Welcome to Scam Academy, where you'll find stories of schemes and cheats from within the high schools and colleges of America. If you cheated and want to share how you did it and why, please email us here. This week we hear from a 33-year-old who works in finance and lives in the Northwest. He cheated on his math tests in hopes of becoming a math teacher.
I hate school. I've always hated school. I'm a good test-taker, but I hate homework. I'm smart and love to learn on my own, but school is just bad. I'm a career failure at it.
I was working a terrible security job and wanted to finish a degree to try and get a better gig. I really wanted a flexible schedule, too, so I found some online classes at a podunk school in Nebraska to make things a little easier. This was about five years ago. My wife thought it was a fake school at first, but she found out that one of her close friends had actually gone there in person.
I started taking math classes so I could be a math teacher. I had to get those tests proctored—basically, I would go to a local library and there would be a guy sitting there next to me so I couldn't Google anything or use my calculator. I failed Calculus III, and the next term, I realized how I could get that and have all the answers, and plus, instead of having an hour, I would get, like, three days. I ultimately ended up pulling this scam to pass six high-level math classes over the course of a year and a half.
The way it works with these online classes is that they ask you who your proctor is at the beginning of the semester, and you have one week to send it over. So I set up a tutoring website through a popular website provider, which made it very cheap to do. I got an email that made it look official, and I really populated the page, and then made it look like proctoring was something we did on the side. I used a local library's address, put no phone numbers on there. I came up with a fake name, like "Mike Stevens," or something like that. If the teacher thinks everything looks legitimate, they start corresponding with the company.
'If my kids cheated, it would be something I would talk to them about.'
Someone could have contacted me to be a tutor, and I would have been prepared to do that. But no one ever found the website. I still wouldn't have felt comfortable commercializing the cheating part, because I thought it could get me put in jail.
This all really gave me a leg up on tests, but the cheating still wasn't powerful enough to overcome my hatred of school—I still don’t have my degree after six or eight years of taking classes on and off. My goal is to finally finish before my kids do, which means I still have about 15 years. And I’m close, but I really hate school, in case I didn't mention that. I mostly want to finish for them, because I know they're gonna struggle the same way I do, and I want to show them that they can finish no matter how long it takes. They're not disciplined. They're lazy, but they’re really smart.
If my kids cheated, it would be something I would talk to them about. But the other thing is that cheating in school is way low on the ladder of things I'm concerned about. If that's the worst thing they do, then I've done very well. I'm expecting them to. If they're anything like me, they will. And if they're old enough to pull off something like I did, then it's not like I can do anything to stop them.
Do I feel guilty? It would be one thing if I was trying to scam someone, but I was just trying to provide for my family. It was definitely deplorable what I did, but it was effective. I just happen to be a good liar.
I would probably feel regret if I hurt someone. Like, if I got the degree, and because of the degree I got a job, and then I screwed over the company because I didn't know how to do the work. It's one thing to say you have a degree but not know the material. But the other thing is, how much of this material do you actually keep? And how much of it are you doing from scratch? In the real world, like at my current job in banking, I do things as lazily as possible. No one cares if you copy work—they want the job done.
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