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Identifying, avoiding and reporting illegal cheating services

Understanding academic integrity

 Identifying, avoiding and reporting illegal cheating services

Illegal cheating services threaten academic integrity, and they expose students to criminals. Research1 shows operators of these illegal cheating services will threaten to inform the university or the student’s future employer about a student’s cheating unless the student pays them a large sum of money. 

Australia has banned commercial cheating services and promotion of these services to students. Laws against commercial cheating services include criminal penalties such as fines of up to $100,000 for operators. People who provide cheating services for free also face civil prosecution. These laws do not penalise students who use these services to engage in cheating but institutional discipline policies will continue to apply.

TEQSA has developed the following information to help students to identify, avoid and report illegal cheating services. This information is intended to complement, not replace, any advice you may receive from your institution

Identifying an illegal cheating service

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Illegal commercial cheating services can include websites and individuals or groups that market or provide cheating services to students.

Illegal cheating services – sometimes also called contract cheating services – sell students essays or assignments, or accept payment for someone to sit exams on a student’s behalf. 

Often, these services market themselves as offering ‘study support’. Many of these illegal operators will ask students to upload previous work or material from their course to access the advertised ‘support’.

Some of these illegal services market aggressively via social media, email and on campus. They can also find you through your social media posts. For example, a student may post on social media about an essay they are writing and then receive numerous ‘bot’ messages offering illegal commercial cheating services.

Avoiding illegal cheating services

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Identifying illegal cheating services can sometimes be difficult but you should always avoid any service that:

  • promises to help write or improve your essay or assignment or sit an exam on your behalf in exchange for money
  • offers unsolicited ‘study support’ via social media, email or on-campus advertising
  • asks you to upload a previous example of your work, or materials from your course, in order to receive help
  • offers to sell you study notes, exams or other assessment materials.

Students experiencing study difficulties should always speak with their tutor or course coordinator. They can help you access study support options and also protect your academic integrity.

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Tip: Blocking unsolicited messages received via social media or email offering study support, essay writing or other contract cheating services can help you avoid illegal cheating services and maintain your academic integrity.

Be aware of the information you share on social media networks and consider your privacy settings. This may help you avoid being targeted by illegal cheating service operators.

 

Reporting illegal cheating services

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TEQSA and Australia’s higher education providers work together to share intelligence about illegal cheating services. This supports institutions to protect student interests and academic integrity by securing their networks against illegal services.

Where to report a suspected commercial cheating service

To your provider

If you receive email material promoting suspected illegal cheating services via your institutional email account, or see a suspected cheating site on your institution’s network, report it to your school or university. You should also inform them if you see posters, notices or business cards on your campus promoting illegal cheating services.

To TEQSA

If you encounter a suspected illegal cheating service, you can report it by emailing concerns [at] teqsa.gov.au.

Your email should include information to help us investigate your concerns including:

  • the website URL, social media account or email address you wish to report
  • any supporting evidence such as screenshots.

Notes

  1. Yorke, J., Sefcik, L., & Veeran-Colton, T. (2020). Contract cheating and blackmail: a risky business? Studies in Higher Education.