To tackle the menace of fake certificates, we must understand what are fake certificates, how we can prevent and detect such certificates and what are the provisions against them in the India Law. Dilip Heblé, ex-IPS (1979) officer explains.


“Certificate fraud or forgery” is when a person willfully produces, possesses or presents documentary evidence of having a qualification he / she does not qualify for. It may be in the form of a false qualification certificate or a genuine one that is doctored or tampered with. False presentation of any evidence that the person has earned a certain qualification or grade is another version of fraud.


Apart from the fact that fraudulently producing and / or possessing fake certificates is an offence per se, the perpetrator may also be violating the proprietary rights relating to the intellectual property and / or copyright provisions of the certifying organization whose certificate is being faked.


There are several reasons for certificate fraud, including –

  • applying for jobs that require certain skills or qualifications
  • work visa and / or immigration fraud
  • supporting progression within an industry

Certificate frauds work in several ways: from the fabrication of altogether new, fake certificates to the forging or changes of details on a genuine certificate. Here are soh me of the most common modus operandi.


Creating Fake Certificates

Unemployment, rising aspirations, career stagnation and plain greed fuel the increase in fake certificates. The easy availability of desktop publishing software and “cooperative” DTP operators are enough to create authentic-looking certificates. In fact, according to one survey, 75% of university admissions staff were unable to detect fake certificates!


“Editing” existing certificates

One does not have to forge an entirely new document: a mere change in the name, qualification, grade or other details on an existing certificate may suffice!


Rigging Exams

In some cases, the examination process itself is compromised. We often read about state or nation-wide scams in which the examination process – from the setting of the question papers to the assessment of the answer sheets – was clandestinely structured to benefit a certain section of the public – not just in India but in the West too!


Adverse effects

Here’s how fake certificates adversely affect us.


Reputational damage

Unqualified, unsuited personnel can make mistakes and / or provide a poor client experience. Thus, the employing organization’s reputation may take a huge hit. Its customers will head to your nearest rival instead. A couple of accidents in a gym due to the ignorance of nonqualified trainers is enough to send members to the gym down the street! Not only that: once the members go to the other gym, they will bad-mouth your center! So, you lose respect among peers as well!


The education academy whose certificates have been misused also suffers in reputation. Public perception may either think the education provider to be incompetent or – even worse – think that it is actively colluding with criminal intent! Either way the value and the credibility of the genuine certificates take a hit and honest students have to suffer in the marketplace.


Risk to Public Health

If you work in the fitness, medical, food, or various other industries, employees with fake certificates pose severe threat to the health and safety of the clients and other team members. The possibility of accidents increases, equipment is not used and maintained the way it ought to be. Clearly an untrained fitness trainer with a fake certificate should be treated as “Enemy # 1”


Commercial implications  

Certificate fraud that results in your business performing below both reasonable expectations could lead to a loss of business and income through reduced customer loyalty.


Even a minor impact to the business reputational can affect your finances. Every gym enrollment you do not make or a client you lose represents a loss of potential income. Any major incidents that occur can result in a significant loss of income and potentially even lead to potential legal action.


How to Protect Against Certificate Fraud

There are several ways that can help you protect against certificate fraud. If you are hiring trainers, for example, it is best to confirm qualifications with the issuing organization rather than simply accept any and all certificates that the candidate presents.


On the other hand, if your business is the one that issues certificates as is the case with our GAYO FITNESS ACADEMY, there are multiple methods you can use to protect against criminals forging your documents.


  • The more complex your printing process the more difficult it will be to copy. So a unique watermark is a “must” for in any certificate.
  • Customized paper. A specialist printing firm can insert special fibers and threads within your certificate paper to make it extremely hard to copy. The texture and color of the paper can also be unique to your certificate.
  • These cannot be duplicated by a photocopier or scanner – printer. They are an excellent way for ensuring your certificates are not capable of being faked.
  • Micro-text: This looks like solid lines to the naked eye and scanning machines but can be verified using a magnifying glass. Known as guilloche patterns, they are generally used on documents such as banknotes and passports.
  • Anti-Copy Paper. This special, textured paper has patterns on it that do not appear to the naked eye. But, when photocopied, it will create lines, shadows or even words such as “VOID” or “SUSPECT”.
  • QR Codes. Verification software is common now – and very effective! From numbering systems to encrypted QR codes, there are various ways that businesses can make their certificates verifiable. Organizations can also use blockchain technology to enable peer-to-peer verifiable credentials, as we move towards the increasing use of self-sovereign identity.
  • We use another method: we simply change the certificate design every few years so that the certificate issued in 2024 willl be quite different from what we issued in 2020!


Prevention is better than cure – on in this case, better than regrets and even legal action!


Here’s what we in GĀYO do!

