High school is difficult and some kids just don’t make it through, for various reasons, including social, financial, familial, and personal. Some earn their GED. Those that don’t typically spend their lives in under-paying jobs that have a very low ceiling. Earning a GED takes time and energy; and it seems absolutely out of reach for some individuals. The data proves the dollar value of a GED or high school diploma: U.S. Census data shows that on average, wage earners with a high school diploma or GED earned over $28,000 a year in comparison to those without, who earned less than $20,000.
Imagine yourself a 30-year old married male, father of two young children with a stay at home wife. You work 50+ hours a week in a kitchen as a dishwasher and busboy. The idea of studying for an exam like the GED is overwhelming; it’s far beyond your reach and even your imagination. A friend of yours tells you he bought a “real” high school diploma on the Internet for $200. Do you follow his lead and invest $200 in exchange for the potential to earn another $650 per month, or do you continue on the same hardscrabble path you’ve been on for years?
If you could do the math, those earnings figures could be expanded into a much more persuasive value: your $200 investment could earn you $8,000 more per year. Had you finished high school in the first place, some sources suggest you would earn over 1 million dollars in your employment lifecycle.
Employers are rarely the parties with the most incentive for faking diplomas, unless of course they have important positions they can’t possibly fill. A Colorado high school student decided to test the bounds of the military’s current need. He figured the military was ultra-hungry for new soldiers. He posed as a17-year old high school dropout. The recruiter gave him all the information he needed to go online and buy a diploma and transcripts that served to satisfy the recruitment application, no questions asked. His findings made it to a highly publicized CBS News story.
These completely different types of emotional need drive the surprisingly robust business of fake degrees. Hundreds of online sites and anonymous emails sell “official” diplomas complete with transcripts and verification services intended to satisfy snooping employers. Documents may be had in as little as 24 hours. Predictably elusive, some sites only accept cash or money orders.
Unless consumers are willing to pay close to $1,000, by most accounts fake diplomas are not very high-quality, and a growing population of skeptical employers is doing its background homework. However, Canadian officials recently recovered surprisingly technical equipment when they busted a well-choreographed ring of degree counterfeiters.
Bogus high school diplomas and degrees are just one small piece of the diploma mill pie. College degrees are the most highly sought after fakes due to an even greater economic leverage.