Online Degrees: Schools Scam Aspiring Students

"They give you a questionnaire, a kind of a hoax test, like asking what type of music you like and how often you listen to music," he said. "They say it will count toward your elective and life-experience credit.

"If you miss one, they give you a hint and three more chances," said LaFleur. "It's pretty easy to pass the test."

Such was the case with Debra Harris of Crockett, Texas, who dropped out of high school her junior year because she was pregnant. Now, the 42-year-old mother of three wants to get her diploma.

She turned to Jefferson when the ads popped up while she was searching for programs online.

"I knew something was wrong because the test was too simple," she told "It was multiple choice, and if you didn't get it right, you could go back and do it again. Everybody passes."

Still, she paid the $250 and the diploma arrived. But when she applied to Trinity Valley College, she was told her credentials weren't "good anywhere."

Beware of No Contact Number

"I tried to call them [Jefferson], and there wasn't a legitimate phone number," said Harris, who lost her money but later got her General Equivalency Diploma (GED) from a state-accredited learning center.

"Some of these schools are accredited, but it's the acceptance of the diploma," said Michael Ormsby, president of the Oregon-based GED Academy, which provides BBB-approved online courses to prepare for the federal standardized test.

"The problem is, when you go to apply to another school, they do not accept the online test," he told

Meanwhile, Diane Cerulli considers herself lucky because she got her $1,400 back from Belford for her dubious medical degree.

"I called them and read them the riot act," she said. "I came to my senses."

"I felt like a fool," said Cerulli. "I just wanted it so badly."

To check out a university to see if it is accredited, contact the Better Business Bureau.

The U.S. Department of Education has a searchable database of accredited post-secondary schools, or those seeking a high school diploma can consult with their local junior college or community college for programs.

ABC News information specialist Nicholas Tucker contributed to this story.

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