How To Avoid Getting Scammed When Choosing An Online Degree

Published on: March 29, 2023

While there is no shortage of online degrees to choose from, there are also plenty of disreputable sites and services looking to lure in the unwary. Education can be costly, and losing money to a scam can be a huge setback. However, with some common sense and some research, it’s not too difficult to see which online degrees are legitimate and which are not. Here are some of the most common things to watch out for if you want to avoid getting scammed.

The Website Is Suspicious

Some scammers put a lot of effort into making their website look as close as possible to the real thing, while others barely put in any effort. The latter is typically very easy to spot as the website will look suspicious from the get-go. First, look at the web address and domain to make sure that it ends with a “.edu” extension or something reputable. A website with a different domain extension isn’t necessarily proof of a scam but would warrant digging a little deeper to double-check their credentials. Things like spelling or grammatical errors should also be red flags when looking at the website. When browsing the website, ensure there are no broken links or page errors, which could also indicate that the website is a scam. Finally, things like spam pop-ups for unrelated products or services are often also indicators that the website can’t be trusted.

Lack of Online Presence

A learning institution with little to no online presence while offering online degrees should also cause learners to proceed cautiously. It is easy for someone to put together a legitimate-looking website quickly, but establishing an online presence takes a lot more time and effort. Look at links to social media channels to see if they are active and posting relevant content. Also, look for news articles about the learning institution or testimonials from former students to see if they are credible. 

Unrealistic Completion Times

Online degrees can be faster to obtain than studying at a campus, but watch out for sites that make unrealistic promises in this regard. While accelerated degree programs do exist, don’t be lured in by promises of being able to get your degree within a few months or even weeks. Typically online degrees require the same amount of effort and coursework as obtaining a degree on campus, which means there are no shortcuts to success. 

Unrealistic Promises

Sales pitches are nothing new, especially in competitive markets like online education, but be wary of ones that make unrealistic promises. For example, if they claim that all their degrees are available to anyone regardless of their educational background, this might cause concern. Typically, accredited institutions have an extensive admission process, and students must fulfill numerous requirements before they are allowed to enroll. The same goes for promises that they can guarantee employment after you have completed your degree them. Another common tactic is claiming that your work experience counts as credit for the degree. Typically these institutions will also be very aggressive in trying to get students to sign up for courses and make full upfront payments as quickly as possible.

No Exams Or Interactions With Professors

While there are some degrees that have no exams, this is the exception rather than the norm. Be wary of online degrees that claim you can complete all the courses without ever having to complete an exam or even interact with a professor. It is the right of every student to be able to interact with professors, mentors, or advisors while completing their degree, and programs that do not offer this should be treated with caution. The same goes for resources and student services that are typically provided as part of a degree program. These can be invaluable for students, especially when studying online, and if they are not offered, it might mean that the school is not legitimate.

Lack of Accreditation

Accreditation is important for online degree programs as it means they are evaluated by professionals who can vouch for their quality. Lack of accreditation is a red flag as it can mean the degrees being offered are not legitimate. This can be especially devastating for some professions where students might not be granted licensure or certification if their degree is not from an accredited school. Employees might also not see a degree from an institution that is not accredited as legitimate. When looking into the accreditation of an online degree, make sure that it is from agencies that are recognized agencies and not bogus ones. If not, you may be unable to transfer your credits to another accredited educational institution.


These are just some of the most glaring red flags to look out for when searching for an online degree, but there are many other scams. Your vigilance should also continue after enrolling at a legitimate online institution too. Scammers have found ways to dupe students even after they have earned their degrees from reputable institutions. In one case, scammers contacted someone who completed their Ph.D. online and claimed that he needed to pay additional taxes to them or his degree would be withheld. This is why it is essential to only go through official channels when engaging with staff or teachers of online institutions, especially with financial matters.

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