How Many Fake Universities Are There Online?

Posted by Janett Perry on Mar 2, 2011 12:57:00 PM

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Welcome to the University of Redwood, “one of the nation’s most prominent institutions of liberal arts and sciences.” On first appearance, this university would presumably be located amongst the towering Redwood trees of Northern California, much like UC Berkeley.

However, a quick look at the University of Redwood website shows the University’s location is in Torrance, California; an area more known for beaches than trees. 

Strange, no?

If the website is more closely inspected, the origin of the university’s name is revealed: 

“University of Redwood was founded in 1908 and was operational in 1911. Redwood is named after the Oregon pioneers Simeon and Amanda Redwood. Simon Redwood had been an entrepreneur. He wished his wife to devote some portion of his property for the purpose of prosperity and happiness of the inhabitants of Oregon.”

Sound a bit fishy? 

That’s because the story is totally made up. 

The University of Redwood is apparently a web front to scam prospective students out of Asia who are interesting in attending a ‘reputable’ US university.

The story broke when several professors from Reed College found that their names and bios were suspiciously listed on the University of Redwood website.  A brief investigation determined that a large portion of the content on the website was directly plagiarized from the Reed College website.

The Huffington Post recently reported on the story:

“The site — which college officials suspect is a scam targeting Asian students — is still active, despite a brief hiatus in October when Reed’s attorneys’ began efforts to remove it. Reed’s chief technology officer explained to the Journal that those responsible could easily collect application fees from unassuming students — “a shrewd scammer could wait several weeks, then issue a rejection letter, and the student would never know,” he said.”

Just the fact that these scammers didn’t even have the time to write their own original fake content shows that this could be a large-scale operation.  Beyond the ‘University of Redwood’ could there be any number of other fake fronts for institutions that collect application information?

Another reason the perpetrators may have plagiarized Reed’s information could be due to a language barrier; perhaps they were unable to write convincing English content on their own.

This means that other universities’ content is likely being pilfered.  Although Reed’s professors happened upon their bios on the fake site, other duplicate sites may not be so overt with their plagiarism.


“‘University Of Redwood’ Plagiarizes Reed College’s Website.” The Huffington Post.  February 3rd 2011.

Topics: Academic