For those readers in the Philadelphia area, this may sound familiar. Local news station WPVI did a story tonight on how it's possible to obtain college degrees, teacher certifications, etc using the Internet and other resources. As a demo, the reporter made his cat a biologist and a clergyman.
We've all heard of this before, often in the form of spam emails offering such. The story on the news failed to adequately cover something I'm a little concerned with - spotting a fake. How does one go about verifing the credentials that a person claims to hold, say when they're applying for a job? Or when I visit a doctor I've never heard of? Sure we could look at the actual paper certificate stating so, but that can only go so far - as the cat's biology degree was from the non-existant George Washington State College, what if it read "University of Delaware?" Is it necessary to call up the issuing institution and ask if a person holds the credential they claim? Or are there other techniques that don't require going behind a person's back?