Saturday, April 30, 2011

Diploma's: Real or Fake? Diploma Mills Are a Growing Scam

Diploma Mills: A growing problem
Almost everyone goes to college for the same reason: to prepare for their future career.

Of course, it is also about expanding your mind, challenging yourself, and meeting new people, but in the end it comes down to being qualified for the job that you really want. In today’s society, online degrees are more common than ever. Consequently, "diploma mills" are also more common than ever.

A diploma mill will go to great lengths to appear legitimate, making it very difficult to differentiate the scams from accredited online universities. And while the internet boasts thousands of institutions for higher learning, it also houses thousands of con artists. Diploma mills cheat you out of your money and your academic goals. While diploma mills can be tricky, there are several ways you can avoid them. An online education offers many benefits a traditional education cannot.
Here’s how you can get the online education you desire without getting scammed:
  1. Check for Accreditation: To ensure that the online universities you are interested in are legitimate, you must research them thoroughly. The first step is to check to see that the institution is an accredited online university. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education maintains a database of accredited schools. Go to this site and check to see if the institution you are considering is on the list. Only schools that provide proper educational degrees can become accredited. If the school that you are interested in is not among the institutions listed by the Department of Education, you will need to do some further investigating. If government education agencies have never heard of the program, then the program is probably a scam. If it isn’t clearly stated whether the school is accredited or not, there is no way to be sure that your coursework will count towards a true degree. While accreditation is the first thing to look for in an online program, your research into the school should not stop there. Also, be weary of schools that use terms like "licensed" or "state authorized" rather than displaying legitimate accreditation.
  2. Research the Accrediting Agency: While checking for accreditation is the first step to confirming the legitimacy of an online institution, diploma mills can be very sneaky. Even a school that claims accreditation and provides evidence from an accrediting agency can be fraudulent. Be sure to research the accrediting agency that the institution lists. Unfortunately, diploma mills often work closely with "accreditation mills". These accreditation mills pose as official accreditation agencies and are often very difficult to distinguish from the real thing. Any legitimate accrediting agency will be recognized by either the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
  3. Check Contact Information: A big red flag should go up in your mind when an online institution’s website does not provide thorough contact information. A real educational institution (online or otherwise) will offer advisors and customer service representatives who can answer any questions you may have about the school or degree program. One of your first steps should be contacting the school to ask them questions about the program and receive a virtual tour of the institution. Diploma mills will likely only list one phone number to contact them at or provide only a fax number (always a terrible sign). Try to speak with a live person and get as much contact information as you can. Keep in mind that it takes a lot of people to run a university. If the university is legitimate there should be plenty of people to talk to and address your concerns.
  4. Roaming Addresses: In addition to verifying contact information for an online institution, you should also investigate an institution’s address. If the school changes their address from one state to another often, this is a serious warning sign. Also, if the school only provides a post office box number with no physical location for the school headquarters, you are likely dealing with a scam. If a physical address is provided for the institution, look up that address on the internet and verify that it is truly the address of an online education provider. Diploma mills have one objective: to get your money. A school that only offers a post office box is hoping you will mail them a check and then have no way of locating them.
  5. Check the Better Business Bureau: Another great way to identify a diploma mill is by checking for complaints to the Better Business Bureau. Although we may not realize it, universities are businesses who work for profit. You obtain an education at the cost of a (sometimes hefty) fee. Because online universities are businesses, they are evaluated by the Better Business Bureau. The U.S. Better Business Bureau is a corporation that is dedicated to gathering and reporting information on business reliability. The BBB alerts the public to frauds businesses have committed and provide information on ethical business practices. Check with the Better Business Bureau in the university’s area to see if there have been any complaints about the institution. Obviously, if there are complaints to the Better Business Bureau about invalid diplomas or internet fraud, then you should seek a different institution for your educational purposes.
  6. Alumni Information: Another important aspect of a college degree program is the alumni connections made through an institution. When choosing an online degree program, search for references from the college’s alumni. Most universities are more than willing to provide prospective students with references from former students. As mentioned earlier, because universities are businesses they should try to "sell" the school to you. They should be more than happy to supply you with positive alumni references. Obviously, diploma mills posing as legitimate institutions will not have a list of happy former customers.
  7. Odd Application Process: One of the most obnoxious parts of entering the world of higher education is the application process. With cover letters, essays, test scores, and academic records, applying to college can be a very tedious process. An institution’s application process can be a huge clue into determining whether that institution is a sham or not. If the school’s only acceptance requirement is a credit card number, then you should be very cautious. If it seems like you are buying your diploma, you probably are buying your diploma and nothing more. Another way to determine that an online college is illegitimate is if the degree program costs a flat fee, rather than paying for each course. Institutions like this want to get as much money out in one sitting before you have the chance to realize that you are being cheated. Moreover, if the application process does not ask for any testing scores or other educational background you should seek a different online program.
  8. Negative Reviews: In today’s world, there is no limit to the number of places you can go online to complain about things. While most people stick to complaining on their Facebook statues, there are also tons of forums and blogs dedicated to discussing short fallings. When researching an online degree program, look for online forums or blogs that discuss the institution. If there are negative reviews of the school, then you should look more closely into the school’s legitimacy. Now, don’t be scared off if there are some posts about how difficult a professor or class is (these are not the complaints that we mean). But, if there are numerous complaints concerning the validity of the school, you should be concerned. Furthermore, if you do research and are unable to find any forums or blogs discussing the institution you are interested in, you should beware. If you are the only person who has heard of this online education program, it is likely that the program is a scam.
  9. Sounds Too Good To Be True: As we all know, earning a college degree takes time and energy. Part of what you gain from a college education is the gratification of working hard and accomplishing your goals. So, if a degree program sounds really easy, it probably isn’t real. Diploma mills will offer degree programs that boast easy classes and fast results. Although earning a degree online offers several advantages, it is not a shortcut to a fast degree. While some online degree programs may be shorter than traditional ones, no degree can be earned in a matter of days or even weeks. Furthermore, if credit is offered for "real world" experience, you are likely dealing with a diploma mill. You should also be cautious of institutions that offer degree programs for significantly less money than most other institutions. Diploma mills offering degrees for cheap are hoping that potential students will be too excited by the insanely low cost to check the school’s credentials.
  10. Poor Quality Website: Another key insight into the legitimacy of an online college is the quality of its website. If the marketing material displayed on the website has several spelling or grammatical errors, it is most likely a fake educational institution. Furthermore, if the school’s URL does not end in .edu, you should look more closely into the school’s credentials. Most legitimate educational organizations have websites ending with .edu. Also, you should carefully evaluate the name of the institution you are interested in. If the institution’s name is very similar (but not identical) to the name of a well-known university, you may be dealing with a scam. Some fraudulent companies will change minor details of the name of the institution like putting "college" when the well-known school is "university". For example, hopeful students may think they are enrolling at "Boston College Online" when really they are really enrolling at "Boston University Online".

