The envelope please…Why inspecting the envelope is an important part of fraud detection

In light of the changes associated with COVID-19 and the rapidly increasing digital age, the need for paper documents is dwindling. However, the paper transcript and diploma are still often required and can be necessary when trying to verify the authenticity of a person’s education.

Communication, Letters, Envelope, Write

Just as important as the papers themselves are the containers they arrive in. Fraudulent documents can often come in fraudulent envelopes. We once received a sealed document that looked like it came from the school.  However, on closer inspection, we noticed that the return address for the school was incorrect. Without the envelope, we might have missed the clue that tipped us off that the documents were fake.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when physical documents arrive:

  • Inspect the envelope size, format, letterhead, etc. 

  • Compare with envelopes from the same institution. Just as with transcripts and diplomas, we recommend keeping samples of the envelopes they arrive in.

  • Inspect the seals for inconsistencies or for evidence that they are not original.

  • If the documents arrive via courier, make sure the service is legit. Inspect the tracking number and courier envelope (we have received, and caught, documents from fake couriers).

As always, the need to be vigilant with our documents remains steadfast, no matter how they arrive in the office (or to the laptop)!


Majka Drewitz is a Research and Evaluator Supervisor and Senior Evaluator. She has been with ECE since 1999. Majka authored ECE Insights: Evaluation Tools for Russian Credentials and co-authored the third volume of ECE’s Education in the Commonwealth Caribbean series. She is a frequent trainer for the EAIE Academy.


Related Resource:

For more information about document forensics and how to use tools to spot them, watch our ECE e-Learning on Fraud and Authenticity. 

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