York University has launched “YU Verify,” an online service that will verify whether a person received a degree from York. To use the site, employers, immigration officials, and others need either a student number or basic information, such as a first and last name.

Results are instantaneous. A test run using actress Rachel McAdams’ name confirmed that she did, in fact, receive a BFA in 2001. Email inquiries can be made if the graduate has a common name and the searcher can’t provide more details.

“We’ve taken appropriate steps to detect bogus transcripts and any person caught will be prevented from continuing with the application,” said Alex Bilyk, spokesman for the university.

The website’s launch follows a Toronto Star investigation last December, which uncovered a former York student’s fraudulent degree service.

Peng Sun was creating near-perfect copies of York degrees for $3,000. He also sold copies of transcripts that were indistinguishable from the real thing, on watermarked paper and with the university’s logo.

Sun boasted to the undercover reporter that he had made hundreds of fake degrees for York and U of T in the four years he had been operating.

Sun claimed his clients were mostly students studying on a visa, who had skipped or failed school. They wanted to return home with a degree that could get them good jobs, he said.

“I have friends in China who spent three years here, didn’t want to go to school but got York and U of T degrees (from me), then got a job,” Sun said.

Prices for a BA, MBA, and PhD were all the same because, to Sun, it was all “paper and ink.”

Sun, whose own degree from York is real, was never charged for a crime. He refunded the undercover reporter’s money and has since not been bothered by York or the police.

The investigation also revealed how Quami Frederick, a 28-year-old from Grenada, got into Osgoode Hall Law School with a degree she had purchased from a diploma mill on the Internet. Frederick was in her third year at Osgoode when the investigation revealed that her degree in business from St. George’s University in Grenada was a fake.

Not only did Frederick use the fake degree to get into Osgoode, but she then forged her transcripts for the three years she was at school. Osgoode Hall has since toughened its admission procedures.

The then-dean at Osgoode, Patrick Monahan, said the integrity of the admissions process was of paramount importance at a law school.

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