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Albert John

Fake ID Usage - a Growing Risk to University Testing

We are currently living in a world where technology has a lot of applications both good and bad – in almost every avenue of life. With Tertiary education being no exception – we take a look at the moern risks facing University academic integrity.

Why do students choose to “take” their exams this way? Some confessed that even if they showed up for courses, studied during the semester and took their exams they would still fail and the university staff would never come up to them and discuss the situation. As a result, they decided to hire impersonators in order to be able to pass and obtain a degree. In an interview a student mentioned that even though he chose to use impersonators in all his exams in order to obtain a degree, he plans to continue his studies and wants to obtain a Masters degree. Him missing the courses and not studying for his exams might affect his chances of obtaining a Masters degree and as a result the student may not be qualified or prepared for a job in the domain which could leave him unemployed or stuck in a job which neither brings him satisfaction nor makes use of his degree. 

The usage of impersonators has become a growing trend over the last ten years as communication and the applications of new technologies have improved. Nowadays there are websites which provide full “sets” of fake documents which are useful when it comes to hire somebody to take exams in your place. 

Those who are taking the exams in your place are called “exam impersonators” and this represents for some of them a business. Reports say that some students have been caught, while being filmed, arranging to pay thousands of dollars for someone to take an exam or complete a subject for them at university.

An investigation which was led on by SBS2's The Feed brought to light the fact that cheating students at some of Australia’s Universities were using 'exam impersonators'. Some of them were asking up to $3,500 per final exam and $6,000 per subject and they confessed that the business is booming.

The impersonators ask 50% upfront and 50% after the exam. They include in this amount the cost for purchasing fake documents which are usually a student card as security is easily bypassed. This happens because in most universities only the photo ID was checked in order to confirm that the person sitting the exam was indeed the same person which appeared on the student card. 

These impersonators take pride in their “work”, as some of  them advertise themselves with proven results and years of experience of sitting exams for others. Some go even further and decide to participate in that subject’s course for the entire semester or year. When interviewed, impersonators have admitted to practicing this for as long as 10 years. Websites based in Australia are evenly openly selling Fake ID.

The main problem is that for the students it seems something which is not harmful (at least in the short run) as some stated: “It just seemed to be something everyone is doing and if everyone's doing it they're not afraid to get caught”.

A way to discourage this trend would be to suspend the student and to offer a fine (if the student wants to retake the exam) and if possible, confiscate the impersonator’s Fake ID website. By retaining the fake cards, universities could create a database where photos of impersonators would be uploaded and therefore the checking process would become easier if there would be printed photos of known impersonators. Ideally, this database would be shared with other universities in an effort to discourage this trend furthermore.

Figuring ways of combatting this method is not an easy fight, although technology can also have its benefits and in this case it is represented by scanners and apps which can be linked to student cards (bar codes, qr codes, phone direct message or other types of identification required in order to be able to enter the exam room) which sometimes may discourage impersonators. This method combined with the human factor should be able to distinguish impersonators from actual students and by using as many security measures required for being able to take the exam, chances for an impersonator to successfully take an exam diminish. To better explain this, if this type of security measures was implemented, then, in the day of the exam, a bot sends out a code via mail to all students 5 minutes before the exam begins, which is required at the entrance (it might be a QR code). While this measure might not be 100% effective it can be combined with other security requirements like a student card which is specifically desi
gnated for exams (one card, which has the student’s photo on it, for all exams which can be only obtained by the student with their official documents). Due to these measures, the chances of an impersonator passing security decrease.

To sum up, even though combatting impersonators and the usage of fake IDs is a rather difficult task, there are measures universities can implement in order to discourage this trend. The security staff should be trained and be able to distinguish between fake IDs and their real counterparts and the technology used for checking should be continuously updated by creating new security measures and apps. The creation of a database which contains photos of known impersonators should also be taken into consideration as universities should contribute and help each other if they want success to be achieved. 

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