Breivik Leaving Courthouse
(on-Are Berg-Jacobsen/AFP/Getty Images)
According to reports published in the University World News, the worst mass murderer in Norwegian history, Anders Behring Breivik, funded his killing sprees by operating a fake diploma and college credentials business online. The fake diplomas were hand-crafted in Asia to look as if they had been issued by Ivy League universities in the USA.
Breivik, the notorious gunman who killed 77 innocent young campers on Utoya Island, Norway, admits to having netted over a million dollars by running a racket that cranked out fake diplomas online.
The fraud catered largely to buyers from the United States. Brejvik sold a reported 200 fake diploma packets a month to Internet shoppers.
Diploma mill operations worldwide have been tied to many ugly crimes. Crime syndicates favor the credential fraud business because of high profit margins and an extremely low risk of prosecution—all you need is a printer, a P.O. drop box, and a telephone. Even when caught, fuzzy fraud laws—laws written before anyone could imagine the high cost and return value of a real college degree in today’s job market—make it difficult for officials to prosecute those who forge fake diplomas.
In Breivik’s case, proceeds from the sale of bogus university credentials allowed him to purchase the expensive ingredients necessary to construct the bomb he ignited at a government center prior to his killing spree. The ill-got income allowed him the freedom to travel, the funds to outfit himself with weaponry, and the leisure to plan the attacks.
In court transcripts provided by the Guardian in the UK, Breivik’s prosecutor outlined a timeline to his heinous crimes beginning in 2003-2005 when Breivik operated several companies that provided global “computer consulting.” According to the prosecutor’s statement, one of Breivik’s “computer consulting” projects earned him “significant money” selling fake degree and diploma certificates. Breivik migrated around the globe looking to obtain the weaponry and fertilizers necessary to undertake his schemes.
Most degree mill schemes carefully separate the production, sales, and mailing of fake diplomas so that each component is undertaken in a different country or by a different legal entity. Global distribution makes it difficult for any single legal authority to prosecute degree mill operators. In an interview with the University World News following his arrest, Breivik claimed his operation sold novelty items—fake diplomas meant for use as party favors, and to amuse friends.
Fake credential mills have previously been cited as lucrative funding engines for various terrorist cells in Pakistan and the UK.
Vicky Phillips was cited in 2009 by US News & World Report as "for 20 years the leading consumer advocate for online college students." In 1989 she designed America's first online counseling center for distance learners on AOL. In 1998 she authored the first print guide to online graduate degrees - Best Distance Learning Graduate Schools put out by the Princeton Review. In 2001 she authored Never Too Late to Learn the Adult Student's Guide to College.