FTC shuts down $11M online diploma mill

092214blog diploma mill

The Federal Trade Commission on Friday pulled the plug on an online high school diploma mill that allegedly raked in $11 million since opening its virtual doors in 2006.

The FTC says the mill generally charged between $200 and $300 for its “diplomas.” Let’s call it $250. That means 44,000 individuals had “graduated” from this “school” since 2006.

From an FCC press release:

The court imposed a temporary restraining order to halt the business operations of Diversified Educational Resources, LLC (DER), and Motivational Management & Development Services, Ltd. (MMDS), and freeze their assets. The FTC’s lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction to stop the deceptive practices and to return ill-gotten gains to consumers.

According to the FTC’s complaint, DER and MMDS have sold online high school diplomas since 2006 using multiple names, including “Jefferson High School Online” and “Enterprise High School Online.” Their websites claimed that by enrolling in the defendants’ programs, consumers could obtain “official” and accredited high school diplomas and use them to enroll in college, join the military, and apply for jobs.

“A high school diploma is necessary for entry into college, the military, and many jobs,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “These defendants took students’ money but only provided a worthless credential that won’t help their future plans.”

How can you tell that a website may be a diploma mill? The FTC offers tips here. And, while the Jefferson High School Online site appears to be offline this morning, on Friday it was still there for anyone to take a look around.

Among the more prominent elements on the homepage: “Our guarantee: We will meet or beat any advertised price.”

And a question in its FAQ section read: “Is this for real?”

They claimed they were, but the FTC alleges otherwise.

So, too, does common sense, which raises this question in my mind: Of those 44,000 “graduates,” how many were victims of an online scam and how many were willing co-conspirators.

After all, the deal here was pretty sweet: Pass an online quiz, get your diploma.

You shouldn’t need to be a high school graduate to recognize that’s too good to be true.

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