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MOMTOURAGE: Parenting Teen Advice

Join me April 28th, 6pm – 8pm EST on for a parenting chat and QA forum!

Are you at your wits end with your teenager? Are you having trouble communicating, disciplining and enforcing rules? We’ve seen your questions in our Q&A tool and we’ve got expert help for you. Join Sue Sheff, parent advocate and author of Wit’s End! A Parent’s True Story, Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen who will be on hand in our Q&A tool answering your questions about helping teens who are behaving badly.

Sue knows personally the turmoil mother’s experience when their household is being disrupted by bad teen behavior. Out of desperation she turned to teen specialty schools and behavior modification programs for her own daughter but that only worsened the situation. If you have questions about helping your teen before you reach your breaking point, talk to Sue. If you’ve been considering alternative education or therapy for your unruly teen, talk to Sue.

Sue Scheff has been featured on ABC News, 20/20, The Rachel Ray Show, Dr. Phil, CBS Nightly News with Katie Couric, Lifetime, Fox News, CBC, BBC, CNN Headline News, InSession Court TV and noted in major publications as USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Miami Herald, Forbes, Sun-Sentinel, Asian Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, LA Times and many more.

In 2001, Sue founded and created Parents’ Universal Resource Expert (P.U.R.E.) and has been helping families with at-risk teens for over a decade.  Her specialty is educating parents on the daunting industry of teen help and locating safe and quality residential programs when parents are at their wit’s end.

Here’s how it works: Just sign in to and post your question starting with “ASK SUE” beginning at 5:45 p.m. Sue will be live in our tool from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. responding to questions and helping moms.

Read more.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Teen Suicide Pact: Be an Educated Parent

The recent headlines of the two 14 year-old girls that secretly planned their death by hanging at a slumber party has sent shockwaves through our nation. 

