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Looking for a way to get your high school diploma or a college degree online? You’ll want to read this.

Image of graduation hatsToday, the FTC announced a case against several companies that sold fake high school diplomas online. The companies claimed you could become a high school graduate and earn an “official” diploma by paying $200 to $300 in fees and taking their online multiple-choice test. They also promised you could use these online diplomas the same way you would use a traditional diploma or a GED®: to apply for jobs, enroll in college, and “receive the recognition you aspire for in life.”

However, the FTC charged that getting a diploma from Jefferson High School Online or Enterprise High School Online was not the same as earning a traditional high school diploma or a GED® certificate. According to the FTC’s complaint, people who used these diplomas to try to get into college, apply for jobs, or enlist in the military were turned down because their diplomas were not valid; neither Jefferson nor Enterprise was a legitimate or accredited online school, and the diplomas they offered were worthless.

While many online schools provide legitimate degrees to students, others are selling sham degrees. Diploma mills exist solely to make money, not to provide an education. And many bogus degree programs have well-designed websites, familiar sounding names, and fake testimonials to seem legitimate.

How can you tell if you’re dealing with a diploma mill? Ads might say that the program:

  • charges you a flat fee for the degree
  • offers a degree in a few months, weeks, or even just days
  • requires little or no course work, and no interaction with teachers
  • offers a degree for your “work or life experience” alone

Before you pay for a credential, do a little homework that goes beyond the organization’s own website. Search for reviews of an online high school or college and for the organization’s name on the Better Business Bureau site. You might find some valuable insights from others. If you’re looking specifically for an online college degree program, check the Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs to see whether the school is accredited.

For more details, check out our article on diploma mills, as well as information provided by the Department of Education. And if you think you’ve dealt with a diploma mill, we want to hear about it at ftc.gov/complaint.

89 Comments

MEGA JARHEAD007 (not verified)
September 22, 2014
WELL WHICH SCHL. DID NOT MAK THE GRADE
Nicole Fleming
September 23, 2014

In reply to by MEGA JARHEAD007 (not verified)

According to the FTC’s complaint, Jefferson High School Online and Enterprise High School Online are two of the names used by these dishonest companies. The FTC's press release has more details.

Patti629 (not verified)
October 21, 2014
So what happens to the people who bought there diploma from them? Will there be a class action suit for refund?
Concerned k (not verified)
March 16, 2018

In reply to by Patti629 (not verified)

I have the same question this mess should be illegal
B EZ (not verified)
November 18, 2014
what about beacon falls high school ?
ShannonE1980 (not verified)
December 09, 2014
This is the same group that owns: Franklinvirtualschools. I guess they owned a real school and a FAKE SCHOOL. Unbelievable!! If you read the complaint, the owner of Jefferson is also listed as an owner of Franklinvirtualschools. So tired of these online scams.
wonderful5 (not verified)
December 25, 2014
i need my diploma soon what is a good school
lisa135 (not verified)
April 18, 2015

In reply to by wonderful5 (not verified)

is Pacific high acredited? because I did a online high school course, and when I went to get in to college they told me they can't accept it.
anwynweiss (not verified)
January 13, 2017

In reply to by lisa135 (not verified)

Is New Learning Resources of Jackson, Mississippi an accredited high school?
Frequent flyer (not verified)
September 22, 2017

In reply to by anwynweiss (not verified)

They seem legit, but they won't allow you to preview or evaluate a sample or see any info about how their site works.This is a big red flag.
danny_0416 (not verified)
January 04, 2015
I signed up for enterprise high school diploma back in 2006 and after thinking I had an accredited diploma I tried enrolling into mec-tech institute. They said the diploma was not real.. Boy was I let down. Any refunds????
C.HARRIS (not verified)
January 05, 2015

In reply to by danny_0416 (not verified)

I AM TRYING TO SEE IF I CAN GET REFUNDED MYSELF FOR 2 I PAYED FOR IN 2004 AND 1 FOR MY SISTER SHE PAYED FOR...ANY JUSTICE
Aditi Jhaveri
April 20, 2015

