London Met stops fraudsters using its address

London Metropolitan University has won a five-year battle to stop a fake university from using its address.

April 24, 2008

"Sherwood University" has listed 200 Holloway Road, London, on its website as the address of its admissions office since 2003. London Met's address is 166-220 Holloway Road. Sherwood's website was amended this month to say that it was based at 221 Holloway Road - the address of an estate agent.

London Met first approached Trading Standards five years ago to have the sherwoodu.org.uk website closed down. A spokesman for Islington Council said that, despite having put "a lot of work" into the case, its trading standards team's powers were limited as the person behind the website operated from Israel.

"We don't have the power to force the website to be taken down or to stop the person," he said.

London Met then approached Nominet UK, the internet registry for UK domain names, for which an independent expert ruled last month that London Met had no right to take action over the website.

It is not clear what prompted the bogus university to amend its "address" after five years of protests. London Met said: "This ceases to be an issue for us. But we still believe the enforcement bodies should take action."

Sherwood has the same wording on its web pages - complete with typos - as "Ashbourne University" at ashbourneu.org.uk, "Parkhurst University" and "Westhampton University". These were all names used by the perpetrators of the infamous "University Degree Program", which sold fake degrees from call centres in Israel and Romania in a multi-million dollar operation. The scheme was closed down in 2003 by the US Federal Trade Commission.

In February 2008, the director of "LBT College of London" was fined £12,500 after an investigation by Tower Hamlets Council's trading standards team. The college falsely claimed on its website that its qualifications were accredited.

Anita Davies, principal consumer services officer at Tower Hamlets, said that the Trading Standards-affiliated College Compliance Partnership Group, which shares intelligence with the UK Border Agency and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, had made life harder for fake universities. DIUS now consults Trading Standards before adding an institution to its provider list.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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