The Real Story Behind Getting A GED In America – Is It Real or Fake?

Robert Capwell

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With the United States still at a slow pace to economic recovery, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are approximately 12.3 million Americans still out of work.  The 2000 Census figures tell us that anywhere from 11% to 27% of Americans over the age of 25 don't have a high school diploma.  During this time, many Americans are searching for ways to better their lives, educate themselves and look for ways to be more competitive in the job-market.  Many are using this time for continued education or as an opportunity to obtain a General Equivalency Degree (GED).  Certainly with today’s Internet resources, consumers are overcome by online advertisements for continuing education.  A quick Internet search will unveil hundreds of firms which provide limited or no course work, life experience degrees or the opportunity to earn your GED online.  Many of these firms provide no education value and a worthless piece of paper for huge fees.  Today, traditional brick and mortar education has certainly expanded well beyond the borders of a school’s geographic boundaries and online education has become the norm for many Americans.  For consumers, you can’t let your guard down by becoming mesmerized by the ease of signing up for online instruction or the option of obtaining a GED online.  There are hundreds of companies that offer GED help online, evening or weekend classes, and even provide a practice test for a hefty fee.  Certain companies even go as far as to state that their GED practice exam is accepted by employers as an alternative to actually taking the nationally standardized and accepted exam.  Many of these firms are fraudulent and offer nothing more than a fake piece of paper for an outrageous fee.

What Employers Need To Know About GEDs

The tests of General Educational Development were developed in 1942 to certify that an individual achieved academic skills at a high school level even when they did not graduate from high school. GEDs were originally used to test veterans of World War II to determine whether returning GIs were qualified to attend higher education institutions. All 50 states and the District of Columbia use GED Tests as a basis for awarding high school equivalency credentials.

Currently, a General Equivalency Degree, General Education Diploma, General Education Development program or (GED), as many of us know it, is governed and managed by the American Council on Education (ACE).   Although advertised differently by online fraudsters, a GED exam cannot be taken online and must be taken at one of the approved 3,400 test center locations worldwide. You can actually take a practice test online through the ACE website for a nominal fee of $10; however, it’s only practice.  An official GED exam focuses on testing in five areas of study which includes:  Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, and Language Arts (Reading and Writing) which you must score a minimum score of 410 under each section to pass (depending upon state requirements) and you can also retest under each section.  Check your state of residence for more specifics.  Each state has its own jurisdiction’s GED testing administrator that manages the process and offers testing centers throughout its jurisdiction.  States even have several free online education resources, free classroom education, and free practice testing options.  You don’t need to pay an online firm an exorbitant fee to obtain further education or qualifications to obtain a government recognized GED.  Sates even have many nuances to qualify for taking the exam and also a fee to take the test.  For example:  The state of Pennsylvania’s GED program is administered by the PA Department of Education and requires you to be 18, a resident of the state, a $40-$60 fee, and you may not have received a high school degree or be currently enrolled in a post-secondary education program.  If you are under 18, you may be required to provide a letter that you have withdrawn from school.  You may also be required to provide a letter from an employer stating that you must pass a GED to be considered for employment or to be eligible for the Armed Services.  You will also be required to provide necessary documentation to prove your identity to take the test.  The state of California offers the California High School Proficiency Exam (CHSPE) for approximately $150 and students who pass receive a Certificate of Proficiency from the state of California.  The exam is very similar to the GED standardized test and a CHSPE degree is the legal equivalent to a California high school diploma. 

How to Tell if a GED is Fake

Employers should never take a certificate/diploma provided by an applicant at face value.  There are numerous resources for creating fake GED certificates or any type of diploma online.  Just go to “Diplomas and More” and you have four different diploma styles to choose from.  Certificates are frame-ready, have authentic looking paper, and even come with a raised seal for around $60.  You can even order your transcript on authentic looking security paper to complete the set.  Obtaining a copy of the applicant’s degree certificate and transcript is great for your files; however, what you need is the proper information to actually verify the degree.  To verify an applicant’s GED, have them provide the following information:

  • Complete name used when the GED was received.
  • Date when the GED was received.
  • State where the GED was issued.
  • Test center location (maybe required for certain states).
  • The applicant’s DOB or SSN may also be required for verification.
  • Certificate # may be required for certain states.
  • A signed release or a small fee may also be requirement of the agency for verification.

Be wary of applicants that supply limited information or provide a website or (800) # to verify their degree.  Especially applicants that state they received their GED online.  Many online fraudsters provide this information for further authentication and an agent may be on-hand to corroborate the information provided by the applicant.  Only a state or governing agency can verify its authenticity.  Diploma mills may even create a fake government agency to support the fraud and verification process.  You will probably need to do some digging around to find the right agency and contact information to truly verify a GED.  Background screening firms typically database this information and track the process for verifying each jurisdiction to expedite the process and keep lists of fraudsters.

By incorporating a solid education verification program, employers can properly credential their candidates and verify the level of education that is required for certain positions.  Spotting employee dishonesty up front will help weed out bad hires before they are part of your workforce.  Employment Background Investigations (EBI) works with employers globally to provide a full range of comprehensive and legally compliant employment background check, drug testing, occupational healthcare and electronic form I-9 solutions.  Our "Just One Solution" suite of services will help reduce the risks and liabilities of a bad hire!  

EBI is committed to providing employers with valuable education and resources on changing legislation and cutting-edge and compliant solutions to meet federal, state, local and international mandatory requirements.  EBI is not providing legal advice or counsel and nothing provided on this document should be deemed as legal guidance or advice.  Readers should consult with their own legal counsel to determine their legal responsibilities or if they have questions on any information provided by EBI.

Selecting A Background Screening Partner

Background Checks, Education

Robert Capwell

Posted By: Robert Capwell

EBI’s Chief Knowledge Officer, Mr. Robert E. Capwell, is considered one of the leading experts in the background screening industry with over 22 years of experience in the field. Mr. Capwell was a contributing author of the second edition of the ASIS Pre-employment Background Screening Guidelines and has written numerous articles and whitepapers for various publications including a periodic column on background screening for The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Online. He has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Human Resource Executive Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and several HR-related publications. Mr. Capwell speaks regularly to industry colleagues and HR Professionals both nationally and internationally.

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