Trust, but verify. (Russian proverb: doveryai, no proveryai; Доверяй, но проверяй)
Documents that have been in the hands of students are generally not considered official. World Education Services (WES), a US-based credentials evaluation service
Yes, dear reader, this practice, which is not unique to Vietnam, continues unabated. Why? Because it works in the vast majority of cases. There are several ways to demonstrate ability to pay, including the use of legitimate bank statements and proof of other assets, information about parents’ employment and other sources of income (e.g., property rental), and, last but not least, the use of fake bank statements.
Why is this type of fraud successful? 1) Most US higher education colleagues are not trained to detect fraudulent statements (the same applies to cooked high school transcripts) and 2) In the short span of a visa interview consular officers don’t have time to check every bank statement, even they though have been trained to detect fakes. In the FAQ section of the US Consulate General-HCMC website there is this Q & A:
5. Will a visa agency help my chances of getting a visa?
No. Do not believe anyone who tells you they can help you get a visa. Do not pay money for fake documents. Consular officers are trained to recognize fake documents and lies.
While this is true, the point is most bank statements are not checked because of time constraints. Fraud uncovered by spot checks is the tip of the iceberg.
Aside from beating already very favorable odds, the creation of fake bank statements and other supporting documents is also profitable for the individuals and agents who provide this “service.”
How the Game is Played
These examples and images are supplied by Ken McCague, Assistant Director of International Admissions, Old Dominion University in Virginia, and are courtesy of Cheryl Darrup Boychuck, Chief Architect, FundsV (Funds Verfication for International Education).
Fake 1a: India always seems to be a good case study. For these in particular, seeing a stamp with the apparent branch code gave me pause, though, we ended up with 6 of these statements in a row! They had at least the courtesy to change the amounts. This past summer, at the Education USA conference, I spoke with some of the folks from the advising centers in Mumbai and Hyderabad, and showed them similar examples, and they were unanimous: fake, fake and fake! It was interesting to hear that they estimate that roughly 40-50% of students are actually receiving educational loans to fund their studies. We almost never see a loan guarantee submitted with an application.
Fake 2a: Another set… very common. They seem especially insincere when there are 15-20 exactly the same, on my desk! We’ve even checked, and sometime (though sometimes not) the bank branch physically exists. Honestly, in isolation, we might even approve some of these statements (as I’m certainly not the end all for verification), but the fact we see dozens identical statements (all from the same University in Hyderabad as well) is what raises red flags. Even when asking for a passbook statement, I’ll see the same exact template, just different name and figures a just a little off. It is fascinating, though the time spent – geesh.
Fake 3a: Here, didn’t even bother to change the account balance. And these were from a “reputable’ agent”. The account number will change by one or two characters with each successive student.
It’s time to move away from paper, which is so yesterday, and shift to accurate and trustworthy online verification. Stay tuned for a post about FundsV, a promising high-tech means of addressing this widespread problem of fraudulent bank statements in Vietnam and around the world.