  • We advise the students NOT to post complete clear images of their certificates on social media. This is very easy for any human being to download the image and change the name and / or the other details! Want to share your joy of having earned a well-deserved certificate? Well then photograph yourself with the certificate in your hand so that the certificate is seen with you but at the same time, it is not clear enough to be copied.
  • We advise the students that our certificates are awarded  at the end of a rigorous training and assessment program. They deserve the award and thus they must be possessive about it – do not share a copy unless you have to for the purpose of employment.
  • The Latin principle of Law, ignorantia juris non excusat – or, “ignorance of law is not an excuse” – holds so true! No student can say he did not know the rules of the Academy or the Laws of the State!


Remember, at all times, the laws of the land against offences, in this context, relating to fraud and forgery which are summarized below.         


Punishment under different legal provisions for forging an experience certificate 

In a recent judgment, the Delhi High Court ruled that the submission of fake documents should be viewed strictly and severely. The employee who submitted the forged document is unfit for employment. One should show no sympathy or compassion towards such employees.


Section 465- Punishment for forgery

According to Section 465 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), forgery is punishable by imprisonment, which may extend to a sentence of two years, a fine, or both. It is a non-cognizable and bailable offence, meaning police can arrest a person without a warrant or prior court permission. It is a non-compoundable offence, meaning the violation is such that a trial must be conducted, and no compromise can be entered between the victim and the accused.


The punishment could only be meted out when a ‘false document’ is made. A false document is defined under Section 464 of the IPC, 1860. The false document is divided into three categories-


  • A document made or executed claiming to be someone else or authorized by someone else; or
  • A document unlawfully or fraudulently altered; or
  • A document obtained by practicing deception, such as knowing the reason for the unsoundness or intoxication or unawareness regarding a false document of another person.

Production of fake “experience” certificates may also be punished under forgery because a person is making false documents to support the claim that he is well deserving of a position he otherwise is not deserving of. With his certificate, he is claiming to be someone he is not.


Section 417 – Punishment for cheating

According to Section 417 of the IPC, “cheating” is a cognizable, non-bailable and compoundable offence. It is punished with an imprisonment term which may extend to one year, a fine or both. Producing the fake experience certificate may be punishable because the employee is intentionally causing his new employer to hire him, which he otherwise would not have done. This act may cause harm to the organization which is the employer’s property and thus constitute the offence of cheating.


Trust is fundamental to the survival of any relationship. In cheating, the victim places his trust and confidence in the offender while, on the other hand, the offender has a criminal intention of breaking that trust and causing wrongful loss to the victim. It may negatively impact the victim’s mind, resulting in financial or other loss It may even hurt his reputation. Punishing the offender is thus necessary.


Section 468- Punishment of forgery for purpose of cheating

According to Section 468 IPC, a forgery for the purpose of cheating is a cognizable, non-compoundable, and non-bailable offence. A person is punished with an imprisonment term extending to seven years and a fine if he commits forgery with the intention of cheating. It is considered one of the most specific and aggravated forms of forgery.


It is more serious than a single act of forgery or cheating. This has a more severe punishment than the other two. Intention is a necessary element to constitute an offence. The intention to use forged documents for cheating is essential. This Section should be seen in the light of the sections mentioning specific offences of forgery and cheating for a comprehensive understanding.


Section 471- using a forged document or electronic record as genuine

According to Section 471 of the IPC, if the person has used a forged document or electronic record as genuine, he is liable to be punished in the same manner as if he had forged a document, with an imprisonment term extending up to two years, a fine, or both. The intention to deceive or cause wrongful gain to one person and wrongful loss to another is essential to constituting an offence. If the person is unaware of the inauthenticity of any document or electronic record and uses it as valid and authentic, then he may not be liable under Section 471.


Punishment under Information Technology Act, 2000

The Information Technology Act, 2000, was promulgated to legally recognize transactions through electronic means and counter cybercrimes. Fake experience certificates can be issued through electronic means e.g., by using an electronic signature, editing, stealing information, etc. The IT Act combats these crimes. The following sections in the IT law are relevant.


Section 66 C- Punishment for identity theft

According to Section 66C of the IT Act, if a person uses an electronic signature, password, or any other unique identification of another person, then he commits an offence of theft of personation. An essential element is the presence of an intention to deceive or cause wrongful gain to one and wrongful loss to another. He can be punished with an imprisonment term extending up to three years and a fine extending up to ₹1,00,000.


Section 66 D- Punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resource

According to Section 66 D of the IT Act, if a person misrepresents or pretends to be someone else he is actually not, through the means of any communication device or computer resource, he is said to have committed the offence under Section 66 D. He can be punished with an imprisonment term extending up to three years and a fine extending up to ₹1,00,000.


As we said earlier, prevention is better than being cheated! Be alert! Report instances of fraud and fogery  to the concerned authorities as soon as possible. Show no mercy towards fraudsters! They take away the rightful, deserving place of the honest person with genuine credentials!