In reply to by danny_0416 (not verified)

Hello, If you'd like the FTC to look into a company's practices, please file a complaint at ftc.gov/complaint. We use your complaints to investigate companies and bring lawsuits. Unfortunately, we can't address complaints if they are submitted through blog comments.

siezlist (not verified)
August 10, 2016
Are there any online high school diploma schools that are accredited in New York City
Aditi Jhaveri
January 27, 2015

In reply to by siezlist (not verified)

Hello, you could try searching for reviews of an online high school or college and for the organization’s name on the Better Business Bureau site. You might find some valuable insights from others.

NY Diploma/GED (not verified)
September 20, 2015

In reply to by siezlist (not verified)

The State of NY has a special provision. Simply, NY does NOT accept any online high school diplomas. You must complete a State recognized program through a NY sanctioned school of the NY high school equivalency (HiSET) There are no online options for NY residents to earn a diploma and get into a NY college. This is only true to NY. If you are attend college in any other State, you can complete a State Dept. of Education recognized accredited diploma program and enter into a college. NY residents to not have an online high school or GED options. Hope that helps.
Ms. Love (not verified)
October 26, 2016

In reply to by siezlist (not verified)

I'm looking for a not so pricy online high school for my children that is accredited in N. Y.C. with an excellent payment plan. We are trying out J.M.H. but they seem no to interact with the children's previous schools well to confirm the transfer. I'm getting a lot of wind from anti home schoolers that they may not even be accredited in N.Y.C.... Need help please
la-la-land (not verified)
January 13, 2015
Is Pacific High School fake ??
AunAsif (not verified)
January 26, 2015
The company called Axact in Pakistan is one of the big players in this field. They have hundreds of fake high school and college names they use for scamming people. They pretend to be legitimate IT tech company but then force their employees to operate these scams. Then they threaten employees who want to talk about it. They also operate essay writing program and porn which is ILLEGAL things in Pakistan.
peony (not verified)
February 04, 2015
Are you people serious? If you paid for a diploma you need to go back to school. Your options are to get a GED or enroll in a school and take the courses needed to get a diploma. Seriously, who are you people?!
Me (not verified)
May 24, 2015

In reply to by peony (not verified)

Some states have an age limit that you can attend school. Some are even 20.
flgrits (not verified)
July 17, 2016

In reply to by peony (not verified)

Don't be rude. There are many reasons that should not have to be explained to someone like yourself.(let me try; living overseas,chronic or terminal illness,age requirments,religious leanings,limited school choices in isolatd areas,frequetly moving military families/career,conflicts with public school practices and curriculum....) "Seriously,who are you people" -- get off your high horse. I have advanced degrees and get why a person may seek an alternative choice for education. Many colleges and universities are going to virtual classrooms for working professionals or geographic constraints. Be part of the solution not part of the problem. Who are you?!!!....to set the standard of what is acceptable. There are articles and reviews of online schools to review. I suggest those looking for the school review them and then check the complaints and reviews associated with that business.
corissalove (not verified)
March 17, 2015
I want to know if the Pacific high school is the real deal. When I looked at reviews it was saying it was a scam and when I called and wanted a refund he threatened me with writing a report against me. I didn't even do anything besides demand a refund because I did research and seen it was a scam. I talked to multiple different men from that site on the phone and I couldn't understand a dang word any of them where saying.....i am very upset!!!!
upset lady (not verified)
March 24, 2015
Titan High School is a fake now I have to start all over again, where do they get off just taking money and giving fake diplomas... Not right!! Especially for those who are trying to make a difference and better their education!
Legit Professor (not verified)
March 31, 2015
I Got A Highschool Dipoloma Online From Stratford Career Institutite 2012.Its Not Accredited In NY.Many Ungrateful.G.E.D. Classes Are Not Free And Waiting List And Takes About A Year.Its Good For Vocational School Not to Enroll In College.Its Better Than No Highschool Degree.And I Doubt Employers Care If Your H.S. Diploma Is Legit.
concerned. (not verified)
April 30, 2015
I got my high school diploma online from Enterprise back in 06 I am just now learning it was a scam? My job accepted the diploma What do I do now
freemea (not verified)
May 28, 2015
I'm interested in getting my highschool diploma can you please contacts me
FTC Staff
May 28, 2015

