Canadian schools can sue Web site, American association says

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By Emily Yearwood

Canadian schools can be more active than U.S. schools in combating the use of fake documents over the Internet, says the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

Dale Gough, AACRAO’s director of international programs, was referring to a selling scam reported in last week’s Eyeopener. College-Degrees.to1999, an Internet-based company, sells copies of degrees from universities and colleges in the U.S. and Canada for anyone willing to spend $250.

The company’s Web site has a list of over 2,000 schools buyers can choose degrees from, including Ryerson.

Gough has received a message alerting him to the scam from a listserver for university registrars about four weeks ago. He isn’t sure of the validity of the 1983 Novelty Document Act, which the Web site company claims to be covered by.

“Producing phony credentials [in the U.S.] is not against the law,” he said. “The violation of the law occurs when someone tries to use [the phony degree].”

He said the only way schools can protect themselves is to trademark their official seals and transcript papers, and pay closer attention when examining students’ records. Many Canadian universities and colleges trademark their seals. Only a few schools in the U.S. have these trademarks.

Gough said he’s been contacted by several U.S. schools who want to take action against the company. He says the FBI told him most of the U.S. schools don’t stand a chance.

At the University of Toronto, director of public affairs Sue Bloch-Nevittee told The Eyeopener the company was probably violating U of T’s trademark on its name and crest, an action that wouldn’t be protected under Canadian law.

But Carol Swift, U of T registrar, said the school won’t be pursuing legal action because U.S. schools are already pursuing it.

Ryerson’s secretary of Academic Council Kathleen Kwan said legal council has been brought in.

“It’s certainly being looked in to and being taken very seriously,” she said.

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