Thursday Jan 18, 2018
After tricking thousands of unsuspecting people into buying fake degrees, the fake diploma mill Axact is now conning its victims again, reveals an investigative report published in Gulf News.
According to the leading Dubai-based publication, Axact’s call centre agents are impersonating UAE government officials to extort ‘legalisation fees’ from fake degree and diploma holders in the country.
Speaking in an Emirati accent, Axact’s telesale agents are calling clients and demanding thousands of dollars from degree holders towards the ‘legalisation fees’ of their certificates. And since they use spoofing techniques which allow them to mimic any phone number -- complete with area code -- the recipients are deceived into believing that the calls are legitimate, the report reveals.
The report narrates experiences of some of Axact’s victims. A South African expat in Dubai, who forked out thousands of dollars for an academic certificate, received a call from a man claiming to be a Dubai Police officer, in which he threatened him to remit $5,000 to the university towards degree ‘legalisation fee’ or face action.
“When I called back [the number] that showed up on my cellphone it was answered by someone at Dubai Police Headquarters. Initially, I got scared and thought it was indeed them who had called but then I found out it was a scam so I ignored their subsequent calls,” he said.
Another resident who was duped, a medical technologist in Al Ain, sold all her jewellery out of fear to raise almost $70,000 of which $30,000 was remitted to Axact the very night she got a call from an agent claiming to be a representative of the UAE embassy in the US.
Speaking fluent Arabic, the agent threatened the woman with legal action if she did not immediately pay the amount to cancel her many degrees and get an accredited one from a Sharjah university. The victim had bought 18 degrees from various Axact-run universities over three years for $60,000 to get a promotion, the report states.
Axact claims to be the "world's largest IT company" and operates hundreds of fake online universities run by agents from a Karachi-based call centre. In 2015, it sold more than 215,000 fake qualifications globally through approximately 350 fictitious high schools and universities, making $51m (£37.5m) that year alone.
Axact's chief executive was arrested and an investigation launched by the Pakistani authorities after a New York Times expose in 2015. A senior manager of the company, Umair Hamid, was sentenced to 21 months in a US prison in August 2017 for his part in Axact's fraud.