with the quantity strictly matching the number of confirmed graduates for the year.
Currently, the university is now manufacturing blanks in-house.
These blanks are stored in a room with three layers of lock, the keys to which are managed separately by three departments of the university.
After the list of graduates is confirmed, it requires the presence of all three departments to open the vault and obtain the correct number of blanks for certificate issuance.
Even if the blanks do get sneaked outside, universities can still easily expose forged certificates via cross-examination.
“We receive dozens of certificate cross-checking requests every week,” he said.
“There were times when we found 20 percent of scrutinized diplomas to be fake.
“The public can cross-check any certificate issued by us on the university’s official website.”
Bui Hoang Thang, head of academic affairs at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, also thinks that a leak of certificate blanks is highly improbable.
“Many recruiters are reaching out to us to cross-check the academic degrees of their candidates," Thang said.
"We weed out a lot of fakes from them.”
Diploma blanks are issued by Vietnam’s official money-printing agency and are equipped with anti-counterfeiting details that can only be detected by a few people in charge, said Pham Ngoc Minh, former head of academic affairs at the Banking University of Ho Chi Minh City.
With a strict manufacturing protocol, the smuggling of blanks is basically implausible.
“Modern printing technology can generate identical-looking copies of blanks, but I can spot a fake with just my eyes,” Minh claimed.
“On top of that, most headhunters are cross-checking candidates' diplomas directly with the universities or through their websites, which leaves no windows for fake diplomas to pass.”