I know a person who falsely claims having a PhD in computer science.

His name card reads as "Name, PhD" and he has long been working in a high profile and remunerative position for a semi-government company.

However, he does not have a PhD!

He had enrolled for a PhD program in a X university, but his PhD program was terminated, because he could not publish any papers within the allotted time. I have complete details on this person including his registration number with the university, supervisor name, the company name, address and company supervisor name.

Specifically: the maximum duration of the PhD program in this X university is 6 years. To graduate, the university requires the candidate to publish one ISI indexed journal paper or two Scopus indexed papers. This person did not meet the requirements and, in fact, does not even have a conference paper to his credit.

I often feel like informing the company he is serving, as I find this infuriating and deeply unfair, but I just can't seem to make up my mind:

  1. Is this the right thing to do?
  2. Why should I report this?
  3. Why shouldn't I report this?
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ff524
    Aug 3, 2018 at 18:40
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    Other than on business card, where else does he claim he has a PhD: webpage? LinkedIn? resume? interviews? articles?
    – smci
    Aug 3, 2018 at 22:47
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    There's something not completely clear in your description: are you sure the university terminated his PhD? It's not uncommon for a university to bypass its own rules on an case by case basis. If this is the case, this person might even have been allowed to defend without the required number of publications.
    – Erwan
    Aug 4, 2018 at 22:44
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    Check out whether they have a dissertation in the university's database. Any PhD should have a registered dissertation under their name and that information should be found in the university's library, or online database. Jul 9, 2021 at 3:17

4 Answers 4


It is certainly appropriate for you to bring this to everyone's attention. However, it is also important that you do so in a way that will protect yourself from retaliation as you seem to suggest the person has some power.

The dilemma, of course, is that an anonymous accusation is easy to dismiss. But if you can just direct people to source of your information so that they can independently verify your claim it will stand a better chance of being heard.

It is also possible, that the "authorities" are already aware of this and are, in fact, invested in the career of the person. This happens in some places, so, depending on the norms of your location, it may be especially important to protect yourself, and in the worst case prepare for the situation that it won't be addressed.

  • 28
    The correct way to report it would probably be to find a public claim of where this PhD is from, and then refer it to the university in question. Even if it's anonymous, they are in a position to check (if they choose to).
    – Flyto
    Aug 2, 2018 at 14:46
  • @buffy what could be the best possible anonymous method to inform the "authorities" as well as the university to investigate the "fake claim"? Any suggestions or advice.
    – mnm
    Aug 2, 2018 at 15:02
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    @nilāmbara, Postal mail can be hard to trace back, but your letter would need to include enough information that the receiver has a basis for confirmation. Going thorough a trusted third party is sometimes possible, but less likely. In this case, the third party would him/herself need a certain amount of power/authority so as to be trusted by both you and the "authorities." In some situations a respected religious leader might work.
    – Buffy
    Aug 2, 2018 at 15:12
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    I'm not sure if you are implying it, but it seems wise to make the "people" you mention be the university he claims to have a PhD from. They certainly have the biggest reason for being concerned about this for image reasons. Also, they can find out the truth easily by checking their own records.
    – AnoE
    Aug 3, 2018 at 18:52
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    @nilāmbara, i think the advice is the same. Protect yourself first.
    – Buffy
    Aug 13, 2018 at 10:16

People who need to lie about obtaining any title are clearly not capable (or not able, maybe for external reasons) of obtaining said title (otherwise they would have done so), but want to enjoy the benefits that come with this title. By not being capable of earning the title (in most cases), the person is not displaying the required traits of those who successfully (through hard work) earned that title, which, in my opinion, gives a bad name to all holders of that title.

There are, of course, some people who have earned a PhD, but still give other PhD title holders a bad name, but it is their right to do so, they have earned the title.

Those who did not do the hard work and did not earn the title do not have the right to do so and need to be reported without exception.

When reported, it should be reported to the ethics council of the university the fake title supposedly came from or the the ethics committee of the Ministry of Education (or similar).

  • 7
    "it is their right" -- Well, not really. It's their right to use the PhD title, as they've earned it. That doesn't mean it's their right to dilute the meaning of the title by e.g. being unethical, because they still don't have the right to be unethical, and the same applies to other things that would give PhDs a bad name.
    – anon
    Aug 2, 2018 at 19:33
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    I disagree with the first paragraph. There are plenty of good reasons to not get a PhD even if you're capable of doing it (e.g. money), and plenty of selfish reasons to lie about having done it even if you were capable (e.g. money).
    – JiK
    Aug 2, 2018 at 20:12
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    Additionally, there are plenty of people who have failed to obtain a PhD due to discriminatory reasons. Aug 2, 2018 at 20:30
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    As @JiK says first paragraph is wubbifh. There are lots of skilled people held on a leash under fear of dropping out. They can definitely be more skilled than people graduating fast. An unskilled candidate is no loss if he finishes (and leaves) early, but a skilled candidate sure can be. Aug 3, 2018 at 10:12
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    This seems to be less a question about academia, and more a question about the workplace. How do I get company x that employed this person who lied about their credentials, to take action. Aug 3, 2018 at 16:56

Yes, of course report the situation.

If what you describe is accurate, there is a high likelihood this person committed serious fraud (i.e. mail fraud or wire fraud) as a 'semi-government company' (particularly in the US) is very likely to have required multiple forms of proof of graduation. Federal jobs, for example, routinely require transcripts, documents, the whole file. Federal contractors follow suit.

For this reason, what you claim here is (to me) quite fantastic and requires you to delineate between 'knowing this person is a fraud' and 'I can't find suitable evidence to prove this person is whom he claims to be'. But certainly this sort of thing happens, I assume.


Well, it doesn't sound like you know for a fact that the person did not earn the PhD, but you are surmising it because you can not find published papers.

If you are reasonably confident that the PhD was not earned, then I think you could anonymously notify both the university and the employer. At that point, I believe, you have done your duty, you have raised a question about the credentials someone has claimed. The employer may take this seriously or not, depending on whether they have verified the credentials previously, how important it is to them to be able to prove the person has the credentials, e.g. if an engineer is designing a bridge and lives could depend on it, an employer wants to be sure of an engineer's claim that they have their Professional Engineer license.

Maybe the employer won't care because the work output is satisfactory. I would hope the university would at least make a cursory review based on the student's name and years in the program.

Beyond that, you need to consider if there could be adverse fallout for you. Could someone guess you reported the matter? Could that be held against you? What if you are wrong, and the person has their PhD?

  • 6
    I'm not speculating nor surmmising. I've all the requisite details on this person. My mistake, I should have been more explicit in the question. Anyway, I've updated the question now. I have known this for a very long time. it's just that I can't seem to bring myself to a consensus and then I'm also worried about the repercussions involved. This is why I've "kept quiet" for all this time. But then yesterday, I accidentally stumbled on this site and found discussions on ethics, plagiarism. This motivated me to seek expert guidance or suggestions here.
    – mnm
    Aug 3, 2018 at 3:45
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    @nilāmbara - Assuming that you could actually suffer negative repercussions related to this, I hope there is no way that this other person knows you, and/or that you have not used your real name here, or that you have not posted this elsewhere with your real name. Otherwise, they could now, or in the future, discover this and suspect you have/will, or at least have discussed reporting them. Aug 4, 2018 at 16:34

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