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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

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

Ms. Love
October 26, 2016

In reply to by curious

Me too I have 3 kids enrolled there. Please let me know what you find out
January 06, 2016
My only advice: Stop trying to get shortcuts in life. There is a reason why the rest of us spend three whole years attending school. And some think they are better than us and can do it in 60 minutes? Really??? STAY IN SCHOOL!!!
July 17, 2016

In reply to by thereallife

Did they invent the wheel yet where your mind lives. There are real reasons a person may need to do a virtual school---Not even going to try to explain. Some of them did not drop out --- they are looking for an alternative education choice that provides flexibility with advanced college seeking diplomas not a GED. I have a Masters degree and worked with school aged children for 20+ years --not every person fits into your closed minded box.
March 06, 2017

In reply to by thereallife

You must think that there's never any extenuating circumstances as to why a parent pulls their child out of public schools. How about their child is getting bullied at school and the parent is trying to protect their child's mental health.
January 29, 2016
I got a fake GED and didn't know now my job found the GED company was fraud what do I do now?
FTC Staff
February 10, 2016

In reply to by wwjd

You can check with your state department of education to find out options for getting a high school diploma in your state. There are several different tests you could take to get a high school diploma, and each state decides what tests it will accept.

No state accepts an online high school equivalency test.

This FTC article about high school diploma scams has more information.

February 15, 2016
My parents moved in '76 and the never enrolled me to finish my junior year or my senior year in high school. How can I quietly get a diploma now? Isn't there any way online to do it?
FTC Staff
February 16, 2016

In reply to by snowbird

This FTC article about high school diploma scams has information about different ways you can earn your high school diploma.

Many people earn a high school equivalency diploma by taking a test. Tests offer some flexibility, allowing you to study on your own time and at your own pace. But you have to take them at a set time and place, and the tests can be challenging. No state accepts an online high school equivalency test.

February 17, 2016

In reply to by FTC Staff

Thank you very much for your response!! What about taking online classes to actually earn a diploma? Is that possible?

SaleemDon't us…
April 19, 2016
Can I have high school diploma GED in equivalent of my regular O - level passed From edexcel board of uk and one year science foundation having 45 credit hours from Malaysia
May 04, 2016
Same with they clam to be accredited by the AAOHS (Accreditation Agency of Online High Schools) so I looked it up and it doesn't exist. $275 down the crapper.
FTC Staff
May 04, 2016

In reply to by JMiller

You can report this to the FTC at The information you give will go into a database that law enforcement uses for investigations.

Nelda, Tx.
June 08, 2016
Before paying for online GED. Check with your local community college the adult education department if they offer free ged and career certificate programs. I am on my way to doing that I qualified. Good luck everyone. The reason I am this site I have a brother who got his online ged with stratford and can't find it anymore.
July 17, 2016
My daughter has a friend who needed flexibility with high school due to a successful career in acting and modeling. She attended and graduated from Penn Foster. I think most places recommend checking the University or school you hope to attend to assure that they will accept your diploma. If it is listed as accredited (and checks out to be current) by a regional accreditation like SACS (Southern association of colleges and schools)it should be accepted by most colleges/universities and employers. This is the information I have read and was shared with me by the University my daughter is hopeful to attend. The credits should also transfer back into a public schools. I also read that if they are associated with a college or university it is a safe option(though I would always check out that claim and call first) I do not know about GEDs. I am speaking of self paced/online schools. Some of which do offer GEDs. There are also different types of diplomas to seek. Some of which are not adequate for college seeking requirements. I have noticed that there are many schools named National High School but the one that I looked into seems legitimate.(out of Atlanta?) If someone has heard otherwise please let me know --also Northstar Academy(out of Mississippi)?. I am reading concerning comments so will be doing much more research before taking steps in this direction for my family --- we are in need of flexibility due to frequent moves.
zj pissed off
July 19, 2016
I went to the Department of education Web sight in 2005, looking for online Ged course, and there is where I found Enterprise high school, and took the test,paid the tuition got all my papers, and certificates in the mail. I want to why this was listed in the doe web sight as a school???? this is what is wrong with the internet, there are so may scams, and there is no sight you can actually trust.
September 23, 2016
My wife took a course from Nation HS passed a test and then applied to a Career Academy for cardiac tech. She had to get a government loan to go to the career academy she went to for 9 months of course she did get the loan and completed the courses. She earned her degree from the career academy and graduated with a GPA 3.8 was on the deans list. Now we're seeing stuff about Nation HS being a scam school. If this school is a scam then the certification she earned by attending the career academy means nothing and the student loan to go to the academy was for $10,000.00. What should she do about this
FTC Staff
September 26, 2016

In reply to by John

In some situations you can have a federal loan forgiven, cancelled or discharged. For example, if a school closed while you were enrolled or soon after you withdrew, you might be eligible to have your federal loan forgiven, cancelled or discharged.

Read more about the conditions for getting a loan discharged, cancelled or forgiven on the US Department of Education website.

January 04, 2017

In reply to by John

John, I'm in the same situation, I took an online test through John Adams High School online and have found out the diploma is fraudulent and I have an Associate's in Applied Science and student loan debt. So I'm wondering if my degree is fraudulent.
Bob Oliver
December 09, 2016
I really liked this ARTICLE :)
Elaine C
December 14, 2016
I have worked for over 30 years but now I need to show proof that I graduated from High School. If one of these schools can help me I understand why some people do this. I am not trying to scam anyone and I have received special recognition for my services. I just want to continue working, paying my taxes and being a productive member of society.
February 03, 2017
I received my diploma from capital high school back in 06, when I tried to enroll in college I found out my diploma was fake, now I'm having it real hard trying to get my ged. I wish I had knew this program was fake.
March 07, 2017
I paid for my friend to get his GED through Pacific High school back in 2015. Is there currently an open lawsuit against them or anything? How do I get more info?
March 27, 2017
Is Excel online high school legit?
April 07, 2017
Is penn foster a legit school I wonder or is it only that it is not regional accreditation
April 18, 2017
I did online diploma from liberty hs and then applied for cuny and accepted in community college in New York.. But now thinking about to do GED.. is it good idea? Transfer to four yrs..
October 31, 2017

In reply to by Noori81

NY community colleges accepted your high school diploma from Liberty High School? Please let me know!!
Bonita V
April 24, 2017
Does anyone know if EXCEL ONLINE HIGH SCHOOL is the real deal?
June 01, 2017
Can you sue a high school if you are issued a fraudulent diploma
August 19, 2017
I got my diploma from Enterprise high school back in 2013 and I paid $200 and got it in 2 days can I sue them?
August 21, 2017

In reply to by Geminipassion6

You need to talk to a lawyer to find out if you can sue the school.

January 05, 2018
Hey just wanted to know if Excel or Penn foster was accredited in California as the same respect of an actual high school diploma through local school system
Mrs. Jones
April 30, 2018
I have a few questions regarding a school. It's called McCain High School. I got my diploma on the same day I took the test and paid for it. I can't get a hold of anyone from there. Found them on Twitter and called them and they have it disconnected. Also the website they used was up for sale since this year. I had personal reasons why I didn't finish high school because family matters. I am just wanted to know what will be a good school to go through to get my GED and reasonably cheap but good!
FTC Staff
May 02, 2018

In reply to by Mrs. Jones

The education department in your state should be able to tell you:

  • what tests are accepted in your state
  • if online programs are approved in your state
  • how to find a legitimate program.

Use this U.S. Department of Education website to find your state's education department.

Don't use your…
May 06, 2018
it's a good job.
February 07, 2019
Yeah! Great info Thank you