Confessions of a Ghostwriter: Man's Career Thrives Helping Students Cheat

VIDEO: Writer who helps students cheat speaks with ABCs David Muir.
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That nurse taking your blood pressure? She may not have written her college term papers. Ditto for your accountant, your pharmacist, your child's school principal.

Cheating has come a long way since the days when answers were written on the palm of a student's hand.

Meet "Ed."

He agreed to talk to ABC News' David Muir as long as we changed his name to protect his identity. He said he's helped thousands of students graduate by writing their term papers, final exams, even doctoral theses. Many of them are on highly specialized topics, including national and maritime security. And his clients rarely get caught.

"Not too far back I completed a doctorate in cognitive psychology," he said.

And while his services mean the students don't have to crack open a book, "Ed" says he usually doesn't either. The Internet, he said, has made him a kind of jack-of-all-trades.

"I Google everything. Everything is Google-able," he said. "I hardly leave the house."

In addition to Google, he also taps in to scholarly journals and the free book samples offered on Amazon.com.

He's even written papers for seminary students -- and found himself amused at the irony.

"Well, you know, if you're studying in a highly moralistic field," he said, "one might suggest you should be concerned about the moral implications of it."

"Ed," who has since left his job, wrote about his career last month in an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

"In the midst of this great recession, business is booming," he wrote in the Chronicle. "At busy times, during midterms and finals, my company's staff of roughly 50 writers is not large enough to satisfy the demands of students who will pay for our work and claim it as their own."

Despite advances in technology to prevent cheating and an increase in vigilance by professors, estimates as to how many students cheat are still high. According to researchers at the Center for Academic Integrity, more than two-thirds of college students have admitted to cheating.

Ghostwriter Admits 'I'm Not Proud and I'm Not Ashamed'

In an effort to prove "Ed"'s claims that ghostwritten work is virtually undetectable, ABC News bought such a paper from an online ghostwriting company and took it to Hofstra University in New York, where a panel of professors was asked to read it along with two papers actually written by Hofstra students.

"Certainly, actually, if this had hit my desk, and I did not know the students, hadn't seen their writing before, all three look like undergraduate papers that I have graded and am likely to grade again," Hofstra University Honors College Dean Warren Frisina said.

Still, the panel agreed that even though the purchased paper was a good one, they come to know their students individually and would likely recognize work that's out of the ordinary for that person.

"If student 'C' had turned in a paper to me like this, but had previously turned in a series of C or D papers, we'd be having a conversation about the sudden transformation in his writing ability," Frisina said.

Only one professor was able to pick out the phony paper, noting that the purchased paper was the only one that didn't reference discussions made in class. But even she admitted that she would have graded it alongside the others.

"What choice would I have? Absolutely I would've graded it," said Stephanie Cobb, associate professor of religion. "There's nothing about it I can prove."

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