The facts behind teen depression and teen suicide are ones that parents need to take the time to understand, learn and be proactive about. 

Did you know? (Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention)
  • Worldwide over 1,000,000 people die each year by suicide.
  • The CDC's most recent report shows the largest One-Year Increase in Youth Suicide Rate in 15 Years
  • Suicide takes the lives of over 2,400 Floridians and over 33,300 Americans in 2007.
  • Suicide is the 11th cause of death in the Americans.
  • In 2004, there were 2,382 reported suicide deaths in Florida.
  • In Broward County Florida the youngest documented child to complete suicide was 9 years of age.
  • Florida has the 2nd highest number of suicides in the Nation and ranks #13 highest rate of all the states [2001].
  • Florida has more than two times the number of suicides than homicides or deaths by HIV/AIDS.
  • Every 43 seconds someone in the U.S. attempts suicide; Every 17 minutes someone in the U.S. dies by suicide.
  • For every single completed suicide there are at least 25 attempts!
  • Each person who dies by suicide leaves behind an average of eight loved ones or survivors, not to mention friends, co-workers, schoolmates and religious affiliates.
Factors that increase the risk of suicide among teens include (KidsHealth):
  • a psychological disorder, especially depression, bipolar disorder, and alcohol and drug use (in fact, approximately 95% of people who die by suicide have a psychological disorder at the time of death)
  • feelings of distress, irritability, or agitation
  • feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that often accompany depression (a teen, for example, who experiences repeated failures at school, who is overwhelmed by violence at home, or who is isolated from peers is likely to experience such feelings)
  • a previous suicide attempt
  • a family history of depression or suicide (depressive illnesses may have a genetic component, so some teens may be predisposed to suffer major depression)
  • physical or sexual abuse
  • lack of a support network, poor relationships with parents or peers, and feelings of social isolation
  • dealing with homosexuality in an unsupportive family or community or hostile school environment

Saturday, April 23, 2011

High School Drop Outs: GED Options

It is always a question to me – teens are allowed to drop out of high school (in Florida at age 16 teens have the right to sign out of school).  Their mentality is they will just get a GED.  Although there are very valid reasons that some people need to get a GED – a defiant, healthy, teenager usually doesn’t have a reason except they simply don’t want to go to school.  In life, as they will learn, there are many things we don’t want to do – but will do them anyway.  There are things we don’t understand how important they are until years later – like going to college. Visit if you need help.

If you or your teen are looking to obtain a GED, here is a great list to work from:

GED's are being used too frequently today.
Whether you’re ready to finish high school early or never graduated and want a GED to help you plan out a more lucrative career and education path, there are a lot of resources online to help you prepare for the exam. These blogs offer lesson plans, practice tests, and discussions about the subjects you’ll be tested on, and we’ve also included several helpful blogs to inspire you to plan out the next stage of your life, from deciding to go to college to finding a job.

Click here to see 50 Blogs that help you with GED information.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Teen Depression: Social Networking Pitfalls

Depression.  Obsession.  Addiction.
Are these three adjectives that surround social networking?

Social networking is on the rise, a recently released  study from The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that 22 percent of teenagers log onto their favorite social media sites more than 10 times a day, and that 75 percent own cell phones. This level of engagement online increases the risks of cyberbullying, “Facebook depression” (a new phenomenon where “de-friending” and online bullying lead to symptoms of depression), exposure to inappropriate content, and sexting.

What can parents do if they suspect their teen or child is heading down a dark road?

Looking at Facebook to begin with, is your teen age appropriate?  You have to be at least 13 years-old to be a member. On Facebook's help center it clearly states:  Facebook requires individuals to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account. 

Facebook even takes it a step further with a report form to fill out if you suspect an underage member.
If your child is younger, it is wise to deactivate their account until they are of age or you feel they are ready for it.

It is important to help your child to understand, you are not attempting to block them 100% from social networking, however having boundaries is crucial.

These boundaries are what can help teenagers from going down the dark path of depression from over exposure of technology.  Teens literally go to bed with their cell phones so they don't miss a text!  This is ridiculous and parents need to start being parents.

Whether you have given the law of your home to your child or teen, or not, it is a serious and growing concern that parents need to be aware of.  Teenage depression is very serious.

