Students are being warned that using quick-fix “essay mill” websites puts them at risk of being scammed out of hundreds of pounds, as well as failing their degree if they are caught cheating.
Experts have warned of a spike in websites taking students’ money in exchange for bespoke essays and then disappearing, not delivering work on time, or providing poor quality papers. The National Union of Students (NUS) said they prey on the vulnerabilities and anxieties of students to make money.
There are more than 100 essay-mill websites in operation in the UK, according to a report from the independent university regulator, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). They offer written-to-order essays, charging varying amounts from hundreds to thousands of pounds based on deadline, topic and length.
Sorana Vieru, the NUS vice-president for higher education, said they homed in on “students’ fears that their academic English and their referencing may not be good enough”. She added: “We would urge those who are struggling to seek support through their unions and universities rather than looking to a quick fix, and be aware that using these websites could cost not only money but jeopardise their qualifications.”
The NUS added that it was easy for these sites to “con” students.
Prof Thomas Lancaster, an associate dean at Staffordshire University and one of the UK’s leading experts on cheating, echoed these concerns. “There are horror stories out there about students who have paid for dissertations and essays that haven’t arrived, so they have nothing to hand in,” he said.
Lancaster added: “There are plenty of scams operating in the academic writing space and I’m sure that some people just set up essay writing services with the intention of closing them down without sending an order as soon as the money comes in.”
It comes as hundreds of thousands of students hand in final dissertations and essay projects this month. In the lead up to these deadlines many who have fallen victim to these fake sites have made desperate appeals online.
One student claimed their dissertation was due at the end of the month and the website that had promised to write it had been deactivated. “I had a dissertation purchase and I have lost all my information. The website doesn’t seem to exist and I am on a tough deadline to submit my work by end of this month,” they wrote on an essay scam website.
They added: “The websites are not accessible, neither are the email links they sent going through. I called PayPal, [and] they claim the account still exists. The telephone contact they have as well as what was sent to me as part of their email never goes through. Have these guys rebranded? Or have [I] been banned? Nothing seems to be coming out clear.”
Another student claimed the person they had paid £150 to write a 3,000-word essay for them had disappeared, leaving them with a tight deadline. They asked if any one else could help them, offering…