In reply to by freemea (not verified)

Before you pay to get a degree, check more than the  organization’s own website. Search for reviews of an online high school or college and for the organization’s name on the Better Business Bureau site. Read more about diploma mills, or companies that take your money for a degree that isn't legitimate.

kellil (not verified)
July 09, 2015
Is West Madison Falls High School a fake?
KR74 (not verified)
July 26, 2015
I got my high school diploma from Emprise Online High School back in 2005. I did not know it was fake, until I tried to go college. I am ONE PISSED OFF MOTHER. ALL I want to do is take care my daughter and now I have to start all over. What can I do to get money back from these conartes.
tamara (not verified)
September 22, 2015
paid over $300 for diploma from the lincoln academy did my fafsa got excepted to psu of ks they started enrollment and bam turned out to be false .. no returned phone calls for refund .. ever !! beware!
Jane (not verified)
September 23, 2015
I got my high school diploma online cornerstone Christian correspondence school, in 2007 now am trying to further my self on my job I am in for 8 years had to do some classes bring in my high school diploma, and it was turned down, turn out to be fake I am so upset now I risk loosing my job.
danielgurl1 (not verified)
October 20, 2016

In reply to by Jane (not verified)

Hi Jane I also received my diploma from Cornerstone Christian Correspondence School in 1996 and I just found out 2 weeks ago it's no real spent $200 so upset.
Classymaker (not verified)
November 10, 2016

In reply to by danielgurl1 (not verified)

My friend has a cornerstone diploma took a radiology course graduated & was able to use it to take stateboard test. Tallahassee accepted it no problem but no other schools excet no problem
Candy23 (not verified)
August 15, 2018

In reply to by Classymaker (not verified)

What school in Tallahassee accepted the cornor stone diploma if you don’t mind me asking
Faith27 (not verified)
September 24, 2015
So what action can I take to expose and get a refund from Enterprise online fake school? I am extremely upset thinking I had a ged/high school diploma since 2012. There has do be something we can do about this.
DN (not verified)
November 24, 2015
I am amazed that this is going on, I got scammed by Central High School. I took the test paid 250.00 the transcripts and diploma came....tried to get a job, did research on getting information regarding my transcripts and jobs tried and found a scam. I acted as a company getting information regarding myself and absolutely no response. the diploma and transcripts were coming from multiple UPS postal stores?? Then doing further research multiple phone numbers were being answered by the same person and advertised schools. Their Phone numbers are different but going to same scammers. This is being investigated promptly by the FTC and happy that this is being done. Do not get a diploma by online schools! call your local community college or a close university and they sometimes have these programs on campus or with their online programs.
sowassup142 (not verified)
December 22, 2015
So... Has anybody been scammed by Fast-High-School-Diploma?
Karen22 (not verified)
January 04, 2016
Does anyone know if James Madison high school online legit?
FTC Staff
January 07, 2016

In reply to by Karen22 (not verified)

Before you sign up for a school, check it out. A school that does these things might not be legitimate:

  • charges you a flat fee for the degree, instead of charging by the semester or the class
  • says you'll get a degree in a few months, weeks, or even just days
  • requires you to do no course work, or only a little
  • doesn't require you to interact with teachers
  • says you can get a degree for your “work or life experience” alone

To check on an online school, check with your state attorney general's office to make sure the school is operating legally in your state. Ask if anyone has filed a complaint about the school.

curious (not verified)
August 30, 2016

In reply to by Karen22 (not verified)

Did you find out if James Madison is legit? I am also trying to find out for my son. Thank you!