Read more.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Teen Talk: A Parent's Guide to Teen Dating

Teen dating: Have fun, be safe.
Let's face it, when our teenager wants to start dating it can be extremely stressful for the parent.  The real life pain of falling in love and breaking up can devastate a youth.  It is important you not only talk to your teens about dating and the emotions they may go through, but also about dating safety.  Teen dating violence is a serious concern - and an issue that is becoming more prevalent. 

What is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen dating violence is a pattern of controlling, abusive and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship. It can happen to anyone, regardless of race, gender, age or socioeconomic status. Abusive behaviors may include
some of the following:
  • Physical: punching, kicking, slapping, choking, pinching, hair pulling
  • Verbal: name calling , put downs, threats , spreading rumors
  • Emotional: Feelings of isolation, fear, worthlessness, low self-esteem
  • Sexual: pressuring to have sex, rape, forcing unprotected sex, unwanted touching

  • Financial: forcing a partner to pay, giving an allowance, manipulating pay checks/credit cards
Read more.

More from the Parent's Guide - click here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April is Alcohol Awareness Month: 10 Dangerous Teen Drinking Games

Don't be a parent in denial, get your teen help.
Alcohol Awareness Month, as declared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), aims to raise awareness about the seriousness of alcohol dependency and alcoholism, while recognizing the serious problem of alcohol abuse. It is an ideal time to educate yourself and loved ones about the dangers of alcohol abuse.

A modest meeting amongst friends on campus can be enhanced immeasurably with the introduction of a fun, buzz-inducing drinking game. Of course, drinking in general is associated with the college experience, in which young adults assert their independence by going buck wild. Such behavior usually comes with the lack of a true understanding of the consequences of alcohol, and thus reckless behavior — albeit fun behavior — ensues. Consequently, some drinking games can turn a lively shindig into a deadly or at least vomit-inducing debacle. Here are a few to avoid if you value the function of your liver (or eyeball).
  1. Vodka Eyeballing: Originating in the UK, the Vodka Eyeballing craze has spread across the Atlantic Ocean thanks to YouTube, and now it's catching on with numbskull American teens and college students. Unlike other drinking games, the feared repercussion isn't alcohol poisoning; it's the potential of losing eyesight. Vodka eyeballers test their eyeball's strength by pouring vodka directly onto it with the purpose of achieving a quicker buzz. The results can be less than pleasant, however, as the potent liquor causes the removal of eye's protective membrane covering, burning and scarring the cornea.
  2. Power Hour: Partaking in Power Hour is a great way to end the night drowning in a pool of your own vomit. Traditionally, participants in the game take a shot of beer each minute for 60 minutes, ending the hour completely sloshed — if they're not sloshed much earlier. The rate of consumption at which participants are required to drink can be very unhealthy, especially if they're small in size. The rapid increase in blood alcohol content ensures a quicker buzz, thus making the game an extremely difficult one to conquer.
  3. 21 for 21: Power Hour has inspired a couple of offshoot games — 21 for 21 and 60 Seconds, neither of which are any less dangerous. In the case of 21 for 21, it exclusively occurs on a participant's 21st birthday, a night of heavy drinking regardless of whether or not drinking games are involved. At the behest of one of their friends, the birthday boy or girl downs 21 shots of liquor or mixed drinks. It's a way to celebrate a rite of passage, making the most of their first night of legal drinking. But overdoing it can trigger tragic results; there are numerous documented cases of people dying of alcohol poisoning on their 21st birthdays, including one who apparently played 21 for 21.
  4. 60 Seconds: Sixty Seconds is the game of choice for wannabe speed drinkers looking to prove their mettle while in the presence of their drinking buddies. Each player selects a number between one and 60, chugging a pint continuously for a minute when the second hand on the clock passes their number. The game proceeds until there's one person left standing, which usually is the problem. Just like its forerunner Power Hour, 60 Seconds causes each player's blood alcohol content to rise quickly, and as you probably know, rapid consumption can produce dire results.
  5. Edward Fortyhands: When Edward Fortyhands was "in" on college campuses a few years ago, it was met with resistance by opponents of youth alcohol abuse. Notably, the chairman of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Joseph Califano, made it explicitly clear that participants could be rewarded with a trip to the morgue. The game — if you're not already familiar with it — is a race in which each participant strives to finish two forty-ounce bottles of malt liquor that are duct-taped to their hands. The inability of participants to use their hands, particularly when they need to use the bathroom, motivates them to finish fast. In some circles, upon finishing, participants must break the bottles to free themselves. So not only do they face the danger of quickly chugging a beverage with high alcohol content, but, while in their drunken stupors, their hands become recklessly operated weapons equipped with shards of glass.
  6. Beat the Barman: You may notice that most games on this list are simple and to the point. None of them require a lot of thinking — just a lot of booze. Set in your favorite not-so-crowded bar, Beat the Barman involves cash, a cool bartender, quick drinking and that's it. Each participant separately orders a shot from the bartender, pays in more cash than its worth, and finishes it off before the bartender returns with change. The process repeats until a drinker falls over or the bar closes. In other words, there really are no winners; alcohol poisoning is a distinct possibility. Beat the Barman is also dangerous because the participants, in most cases, partake in the game at a bar that?s beyond walking distance from home.
  7. Beer Race: A singe match of Beer Race won't cause major harm to a participant, but nobody plays just one match — and therein lies the problem. Each participant chugs a full pint of beer hoping to finish first, proving their superior manhood or womanhood — usually manhood. The first finisher indicates they're the winner by putting their empty glass on their head, and everyone else must follow by doing the same with their unfinished glasses. In most cases, the competitive spirits of the participants override reason, and they play until they're lying unconscious in a pool of their own vomit — pools of vomit are common parts of these games — ironically stripping them of their manly or womanly pride.
  8. Kill the Keg: Once "Kill the Keg!" is screamed by a fellow partygoer, participation is immediate and mandatory. A few lucky guys and gals line up at the keg and down the remaining beer goodness. Of course, the actual luckiness of the guys and gals is highly dependent on when "Kill the Keg!" is yelled and how many thirsty people are attending the party. If partygoers are called to action at 9 p.m., for example, when just a handful of people are hanging around and the keg is full, then the game is much, much less enjoyable.
  9. Dead Man Walk: If your primary goal is to get messed up as quick as possible, ignoring the process by which you reach that end, then Dead Man Walk is the game for you. The title is self-explanatory: participants take a drink for each step they make, seeing who can walk the farthest without face-planting. Because someone inevitably does faceplant, the game yields painful results. The authors of the game — drinking game authors are always looking out for the greater good — urge participants not to drink spirits, as the use of them "will probably result in a premature death." Sound advice.
  10. Death Ring: Death Ring is a fittingly ominous title. The rules of the game are slightly complicated, so we'll refrain from detailing them here, but they are included in the link. Hopefully, the people dumb enough to partake in it are also too dumb to consistently follow the rules. The game requires a deck of cards and a few cases of beer, which tend to disappear quickly as each player takes about umpteen drinks during each of their turns. If participants escape death, they'll undoubtedly wake up the next day feeling like death.
Do you suspect your teen is drinking or using drugs?  Visit

