MOE warns of fake polytechnic websites

On the fake Republic Polytechnic website, the the word "Polytechnics" was used as part of the school's name.
On the fake Republic Polytechnic website, the the word "Polytechnics" was used as part of the school's name. PHOTO: WWW.RP.AC.CN

They are made to look like Chinese versions of official ones; ST finds 3 bogus uni websites

The website has the school's name and logo at the top of the page and, with almost all the information in Chinese, it appears to be a Chinese version of the school's website.

There are at least eight of these sites, for the polytechnics and three universities here, but none are run by the institutions themselves.

In a statement sent yesterday to the media at 1.35am, the Ministry of Education (MOE) warned that there are fake websites for the five polytechnics here - Nanyang, Ngee Ann, Republic, Singapore and Temasek polytechnics.

MOE said: "Police reports have been filed by the respective polytechnics. We will work to bring down these websites and will continue to monitor for such websites."

The official websites are not affected and can still be accessed.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, MOE said examples of the fake websites include www.nap.ac.cn, www.nypsg.com, www.rp.ac.cn, www.sp.ac.cn and www.sgtp.com.cn. An ST check found that all five bogus poly sites were down at about 11pm yesterday.

An ST check also found fake websites of three Singapore universities - www.ntuedu.cn, www.nusedu.cn and www.smuedu.cn.

The website addresses are similar to those of the official school websites and have photos of the schools on the home pages. They also list corporate profiles of the schools and course information.

A closer look suggests that the eight websites are set up by a single group that wants to offer advice to international students interested to apply to the schools. There are articles to answer questions such as "Are there language requirements for studying in Singapore?"

A disclaimer at the bottom of the www.nap.ac.cn home page says in Chinese: "This website provides information related to Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and is not the school website."

This is not seen on some of the other sites though, and the line gets blurred as to whether the sites are school websites, or that of an education consultancy.

For instance, in a section titled "Contact us" for www.nap.ac.cn, the heading is "Ngee Ann Polytechnic contact information". But the next line says: "Welcome to the Singapore NP Chinese study abroad advisory network".

All the websites have an EduTrust logo - a quality mark issued by the Council of Private Education, which regulates private schools here - but none of the institutions are private schools.

The sites all have the same China and Singapore hotlines. But calls to both hotlines went unanswered.

IT expert Paddy Tan, of BST Consulting, said telltale signs of fake websites include suspicious website addresses - such as school websites not having ".edu" - and obvious spelling errors. In one fake polytechnic website, the word "Polytechnics" was used as part of the school name.

In the past two months, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, Central Provident Fund Board, and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority have issued warnings about fake websites or sites that resembled official ones.

In its statement, MOE said: "Fake websites surface from time to time and we would like to remind members of the public to remain vigilant, especially for transactional purposes."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2016, with the headline 'MOE warns of fake polytechnic websites'. Print Edition | Subscribe