Tricks of the trade: Verifying degrees without consent

diploma search

In a recent post, I questioned the methods used by a journalist in exposing a politician’s fraudulent college diploma. I’m all for catching this type of fraud, since one little lie can be a symptom of chronic deceit, but verifying a degree without consent is illegal (except in certain circumstances) and something this private investigator doesn’t do.

So, what do you do if you’re not quite at that stage in the business relationship? Perhaps you’re checking up on several potential investments before approaching? What if you suspect that someone might be less than truthful about their credentials, but you’re not ready to confront?

While there’s no equal to an official verification with the university seal – and it’s difficult to prove a negative – you have several options for uncovering secondary evidence about a degree:

Dig into alumni and university websites – Is there a directory or list of graduates by year? Does this person participate in fundraising, scholarships, committees, or events? Annual reports also offer clues, so pick up the phone if you don’t see one online.

Check the news – Combine all versions of this person’s name with the university name. Don’t stop at Google, too. Local press loves to report about their native sons and daughters, so see if your firm or your library subscribes to specialized news databases. You can also go directly to the websites of local news outlets.

Search academic articles – Perhaps this person was published while at school. Use some academic search engines, including Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, or RefSeek, and check library databases.

Get creative – One of my favorite tricks is to use Google Images. I’ve uncovered information not found in their web search just by following the links from the image to the the original content. Also try other search engines like Carrot2, DuckDuckGo, or Biznar, because Google really doesn’t find it all. And scan social media, including family and reunion-focused groups.

What other tricks of the trade do you use for secondary evidence of a college degree or other credential?


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