Monday, April 4, 2011

Teen Help Advice: New Website with Priceless Help for Your At-Risk Teen

Get sound, objective help for your teen.
Recently launched yet has helped over 30,000 families, offers over 25+ years of combined experience in the big business of teen help schools and programs.

Offering sound and objective advice, the Teen Help Advisors are experts in the "business" of the teen help industry.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  Many parents are duped on a daily basis when they have reached their wit's end.  They are feeling desperate - alone - and hopeless.

No more!  We have been there - I have been duped, my teen was abused and I am determined that this doesn't happen to other parents as they believe they are getting help.

The questionable decision to hire an Educational Consultant (EC) can be answered very quickly.

Just yesterday (and many times prior) I hear from parents that have spent at least $2500 to as much as $5000.00 for the services of an Educational Consultant.  Yesterday this desperate mother, located in the Northeast, hired an EC months ago for her troubled teenage daughter.  It was determine she needed a smaller program and the EC said that Utah was the only place - there weren't any options on the East Coast!  Now she is broke and her daughter still needs help.

Seriously?  There are options, but these options won't play politics in the Educational Consultant industry.  So they are cut off from parents that are on the East Coast that hire EC's and these parents honestly don't know any better.

Even on the West Coast - this happens.  The same programs are rotated through the EC Shuffled - and very likely you are spending an additional $15K-20K on a Wilderness program first.  Their philosophy - they need to break your teen down!  Isn't your teen already broken?  Why not start and finish at the same program?  Why put your teen through changing therapists and their peer support groups - not to mention their structure?  Don't our teens need some positive consistency?

YES - they do.

Contact to learn more.